By The Tree
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By The Tree

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The best kept secret in music

Press


by Chris McNeece

By The Tree is back on the pop/rock scene with a musical return to the roots of its first album. The semi-title track “Root Of It” is a back-to-the-basics call to live out the Golden Rule. “Notes On My Door” shows God as one who seeks out those who seek him, while the heavy guitars of “Faith That Breathes (Break Me)” convey a believer’s desire to grow closer to his maker at whatever cost. The celebratory tone of “Far Away” sums up Root’s message, “He’s always closer than we’re far away.”
- Release


by Mike Rimmer

After the success of their debut album ‘Invade My Soul’, By The Tree are maturing into a very fine band indeed! At the core of the band is the songwriting of Chuck Dennie and Kevin Rhoads who pull the band in different directions, the former towards worship and the latter towards communicating with those outside the walls of the Church. The conclusion is that By The Tree aren’t quite a worship band although lyrically a lot of this is still vertical and uplifting. However, beyond dispute is the fact that when it comes to melodic, hook-driven, guitar-based poppy rock, there are few bands that can match them. Anthemic is also a good word to describe them! ‘These Days’ sees them coming of age and packing the album with powerful songs. The title cut shuffles along confidently whilst the pleading prayerful “Your Presence” adds a pile of vibes to the proceedings. They also do a good turn in upbeat catchy songs that explode into unforgettable choruses that you end up humming for days like “(Jesus Is My) Everything”, “Alright” and “Change”. Powerpop anybody? I have to confess that I am totally in love with the Beatley “Salvation Song” which was on repeat play on my stereo the day I first heard the album. Oh yeah, and any band who chooses to do a cover of the magnificent Lemonheads song “Into Your Arms” has got to be cool. Right? By The Tree are still largely unknown over here so hesitate no longer and investigate!
- Issue 72


by Editors

Making their introduction to the world with their Fervent Records debut, Invade My Soul, Ft. Worth, TX-based band By The Tree is comprised of its own "Odd Couple." Playwright Neil Simon may have forseen the battles between messy and clean, laid back and buttoned-down-but he's never seen the likes of Chuck Dennie and Kevin Rhoads, founding members of the band. College friends and roommates in their new hometown of Nashville, TN, this duo even looks like complete opposites. Kevin's startling blue eyes, angular features, and yes, shiny bald head, are in complete contrast to the boyish good-looks and rock-star spiked hair of Chuck. And while Chuck could be just as home at the Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch, Kevin is a fashion hound, shopping for unique retro pieces at thrift stores. Having known each other for four years after meeting at a Young Life camp, the two became inseparable following a rocky start. "The first experience I ever had with Kevin is that he was the most egotistical, self-centered jerk I'd ever met," says Chuck with a laugh. "And he thought I was a horrible singer and songwriter."

Both are 24-year-old songwriters and musicians who love the Lord. And although their songwriting styles may differ, the two come together with drummer Aaron Blanton to create a new sound for Christian music. Blending modern pop sensibilities and a slight rock edge with their worshipful and vertical lyrics, this odd couple creates By The Tree. As primary songwriters for the group, Chuck and Kevin's influences shine through in the band's debut, Invade My Soul. Both are fans of Christian band Delirious?, but their favorite music ranges from Counting Crows and Radiohead to James Taylor. Throw in a little Lyle Lovett and Bob Marley, and you have a melting pot of 20th century pop culture, shaping the sounds of music that will take us into the 21st. "We both have very different musical influences," says Chuck, who sings most of the lead vocals for the group. " But instead of blending those differences, we allow that friction between them to cause something bigger than itself." Kevin, who drops a list of pop poets including Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan into his favorites, agrees. "We're different. You take Chuck alone and you have a catchy pop/rock song, and you take me and you get an album that sells like 20 copies. That tension creates our sound," notes this multi-talented musician, who plays over 10 instruments and also adds Beethoven and Tchaikovsky into his all-time greats.

