What was it that initially drew you to writing music?
I came from a musical family. My grandparents were classical musicians (violin and piano). My father was a drummer (mostly jazz and blues). I was classically trained by my grandmother when I was old enough to walk over to the piano. That said, I am not a very good piano player now but I remember listening to Prokofiev when I was in kindergarten, learning to play the themes of the different characters in Peter and The Wolf. I was captivated by the notion of storytelling with music. Then I heard Jimi Hendrix in junior high school and I had to pick up the guitar.
I was captivated by the notion of storytelling with music
My father left when I was very young and the main pictures I had of him were from these Country Joe And The Fish records that he’d played on. There was something mysterious and compelling to me about music and going out on the road. Maybe I was looking for my father in some way. Eventually, I started writing songs and touring in a rock band. After a decade or so of that life, I segued into the sedentary studio life of composing for film and tv and now I get to tell stories with music.
What was your big break?
It’s a funny thing, this music career. It’s hard to gauge how it’s going while you’re in it. I suppose a good measure of success is if you are continuing to have the work and you continue to enjoy the work. It’s a bit like climbing a mountain; you have to just keep waking up every day, putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually, hopefully, you get where you’re hoping to go. If you keep looking at the summit wondering how far you’ve progressed, it can be pretty frustrating.
Lookin’ back, I’d say there were a handful of gigs where it marked a bit of a turning point for me. The first film I scored was aptly titled “The Definite Maybe” in 1996. It was an indie film that a high school pal of mine was making. I was grateful that he took a chance on me. I had to buy a computer and learn logic in order to do the gig.
I landed my first TV series for a sitcom in 2000 (“Raising Dad”) that was the result of hustling and demoing. I worked on a bunch of different films and TV projects and then got the opportunity to do “Californication” with Tyler Bates in 2007. The show was a bit of a hit, and it ran for seven years. My stock went up a bit there. In 2012, my friend Ken Biller hired me to score his show “Perception,” and he wanted me to use an orchestra for every episode. I had had the opportunity to work with an orchestra before but not on a consistent basis. This was an amazing experience, and I learned an enormous amount in the process.
A few years later, I got the opportunity to score “NCIS New Orleans,” and now I am doing the latest installment from the franchise, “NCIS Hawai’i.” Both of these gigs have allowed me the opportunity to work with local musicians from the region and, again an incredible opportunity to learn and grow as a composer. I guess if you’re still growing as you get older, you’ve made it.
If you’re still growing as you get older, you’ve made it
What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I make hot sauce from the peppers in my wife’s garden, and I cure the olives from the trees outside my studio. I play hardball on Sundays year-round. I still like to run and dive and slide. I also really like to sit in the dugout and talk smack. I am a black belt in Taekwondo, and I train several days a week. I enjoy the discipline and the spiritual aspect of it as well as the physically challenging side of it. If there were more days in the week, I’d have more hobbies.
What’s a cause that’s close to your heart?
Tree Adams approaches the sound of a wooden spoon mashing potatoes, church bells tolling in Corsica, or air/a signal pushing through a tube mic pre with equal interest. Any of these could inspire a fresh way to tell a story with music, which is what he does. Equally at home conducting a large orchestra, programming beats in the studio, cranking out loud guitar solos in an amphitheater or arranging vocal parts with a gospel choir, Tree lives to create original and unique work for his every project.
Tree has enjoyed collaborating with filmmakers to craft music with storytelling. He says that typically, a composition forms in his head before he even picks up an instrument and often, the centerpiece of an idea will evolve by experimenting with a sound or a piece of gear in the studio in the initial stages of the process. Although his primary skills as a performer are as a singer and a guitarist, he employs a much more expansive palette with his adventures in film and television.
Born in Berkeley, raised in New York City, Tree lives on the east side of Los Angeles with his wife and kids. (See IMDB for Tree’s full biography.)
You can find Tree at treeadams.com.