Monday, October 17, 2011

The Tree People interview with Stephen Cohen in "It's Psychedelic Baby" Magazine

Here is a nice interview in It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine:

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Tree People interview with Stephen Cohen


1. Thank you for taking your time to do this interview about The Tree People! First I have to ask you about your childhood and teen years. Where did you grow up and what were some of your influences?

I grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in the United States. I taught myself how to play guitar at the age of 14 and soon was composing music and writing songs. Just exploring the six strings and the many frets of the guitar was, and still is, where it all starts for me.         As a teenager I went to the Newport Folk Festival and saw all kinds of wonderful performances there. I listened to all kinds of recorded music, everything from folk, to rock, to jazz, to classical. I attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts for 3 years and saw all kinds of wonderful local performers and bands fill the small Brandeis University Coffeehouse with some great music. But I have to say my biggest influence was, and still is, all the emotions and surprises found in daily life.

2. Were you in any bands before forming The Tree People? Any releases from then?

I left Brandeis University after 3 years to travel, guitar in hand, across the United States, hitchhiking, living in several “hippy” communes, and having all kinds of adventures, until settling in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I performed solo regularly at several restaurants. No album releases from that time.
The Tree People, recorded in Eugene, Oregon soon after I moved there, was my first full length album release.

3. Why the name The Tree People?

Once sitting under a tree in New Mexico, I got the inspiration to write a short, illustrated children’s book called the Tree People, and the name for the group came from that book.
I never published the book, and I have no copies of the book, just a few of the illustrations.

4. So how did you guys came together to form the band?

I performed regularly at a place in Eugene, Oregon called the Homefried Truckstop, a coffeehouse and restaurant close to the University of Oregon that had live music 7 days a week and was quite a local hangout for musicians and music lovers at that time. I saw a wonderful musician playing recorder and percussion there a few times with several different folk bands and felt what he was doing would work well with my music. When I saw him at one of my performances, I asked him if was interested in playing music with me. His name was Jeff Stier. He had a friend, a classical flautist named Rachel Laderman, who starting rehearsing and performing with us, and the original Tree People ensemble was in place. 

5. In 1979 you released your debut. I would like if you could share a whole story about the LP. What are some of the strongest memories from recording and producing this LP?

My debut album, The Tree People, was recorded in a studio in the woods outside of Eugene, Oregon called Rockin’ A Ranch. It was all done in a single weekend with most everything recorded live and in one or two takes, with me on acoustic guitar and voice, Jeff Stier on recorders and percussion, Rachel Laderman on flute on a few pieces, and James Thornbury (a local blues musician at the time who later toured internationally with Canned Heat and now lives in Austrulia) sitting in on electric bass on a few pieces and on slide guitar and back-up vocals on Bring in the Water.
    My strongest memories from that weekend were the bond I felt with the other musicians and the studio owner/engineer while making the music, and the feeling that being in a studio was home for me. And when the engineer’s wife brought us some fresh baked cookies during a break I knew for sure we were in the right place. 

Where did you record it?

Rocking’ A Ranch in Greenleaf, Oregon.

What can you say about the cover artwork?

The cover artwork was the cover of the Tree People storybook that I mentioned above.
I drew it after napping under that tree in New Mexico and imagining what the Tree People might look like. 

This was a private release, right? What more can you tell me and how many copies were made?

1,000 vinyl copies were made. We sold most of them in Eugene, at local stores and at live performances.

6. Did you play any shows?

We played just about everywhere you could possibly play in Eugene: at coffeehouses, University events, at festivals, and in concerts at art galleries and small concert halls. . 

7. A few years later you released another album called Human Voices and a year or so ago you released a new album called It's My Story, which is really amazing! In the meantime you had a solo carrier and you released four albums from 1995 to 2006. Would you like to tell me about this period of your carrier?

Soon after Human Voices was released (another private release, this time released only as a cassette with 300 copies, all sold in Eugene), Jeff moved to Washington, D.C. to work in politics and that phase of the Tree People story came to an end. 