Songs like the first single, "Reveal," reflect the band's unique talents. As the songwriter, Chuck searched his own heart and discovered a song that not only changed his life musically, but also changed his spiritual walk. His relationship with God had become just music and worship rather than time alone with God in the Word, and writing "Reveal" after a sermon one night at a summer camp in Springfield, MO, helped to deepen his passion for the Lord. "Writing songs comes out of an encounter with God-something that changes me or moves me spiritually," says Chuck, whose poetic lyrics come primarily from personal experience. "I feel a peace about songs that come from time alone with Him. That's when I feel like a song is born, creating songs that speak to me and speak to others, and help them be drawn to God." For Kevin, who joins in the songwriting on Invade My Soul, the writing process is completely different-more musical than lyrical.

"It seems like Iris DeMent said this once-that songwriting is what you do between waiting on songs. The hard part is having a story and having a song to express. The music is just waiting there for songs to put into it. One of my biggest problems is that I've had a comfortable life so long that all I can write about is how the gas was turned off and we didn't have hot water one moment." Kevin's influences are heard on the stripped down pop of "Walk," where he arranged and produced all the strings. He put pen to paper on "Wonderful Again," using lyrics and ideas he'd written down in his journal to set to a melody he'd heard in a dream in the middle of the night, and woken up long enough to hum into Chuck's answering machine. Both Kevin and Chuck agree that the studio process was a refining experience, as producers Steve Hindalong (The Choir, City On A Hill) and Bob Wohler (Caedmon's Call, Third Day, City On A Hill) allowed the two artists to be tamed a bit. "We tend to be a little bit out of the box, or maybe not fit into a typical pop format," says Chuck, "but they took our rough edges and made them translate well-a more refined and more matured band." Hindalong and Wohler captured the raw sound they'd heard at By The Tree's concerts in the Midwest, where the band's following has already translated into a huge fan base for the group. Like many musicians, creating an album became a different musical process than the working with the energy that feeds back to the band from a live show. "I - ACAZA


by Jackie Chapman

Fifty-thousand lame jokes come to mind with the news that By The Tree's new record is called Root. Bad puns aside, the band is proud of the record that showcases four guys being true to who they are.
"That's exactly what this record's all about, being true to ourselves," says drummer Aaron Blanton. "We came out of the second record with something like [Root], where we're glad to be starting over and getting to the foundation."
To understand the significance of Root, one has to go back to Invade, the debut that won two Dove Awards in 2002 and brought a litde Texas worship band national exposure. Chuck Dennie, By The Tree's frontman and principal songwriter, and best friend Kevin Rhoads formed the band in Fort Worth. After traveling all over Texas, the band was going to start its second indie project, Invade. Instead, it signed with Fervent Records and recorded Invade as its label debut.
"We were totally confident that was exactly the record we wanted to make," recalls Dennie. "It's the band that we were at that time. It wasn't well thought out, it was off our sleeve emotionally, but it was exactly who we were and you can see that in the music. It feels emotional when you hear it."
Although Invade might have represented the guys musically, they were soon to discover being a nationally known band wasn't for them. "We found out it wasn't exactly what we wanted to be doing," Dennie says. "We were making good money and were successful in the industry's eyes with the Dove Awards. It seemed like everything was going great. But little did we know, Kevin and I were losing why we started doing this in the first place."
About the time the band received those two Doves, Rhoads flew the coop. Forging ahead anyway, By The Tree got the chance to make another record, brought on guitarist Charlie Goddard and watched things move too quickly. Says Blanton, " These Days started off well. It was rushed though. We should have been riding Invade, but there was label pressure to get the second one done."
With no songs ready, Dennie scrambled to write and realized what the departure of Rhoads meant. "I started writing a record without Kevin. I didn't realize it at the time, I do now, but without Kevin, it felt totally weird. Like I had lost a part of myself. I just stuck it out and wrote some songs that were really energetic of what I wanted to be."
Taking 30 songs to the label, Dennie got a "kick in the butt" when the label only picked three. With songs and input from outside sources, By The Tree found itself in the middle of a tough process where Dennie says, "We really weren't excited to be there."
Completed and released, the band admits its second record, These

