the talking trees
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the talking trees

Band Folk


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The best kept secret in music


"Guitar Shark"

They say every pro athlete wants to be a rock ’n’ roller and every musician wants to be an athlete. Few actually have the talent to do both. For example, Bronson Arroyo, starting pitcher for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, just put out an album to good reviews. The Sharks’ center, Mark Smith, might be following in his footsteps. But for Smith, founder of Lunar Records, it’s about love for the music.

“[Music] is always something I’ve tried to keep separate, away from hockey,” says Smith. “A lot of people look at athletes and say, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ Now that I’m getting older, I’m finding more solace in music.”

When he isn’t jamming with his own unnamed band, Smith is hanging out in clubs, trying to find the next great band to sign to his months-old Lunar label.

“I love going to clubs and listening to bands and trying to find good talent,” says Smith. Sounding just like a record company rep, he adds, “I’ve always been able to see whether guys are good or whether they suck.”

But Smith says he’s going to enjoy life in the NHL as long as he can before diving into the music business full time. Right now, he’s enjoying the balance on and off the ice.

“Each [song] exemplifies who I am. I have some anger and aggression on the ice, but I also like to make artful plays. And I find the same thing in music. I love to not only rock out, but also mellow out with a soft, acoustic song.”

Soft, acoustic song? That’s just what the league’s enforcers wanted to hear.

- The Wave Magazine

"Former 'Cane Finds His Groove"

Former 'Cane Finds His Groove
By TREVOR KENNEY, Lethbridge Herald

Mark Smith has always carried the tag as a fan favourite - this time it's just the venue that's changed.

The former Lethbridge Hurricane and now National Hockey League free-agent centre (he's spent the past five NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks) has carved out his niche as a gritty, two-way player on the ice, endearing himself to fans. He returns to Lethbridge tonight as the head-man of his band The Corduroy Trees, looking for a whole new set of supporters.

"We're kind of an acoustic, earthy-type band with good energy. It's a little different," Smith said Tuesday at the Round Street Cafe, visiting his former billet and Cafe part-owner Bonnie Greenshields.

"We do a couple songs on the ukulele and the African xylophone so it's a different little blend of stuff and we try to bring it all together."

No, this isn't Darren McCarty and his death-metal band, Grinder.

Smith and bandmates Larry Brooks (cajon, percussion and backup vocals) and Alek Dorian (bass, backup vocals) are in the midst of a summer tour that has taken them through Vancouver and Kelowna and will continue on to Edmonton after tonight's 9 p.m. appearance at Ice Taps and Grill (Doors open at 8:00 p.m. with a $2.00 cover. Money raised will go towards Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association). For Smith, this incarnation of a band is just an extension of a musical interest that has been present since early on.

* Nobody epitomizes the word 'Caniac' better than Gerry Gardin. Click here to see why he believes he's part of the revamped organization and why he thinks a Memorial Cup appearance is in the near future for the 'Canes.

"I started playing guitar when I was younger and took piano lessons but really started playing acoustic guitar a lot when I was living here in Lethbridge when I was about 16-years old," the now 28-year-old Saskatchewan native said. "I pretty much locked myself in my room for the years I was here in Lethbridge and just played a lot.

"I just always kind of had a love for music."

At that time Smith had a summer band (what he termed a 'rock' band) back home in Eyebrow called The Epic Latitudes. Once he turned pro, he moved on and so did his musical stylings. He started his professional hockey career with the Kentucky Thoroughblades and while in Kentucky, began playing small clubs with his acoustic guitar.

As Smith's career advanced to the NHL level, his music always tagged along.

It was the NHL's year-long lockout that really spurred the creation of The Corduroy Trees as Smith first started his own record label (Lunar Records) and met his current bandmates.

"I'd been playing in many bands and had heard he was playing quite a bit and Greg (Trees' manager) introduced us when I had some time off with my other bands," Brooks said. "The first time we jammed together it just kind of clicked. I've always been an improv player and he just started jamming out the tunes and I could feel it that there was some connection. I could tell from that day and it's just grown from there."

That's also when Smith veered away from the guitar and took up the Australian Dijjery-Doo as an instrument.

"I saw it about a year ago and I was just blown away by the sound of it and thought it would mesh really good with the songs that I write," Smith said.

It took him a solid week of playing just to muster a sound with the instrument and after two months he'd begun to master the difficult breathing techniques associated with carrying a tune. Now, mixed with Brooks' cajon (a Peruvian drum) and Dorian's bass, the Trees have a unique and eclectic sound.

"Some of it you can kind of trace back to certain people but some of it, I can't even really put a finger on it at all," Dorian said. "Sometimes we'll play something and ask each other just what it sounds like."

Smith guesses he's written about 30 songs of which the Trees have 20 or so in their repertoire. Admitting he tires of talking hockey all the time, his music is his release.

"Definitely a different rush. I think it's a lot more healing for my stress than hockey is," he said. "Hockey gets me wound up but when I just play with these guys it seems I'm able to relax and kind of get lost in the music and that's kind of what music's done for me my whole life."

Smith shies away from hockey talk now. He says he hopes to sign another deal to remain with the Sharks but admits his focus over the summer months has been solely on his music and carving out a future for The Corduroy Trees.

Once the band returns to California later this month, they plan to get in the studio and record an initial CD.

And for all the glory that Smith has gained on a sheet of ice over the years, it seems as though the respect of his bandmates means that much more.

"He's an incredible musician and really just blew me away," Dorian said of the first time they jammed.

With that, Smith showed a contented smile that said he was so much more than the Mark Smith we used to know.

- Lethbridge Herald




Feeling a bit camera shy


The Talking Trees are a band. they write music.