I continued composing music, writing songs, performing and recording and also started making my own original sculptural percussion instruments, which I used in my performances and recordings along with my guitar and voice. I moved to Portland, Oregon in 1996 and did many performances there and also performed in concert and at festivals across the United States. I also did workshops and residencies at schools and museums and recorded several albums, including a children’s album called Here Come the Band (suitable for adults as well!). 

8. What are some of your future plans?

I am now performing and recording with Rich Hinrichsen, the double bassist who played on the 3rd and last Tree People album, It’s My Story, and we are now called THE WALKING WILLOWS (you might say an offshoot of the Tree People). Future plans include a releasing a new album by the WALKING WILLOWS, and producing and creating some creative videos of some of our new songs to put up on the web.
I am also working on a project called the Cistern Symphony, where I am putting music, photos and video created in a cavernous Cistern with incredible echoes together into a multimedia website.
But most of all, I just plan to create, perform and record music for as long as I can. 

9. How do you like Guerssen re-release of your albums?

Antoni and his staff at Guerssen did a fantastic job with our albums and it was a pleasure and honor to work with Guerssen. I have nothing but good things to say about Guerssen!
A highlight was going to Spain to perform at the Musique Disperses Festival (a festival that Antoni and Guerssen Records produce) this year!

10. Thanks for your time, would you like to add something else, perhaps?

Thank you for your time. Music is a great form of communication. I am always happy when my music can reach some far corner of the world from my little corner of the world. 

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011
© Copyright 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pop Matters review of the Tree People "It's My Story" album

cover art

The Tree People

It's My Story

(Guerssen; US: 31 Aug 2010; UK: 21 Jul 2010)

Known as Oregon’s forefathers of freak folk, the Tree People were recording songs of heady, rustic psychedelia in an era when skinny ties and synthesizers were the prominent means of creative expression. The trio already has a pair of mellow masterpieces under its belt in its eponymous 1979 debut and the 1983 follow-up, Human Voices. Now, after a three-decade break from action, the tree men return with It’s My Story, 12 new songs for acoustic guitar, bass, recorder, flute and percussion that fit perfectly into the mood of the modern-day freakscene made famous by the likes of Vetiver, Wooden Wand and Six Organs of Admittance. The album also pays homage to the English Canterbury movement that gave us Fairport Convention and Pentangle. Highlights include the cheeky “More Than Yoko” and a new version of their classic song “Space Heater”.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Musiques Disperses Festival in Spain- the last performance under the Tree People name

Stephen Cohen (with hat and scarf) just after arriving in LLeida, Spain via train from Portland to Seattle, airplane from Seattle to Amsterdam to Barcelona, and high speed train (Rich Hinrichsen and Stephen in high speed train in photo above) from Barcelona to Lleida, Spain, finally meets Musiques Disperses Festival director and Guessen Records executive Antoni Gorgues in person, after years of corresponding by e-mail and phone and releases of 3 Tree People albums by Guerssen Records.

Antoni works tirelessly to promote the music he loves through the festival and his record company. It was a highlight of the trip to meet him.

This photo was taken in front of the festival site, Cafe del Teatre.
 all photos on this post by photographer Ben Sussman. Thanks Ben, for joining us on our great adventure in Spain, and documenting it all with your wonderful photographs! 

Stephen Cohen and Rich Hinrichsen, happy to be in Spain, happy to be performing later that evening!
noon rehearsal at the festival site, Cafe del Teatre, on the day of the concert
   from left to right: Hector Beberide Farrus, Stephen Cohen, Rich Hinrichsen and Jordi Gallen
We had corresponded by e-mail weeks in advance of the concert with Spanish musicians Hector and Jordi, sending music, mp3s, and talking about musical arrangements. Now we were rehearsing in person. Hector and Jordi are fantastic musicians. One observer said it sounded like we had been playing together for years.                                                                                
Hector and Stephen in rehearsal
Hector, Stephen and Rich in rehearsal
Stephen, Rich and Jordi in rehearsal
Stephen, Rich and Jordi in rehearsal

After the noon rehearsal, an afternoon break, and a sound check, Antoni 
took all of us, including Douglas (of Yoga Records, visiting from Los Angeles), Alex of Guerssen Records, the sound man, all the musicians (and our photographer) to dinner. The food was delicious, the conversation lively. We then made the short walk to the festival site, Cafe del Teatre, ready to play music. 
Performance time! Stephen and Rich enjoying the moment.