Days, is not a record it would have made. "It's a really uppity, candy-coated, smorgasbord worth of crap," Dennie freely admits. "We sold a lot of copies but I knew it was going to bomb as far as our fan base. It did. It hurt our bookings, it hurt radio, it hurt everything."
Blanton candidly adds, "It was really the whole gamut of who we are not musically. If they took it off the shelves and never sold it again, that would be great."
Bass player Ben Davis, who came on shortly after Invade, says he is proud of These Days only because it was his first record to ever record.
Dennie wondered if he could continue By The Tree without Rhoads, but Rhoads urged him to find his musical passion again. "On the Newsboys tour, I just got determined that I'm going to find out who I am. I'm going to write, and they might not be the best songs, but they're going to be genuine. They're going to be who I am."
Getting to the root of By The Tree, Dennie took 15 songs to the label with a passionate plea: "If I'm making another record for you guys, I'm doing it the way I feel like God's called me to do it."
To Dennie's astonishment, "They totally approved of it. In fact, they didn't really even hear the record until it was mastered."
Armed with Dennie's songs and newfound passion for By The Tree, the band entered the studio with a new producer, Joe Baldridge (Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys). "For the first time we really had a great producer that matched," says Dennie. "He pushed me lyrically, to challenge what I was writing, to rethink and re-evaluate my lyrics."
"He figured us out as individuals," says Davis. "He brought in music to cleanse our palettes so to speak, and he made us get fresh ears everyday."
"This time four guys came in as a team," says Blanton. "It definitely goes better when there is total peace of mind and confidence, when you have a game plan. There was a lot less input from the outside, and every guy put something into this music."
"I feel confident that it's the most polished record musically," says Dennie. "I don't know that [Root] has as magical of moments as Invade... It's the most defined and the most mature as we've had yet... I'm pretty proud of that."
After the bomb that was These Days, Dennie and the band came back and conque - sevenballmag.com


Hold You High
Artist: By The Tree
Label: Fervent Records
Time: 11 tracks / 51:07 minutes

For this CD, By The Tree decided to return to their roots (no pun intended) as praise and worship leaders. Unlike many praise and worship CDs put out by contemporary artists, more than half the songs on the CD were written or co-written by current or former By the Tree members. That doesn't even include a new arrangement that they did, of the old familiar hymn, "It is Well." They also managed to perform a unique version of the often-covered hit, "God of Wonders" as the song sounded almost completely acoustic. While this made the song not sound as passionate as the version by Caedmon's Call and Mac Powell, it did make it sound more intimate. Unlike some praise and worship CDs, where almost every song on the CD frequently appears on many other praise and worship CDs, only one song on this CD falls into that category of frequently being covered elsewhere (the previously mentioned, "God of Wonders"). That helps make this CD unique and stand out.

The CD starts off with the title track that begins with a rock sound. This immediately tells you that this worship CD will rock and not just be your stereotypical praise and worship CD. "Only to You" the second track furthers the idea that this CD will be one of the more memorable praise and worship CDs, but this time its because of the deep lyrics. In this song, which was co-written by Chuck Dennie (who does guitar and vocals for the group), the band sings of "the one that I love my heart has seen / The day will come- the return of our King / Knees will bow and tongues will confess / All nations all tribes they will sing...". The amazingly insightful and deep lyrics continue with "Miraculous," which was written by a former member of the band. In "Miraculous" the band sings, "Heaven opens like a floodgate / A single drop of blood made the universe turn upside down / Deeper than the nails were driven, is the more sin was forgiven...". The music of the song contrasts the lyrics with a sound that could almost be described as "tongue-in-cheek".

The CD slows down with "Reveal," which Chuck Dennie wrote and the band recorded on their first CD. Dennie loved the song so much that it was important to him that they use it on their first national worship album. This song may very easily make its way into worship services in churches across the country as might "Throne of Grace." I have memories of singing "It is Well" in a small church in high school but the version on this CD is one of the most unique versions I have ever heard and should quickly become a favorite of many churches across the country. This unique version may be used by churches who are seeking to balance between using the old hymns and new praise and worship choruses.

The tempo picks back up with a cover of the Matt Redman penned "Lord Let Your Glory Fall." It slows down for "Jesus Washed," which has deep, but also simple lyrics. This one, like many other songs on this CD, could easily make its way into praise and worship services across the country.This CD is one of those where you never have to use the skip button to skip a song that you don't like because top to bottom every song on this CD is good. Listeners may still have favorites, but that is due to personal taste and experiences and not due to poor songs.

