Smile Politely

Anything can happen, child

I talk to some bands that have a whole lot to say. Todd Fink is a man of few words. After talking to him and visiting The Giving Tree Band‘s site, I discovered why Fink says so little: the music speaks for itself.

Smile Politely: How did the band meet and start creating together? 

Todd Fink: My brother and I started the band 8 years ago. We met the other members in Chicagoland, playing shows and inviting friends to play on our records.

SP: I love the name of the band! Is it strictly from the Shel Silverstein book, or is there another meaning as well? 

Fink: Shel was from Chicago and also a prominent folk musician and songwriter. He wrote “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash and also songs for Waylon Jennings and most of the music for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. So there’s a lot of meaning behind the name. We feel it represents our sound and approach to performing. 

SP: Love Shel and love Boy Named Sue! I’m the dork at karaoke night who says, “Hey, you know Shel Silverstein wrote that…”

What was it like playing and coming up in Chicago? It’s a great place for music…

Fink: It’s a great city for sure. We played the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Fest every year and this really helped break the band into our home market. The first year, we played before The Avett Brothers so that helped expose us to many music lovers in the city.

SP: Do you draw a lot of inspiration from Chicago music and culture?

Fink: I think we draw more inspiration from nature like visiting the mountains and being near lakes and rivers.

SP: What are some of your favorite places to visit and play?

Fink: Our favorite places to play in Chicago include Lincoln Hall, Double Door, Auditorium Theatre, and the House Of Blues.

And we love Colorado! Recently toured through the state and did some hiking and even cliff diving. We enjoy going to California also. And favorite cities are Austin, Asheville, Burlington, NYC, Portland and New Orleans.

SP: I visited Austin recently, and it’s undeniably cool. A lot of musicians I’ve interviewed name New Orleans as one of their favorites. What makes that city so special to you?

Fink: New Orleans is one of the few cities in the US that really has a distinct and separate culture. Just looking around, you could imagine yourself in another country. There’s a mix of African, Caribbean, European, and other influences and heritages that makes for a very unique atmosphere and storied history.

SP: The food, language, and music are pretty unique from what I’ve seen and heard. Kind of like Hawaii… 

How do you write music? What’s your process?

Fink: We have multiple songwriters. My brother, E, writes most of the songs. We all work together to arrange the music and instrumentation. The songs are inspired by stories and experiences and I’m also inspired by mystic poetry.

SP: I’ve never heard of mystic poetry! What is that and how do you find inspiring material?

Fink: Well there’s been many great mystic poets that wrote about transcendental experience and divine love. You may have heard of Rumi. Other beautiful poets include Hafiz, Kabir and Rabindranath Tagore.

SP: I will definitely look into that! 

So your songs are inspired by mainly universal themes…? Or are they more individual and personal to your experience…

Fink: Universal themes from a personal perspective. We want our music to resonate with as many people and different kinds of people as possible. Ideally the music should be able to inspire and bring joy to the listener. 

I gave The Giving Tree band a listen, and it brought me a whole lot of joy. I’m a big sucker for vocal harmony and fast banjo-fiddle combinations. This band has a tight sound that is also somehow relaxing, unhurried, and flexible. Make sure you catch them at Cowboy Monkey tonight.

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. – Rabindranath Tagore

Catch the Giving Tree Band tonight at Cowboy Monkey. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. with Trevor McSpadden. Cover is $5.

Related Articles