4 musicians in the spotlight 

Hector, Stephen, Rich and Jordi get into it!

Here we are performing "Hearing Test", with Hector on wooden flute, Stephen on acoustic guitar and panpipes, Rich on double bass and Jordi on cello. It was a real thrill to play in Spain, where the language of music was understood by all. 

     The best thing about it all was meeting people in a far away land, playing with one great musician from the United States and two great musicians from Spain, and sharing the language of music with a wonderful Spanish audience.We did two curtain calls and signed many autographs after the concert. A wonderful experience!

Here are the songs, in order, that we performed at the Musique Disperses Festival:

It’s My Story, Sliding, Pot of Gold, Let’s All Root for the Home Team, Thomas, Melody for 4, Living with the Animals, Hearing Test, No More School, More Than Yoko, The Change in Kate, Grandfather, Walking Willow Tree, Legends of the Tree People                                            
 curtain call:            Rain, Rain, Rain, Space Heater
 2nd  curtain call:    Goodnight, goodnight 

Rich, Mary and Stephen
Our friend Mary, originally from the United States, but living in Barcelona for years, was a real angel to us, helping us get to the train to LLeida from Barcelona, translating for us along the way, sharing her knowledge of  Barcelona and the customs to be aware of in Spain, and having us over to her alley apartment in Barcelona for dinner.  

Stopping at the Placa de Sant Joan on the walk back to the train the day after our performance in LLeida,
Rich and Stephen stop to rest, Stephen plays a song on his guitar, and some children stop to look and listen.

Stephen and Rich in alley courtyard in LLeida on the way to the train. Rich has his double bass bow in a case. The festival provided a vintage double bass for Rich to play, since, or course,  his own double bass would not fit on the plane.

Below: Bigott at the Musiques Disperses Festival:

The Musiques Disperses Festival is not a one day affair, but rather a series of concerts that takes place on weekends over a period of 3 or 4 weeks. The night before we performed, we were able to see and hear Bigott (which loosely translated, means "mustache"), a band from southern Spain. They are a lot of fun, featuring guitars, keyboards, two drummers and a lead singer who breaks into hippie style dances during performances. I had a chance to meet them at the hotel brunch Saturday morning and they were a very nice group of people. We exchanged albums.
One of the highlights of touring for me is seeing and meeting other musicians from all over the world.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Tree People in Spain soon!

On March 12th, the Tree People will be in Lleida, Spain performing at the Cafe del Teatre as part of the Musiques Disperses Festival with Stephen on acoustic guitar and voice, Rich on double bass and voice, along with 2 Spanish musicians, Jordi on cello, and Hector on mandolin and accordion. Photographer Ben Sussman will join us to document the event. It should be quite an experience!
Músiques Disperses és un festival de músiques folk en tota la seva varietat, amb una lleugera tendència a la vessant més propera al rock. Programem folk-rock, psicodèlic o progressiu, però també folk de cantautor, música tradicional o qualsevol tipus de neo-folk.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Tree People's "It's My Story" on Delire Musical's top 50 albums of 2010

The Tree People's "It's My Story" album is on Delire Musical's top 50 albums of 2010 list!
It is nice to be appreciated in Quebec!

You can find the list in the December 21, 2010 post at

Here is an excerpt from the post:

Sherbrooke, December 21, 2010 — The eclectic music radio show Délire Musical (CFLX-FM, Sherbrooke, Quebec) unveiled today the 50 albums selected by its team for its special year-end show. This list culls 50 highly diverse albums in genres as widely spread as folk, post-rock, progressive rock, singer-songwriter, world music, electronica, and much more.

Délire Musical focuses on all forms of creative yet accessible music, everything off the commercial paths or valuing quality and sensitivity. “2010 has been a year filled with surprises, where artists who would have normally appeared on the short list were bested by newcomers!,” explains François Couture, co-producer of the show. “Of course, we’re not saying we’ve heard everything released in 2010! These are not THE best 50 albums this year, but OUR best 50!,” adds his colleague Daniel Ouellette.