By the Tree may not be known by many listeners of CCM but listeners should not let their lack of experience or knowledge about this group keep them from checking out this CD. With its song selection, deep lyrics, and unique interpretations of two familiar songs, this CD is is easily one of the best praise and worship CDs of recent memory.

Burton Wray June 22, 2004
- The Phantom Tollbooth


Discography

Passion For Jesus ’99 (1999)
Shoot Me Down (1999)
Shoot Me Down (2000)
Invade My Soul (2001)*
Root (2003)
Hold You High (June 2004)

*multiple Dove Award winner

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Two-time Dove Award winners By The Tree have made a name for themselves mixing the splendor of pop-rock melodies with the redeeming character of honest worship. Beyond the entertaining value of the band’s hook-laden tunes lies a truly refreshing breath of air for the soul. Now with the release of their fourth studio album Hold You High on June 22, 2004, By The Tree finds themselves returning to the origin and purest form of their band: worship.

Formed by frontman and Texas-native Chuck Dennie in 1997, By The Tree got their start playing praise and worship at numerous churches, retreats, and camps across the south and southwestern United States. Long before the recent glut of worship records became the norm in Christian music, By The Tree was ministering through their unique vein of praise and performance one youth group at a time. “By The Tree was about praising God right from the start,’ says Dennie. ‘Honestly, I never really thought about it as something that would necessarily lead to a big music career. I felt led by God to start this band and everything else just sort of happened.”

“Just happened” indeed. By The Tree rapidly built a spontaneous fan base wherever they played. The band decided to release a couple of independent records in 1999, ultimately selling over 30,000 combined copies by early 2001. Such a dramatic commercial response predictably sparked interest from various Nashville music folks, including then newcomer label Fervent Records (Provident Music Group/BMG). The band felt at home with Fervent, finding in them a partner to take their ministry to another level.

Fervent released By The Tree’s Invade My Soul as the band’s and label’s national debuts in 2001. Acceptance of the album in the Christian market was almost instantaneous, as copies of the debut charted in the Billboard Top 40 for both Christian and Independent albums. In April 2002 Invade My Soul stood out at the annual Dove Awards, winning for both Modern Rock/Alternative Album and Recorded Song.

From that point on By The Tree found themselves increasingly involved in the business of making a career in music. The band toured extensively, playing with noteworthy CCM contemporaries The Newsboys, Delirious, and Jeremy Camp. By The Tree also enjoyed continued commercial success, releasing their sophomore venture These Days in 2002, followed by critically acclaimed Root in 2003, selling a combined total of 150,000 records to date. However, as happens to so many of us, the busyness of life took its toll.

“By the time Root was released last year, I was really dragging,’ admits Dennie. ‘It was one of those things that I think we all go through as believers, where we get a little out of touch with God and lose track of what we’re doing and why.” It was while leading worship at a camp in Colorado in late 2003 that Chuck felt that tug of conviction and renewal. “I had this amazing experience where God just really refreshed my vision and reminded me of what he had called me to in the first place. I felt called back to worship in my own life, which in turn drew me to bring that experience into the studio with By The Tree.”

Revived, Chuck and the band headed into the studio in early 2004. After Tony Palacios (Audio Adrenaline, TobyMac) signed on as producer, recording sessions began in February and Hold You High started to take shape. By The Tress drummer Aaron Blanton, no stranger to worship projects as a member of Sonicflood, agrees with Chuck that a special atmosphere surrounded the recording process. “It was really amazing, honestly, because it felt like God was in the middle of it all.” The evidence of that blessing can certainly be heard in the final product.

“I am very proud of this record,’ states Ben Davis, bass player and third member of band. ‘We have always worked very hard to create well-made music, and Hold You High is no exception. But this record is even more special because it reclaims and reinvigorates the foundation of this band.” Chuck probably sums it up the best. “By The Tree has always been about joining and leading listeners in worshipping God. Hold You High is the first record since before we were signed to fully return to that foundation.” As anyone who listens to Hold You High will certainly attest, it was a return worth making.