Henessey Griffiths / C.C. / Photo credit: Jimmy Fontaine
/ Tuesday 28th June, 2022 12:45PM
US songwriter and cyberspace star Oliver Tree is playing his first ever Aotearoa headline event in July at Auckland Town Hall, as part of the jam-packed Elemental Nights 2022 winter festival. Promising fans an anything-goes extravaganza including "motivational speaking, storytelling, comedy, performance art, scooter stunts, WWF wrestling, even some belly dancing," Tree got on the blower with Henessey Griffiths for an insightful chat — delving into Tree’s recent shift from dance-pop-punk to country, the relationship between his larger than life image and personal music, Tree’s mad scooter skills, and the pair’s shared dislike for infamous YouTuber Logan Paul. You can catch Oliver Tree on the 25th for Elemental Nights, also starring Jungle, Dope Lemon, Nadia Reid, Diggy Dupé, Mura Masa and more, for full lineup details and ticket info head over HERE.
Oliver Tree – Elemental Nights 2022
Monday 25th July – Auckland Town Hall
For complete tour and ticket information, visit: elementalnights.com & livenation.co.nz
Henessey Griffiths: Kia ora Oliver! Thank you for taking the time out to talk to us, how has your day been going so far?
Oliver Tree: Doing pretty good. Just doing meetings and stuff, nothing too exciting. I’m getting all dolled up here because I’m gonna go film a TV show. It should be exciting for me but I can’t say too much, but it’s good.
I’ve seen that you’ve been real hectic on the festival circuit at the moment, how have all your live shows been going?
They’ve been going pretty good. One of my shows, my band got stuck in the Mexico border, and we rented them a private jet to come to the event but they came five minutes before we finished. Pretty much a nightmare scenario, I hired one guy off the street to play piano, and then I brought in another drummer somewhere else, and it was a disaster. But besides that it’s been smooth sailing.
Nice, cause I saw a video of you online and you were absolutely shredding it on your scooter and it looked sick.
Yeah, I got some mad moves.
You made major waves with your 2020 album Ugly is Beautiful, and that’s where we got to learn more about who Oliver Tree is. I was really surprised to hear that within your new album Cowboy Tears that you took a more country route. I think it played out really well, was this genre shift a natural progression for you, or something you intended on doing?
For me, it was super organic. It was just getting in touch with my roots. I grew up every year going to my grandparents’ ranch, and I know a lot of people don’t know this, but my grandfather was a cowboy, and his grandfather was a cowboy, so it was part of my lineage. Obviously I’m a city slicker and not the traditional cowboy, but I grew up on the ranch feeding the animals. During Covid, I ended up spending some time out there after Ugly is Beautiful came out and I had retired officially from music. It was just the organic thing, after working everyday on the ranch, I just was noodlin’ around on my grandfather’s acoustic guitar and started writing music. Some of the songs I loved so much I thought, “I might as well share this”. It wasn’t something that I intended to do at all.
I feel like a lot of people tend to rag on country music, but it’s generally a genre filled with so much emotion and pain and sorrow; and that definitely seems like a big theme for your album. Was it a cathartic feeling of making the album? Did it feel good to express all those emotions and get it out there?
A hundred percent. For me, I don’t go to therapy, my art is my therapy. I’m sure it’s healthy for everyone to go to therapy, but for me, I’m really grateful I have that place where I can really let it all out, really put my soul into something and turn my negative energy into something positive that I can share with the world. I feel really lucky to have something like that.
I feel like with this album there’s a certain vulnerability to it that I don’t feel like we’ve seen from you before. What would you say is your biggest take away from this whole experience?
For me, it was that I could totally change things up and ultimately I think that a lot of my fans felt like I turned on them. But the truth is that I’m not here to pander to anybody, I’m gonna do whatever the hell I want. So it felt good that I could just do whatever I wanted, and even though when I told my fans I was doing a country album they said “boo, keep it, we don’t want it,” then when ‘Cowboys Don’t Cry’ came out, the first single, people really loved it. It was actually the biggest first release that I had for the first couple of weeks, so it was pretty exciting to see that I could do whatever the hell I want, I could switch it up and people could either learn to appreciate it, leave or embrace it and be stoked on it. I got a wide range of responses… I think the core fan base and the people that are really about it, they mostly stand behind it. The truth is that if they couldn’t, they could go back and see all the stuff I did with that first character in that first album. I released music for years and wore that stupid outfit for five years. There’s a lot of content and interviews that they can go watch if that’s what they’re looking for.
You obviously have such a distinct image that a lot of people would describe as pretty “memey”, especially as we’re living in an age of the attention economy where memes are a form of cultural currency. Do you think that your image of Oliver Tree beforehand is a blessing or a curse in a way?
I would say it’s a blessing. No one ever listened to my music before. It was just a means to an end, a vehicle to pull people to my music. I spent 10 years making music, and no one gave a shit. So it was a blessing to get people to finally pay attention to the art, and see my life’s work. A lot of people didn’t know ‘that guy’ made music, they just thought it was a meme first, and a musician second, but really it was the other way around. It was a really good strategy to pull people, so it was a blessing for sure.
The fact that you still have a dedicated fan base who are supporting you even if you’re going down a different route with your music and style, it’s very limitless in the amount of opportunities that you have and how you can really express yourself. I think that’s so sick.
It’s sad that this is going to be my last album. But I do have my deluxe version of the album that’s slowly starting to trickle out a couple more songs: Drown the World in a Swimming Pool of Sorrow is the deluxe version, I’m doing a pop-punk album. Basically it’s a double album with 12 new songs along with the ‘Cowboy Tears’ songs, giving some of the fans who really wanted that rock sound another body of work for that. But this is kind of the end of it for me. I’m grateful for what I did get to make, and I’ll always make music for myself, but I don’t have any more intentions to release it.
That’s fair enough. I would say that one of my favourite tracks off the album is ‘Balloon Boy’, and it got me quite emotional, with the idea of floating away and being free in that regard. I do have to ask, is the title a reference to the infamous Balloon Boy incident of 2009?
Hmm, that’s a really good question. It’s actually based on that poor child.
I thought so! Because I think about that all the time but I feel like no one remembers it.
I was heartbroken by the whole event. I was glad to see what actually ended up happening.
So you’re coming to Auckland on July 25th for Elemental Nights, which is going to be so sick, have you been to New Zealand before?
Sadly no. I’m so excited, it’s always been a dream of mine, so I cannot wait to come. I was hoping to go last time around when I went to Australia but the stars didn’t align. So I’m excited to finally come.
It’s gonna be so much fun, is there anything that we can expect from the live show? Like will there be some Cirque du Soleil type shit?
It’s definitely a traveling circus that we put on. The way that I describe it is that there’s a little bit of something for everyone. We have motivational speaking, storytelling, comedy, performance art, scooter stunts, WWF wrestling, even some belly dancing. Music wise, we have rock, pop, soul, hip-hop, country music, dance music, electronic music. We’ve got a wide range, and I feel like we offer a show that’s eclectic, and offer something for everyone.
That’s the best sales pitch you could ever ask for, like why would you not want to go now?
It’s gonna be our last tour ever, so if you’re even on the fence about it, just know that this is it. We’re not coming back. I could be coming back for my own vacation, but you’re not gonna see the show again, so this is kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to see the show.
You said that after your next album it’s probably going to be your last, what can we expect to see from you in the future? I know that you’ve got a really big interest in filmmaking, would you want to work more on the film side of things?
Yeah, that’s really my dream job, music is just my day job. When your dream becomes a reality, it’s no longer a dream. Obviously there’s so many different levels to it. For me, I was able to take it to a place that I feel proud of, and I feel like I got to do it, whatever scale you want to call it. I don’t know if it’s the top of the underground or the bottom of the mainstream, but I was able to make it somewhere between those worlds. Ultimately, it’s not really a dream to me anymore. I’ve been working on these screenplays, I’ve just finished writing my third feature film.
I’m just really doing it for myself right now, for the passion of it and to get really good at it. These three different films are totally different genres. One of them is a kids movie, one is NC-17, and one of them is somewhere in-between. I’m really exploring the options of where it can go, that’s like really the end goal. I haven’t had time to focus on starting production on any of those because I’m finishing music and playing a hundred different shows this year, so it’s been eating up all my spare time, but that’s really the end goal. To get really into writing and directing and producing my own features.
That’s mean! If you need any colour grading, hit me up. Okay, I have one last question for you. Would you rather get hit in the ankle like, every day for a whole year, or have to go on Logan Paul’s Podcast again?
Jesus. I’m gonna take a scooter to the ankle every time. I would never wanna have to meet Logan Paul again. That guy is bottom of the barrel, scum of the Earth. I can’t really say too much more because my lawyer Jeremiah Jeffery has advised me not to get too deep into this as there’s an impending lawsuit. But, based upon my drink Slime, I make a signature sports drink, he ripped me off, he made some bullshit drink called Prime, and we’re still figuring out the logistics. He rolled his out before I could really roll mine out and my investors are slow with Covid, so I’m actually in the middle of a lawsuit against him, and I can’t say anymore than that.
That’s honestly fair enough, I really don’t like Logan Paul aye.
Well, I’m glad we have that in common because I hate that dude with every bone in my body.
Well, good luck for the lawsuit, and thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today! We really appreciate it, and good luck for the show as well.
Thank you so much, have a great day.