Interview | Todd Fink – The Giving Tree Band

Words by: Michael Kaiz
Images by: Brittany Clemens

Last time we talked with The Giving Tree Band, I was invited into their communal home on the outskirts of Chicago. It’s been a busy spring and summer for the band so far highlighted by several performances opening for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. The bands got along so well that The Giving Tree Band has been invited to perform at The Magnetic Zeros’ new festival experience, Big Top. We had a chance to chat with founding member Todd Fink before the band’s Hard Rock Cafe performance last week.

Michael Kaiz: It’s been a while since we caught up over the winter and you guys have played a quite few festivals on the circuit this year.

Todd Fink: Yes, we’ve performed at a number of festivals this year. One that I like a lot is Romp Festival in Kentucky.

MK: That’s the bluegrass festival, right?

TF: It’s a bluegrass-based festival. Merle Haggard was one of the headliners this year, (as were the) Carolina Chocolate Drops. It’s a nice, eclectic kind of roots music experience; Leftover Salmon was there (as well). That festival stands out in my mind as a real fun one. In this festival you’d see a lot of the same instrumentation, and a lot of bluegrass instrumentation, so there’s that connection to bluegrass, but what people were doing with those instruments varies greatly.

There was a group called The Deadly Gentlemen, they covered a couple of rap songs and they (inserted) some hip-hop in their music, and they have just straight-ahead bluegrass instrumentation -a five-piece bluegrass band. And of course The Carolina Chocolate Drops are out of this world, you know?

MK: So, you guys are heading up to Colorado in a couple weeks. What excites you about going to Colorado?

TF: It’s our first time (there) in a while. We haven’t really toured through Colorado for about two years, so it feels like the first time. But this is the first time where we really get a solid tour through there. We’ll be out there for a good amount of time and playing some great festivals. We’re really excited about Four Corners Folk Festival down in Pagosa Springs, which has John Hiatt and bands like Elephant Revival and The Lone Bellow. The Lone Bellow is a fun group that seems to be creating a lot of buzz lately.

But to be in the mountains is really what’s exciting for us. I feel like that’s where good songs come from -they come from the mountains. So, we’ll do a lot of writing and a lot of playing and try to get some performances out in the mountains to share with people. Our band in particular is really inspired out in nature. That’s where we really get charged up.

MK: How do you feel that the community of fans in Colorado supports the strong festival scene in the state?

TF: Well I think that the people there are fantastic music lovers. I think that roots music, and any music where people are playing instruments, is really well-received there. It’s nice. I think artists always feel like it’s a homecoming when they’re playing in Colorado. People just feel this great sense of taking their music home to the mountains in Colorado.

MK: After Colorado, what shows do you have that you’re particularly looking forward to?

TF: Shoe Fest, it’s a nice little family oriented festival with a good vibe near Chicago. There’s another festival that we’re headlining in Wisconsin called the Jackpine Jamboree, and we’ve never seen people get down like they’ve gotten down in Northern Wisconsin. It’s no holds barred. Good things in Northern Wisconsin are going under the radar, they’re some of the most intense music lovers and music fans up there.

MK: You guys opened up for Edward Sharpe on a run of shows earlier this summer. How was that experience?

TF: That was great. That’s one of the highlights of the year and some of the best experiences of our career. The shows were sold out in Kalamazoo at the Kalamazoo State Theater and the Cabooze Outdoor Plaza in Minneapolis. What was really special about those opening shows for us was that all of the Magnetic Zeros’ fans were already there before our set and really, really, gave us an incredible welcome, to the point where they were mistaking us for the headliner when we walked out on the stage.

But that’s just a testament to the character of the band, The Magnetic Zeros, and the kind of people that they’ve inspired into their community of supporters. Off the stage, it was just a great experience to get to know those guys and to play a little music with them. They even invited us up on stage at the last show and we got to do a couple songs all together, which was really magical.

MK: It sounds like it’s a really good fit for you guys with them, similar style and a receptive fan-base.

TF: I think that’s just it. I couldn’t say it better, it’s just a really good fit. The guys in our band and the people in their band just really got along well. Everybody has a similar attitude and just positive vibes about them and about traveling together. There’s just a real sense of family that I think you feel and perceive when you’re around either of our bands, so to join up with them just felt right and we’re really grateful to (Zeros’ front man) Alex (Ebert) for the opportunity.

MK: Who else do you see out there who’s touring right now that have the same family sense about them?

TF: I don’t know enough bands honestly. Recently I was impressed a band called The Soil & The Sun and what they’ve got going on in terms of the scene in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s kind of an indie-folk rock band, you definitely hear influences like Arcade Fire, similar arrangement and structure to that. There’s a husband and wife leading the group. We did a show with them in Grand Rapids and there were 900 people at the show and the large part of it was due to the following that they have up in that part of Michigan. They’re real sweet and obviously have a family vibe because they have husband and wife front people. That’s a cool band, I see a lot of good things happening for them right around the corner.

Upcoming Dates:

8/23 Steamboat Springs, CO – Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert
8/24 Florence, CO – Americana Music & Art Festival
8/25 Parshall, CO – Roots Retreat
8/27 Avon, CO – Agave
8/28 Gunnison, CO – The Last Chance
8/29 Denver, CO – Cervantes’ Other Side
8/30 Pagosa Springs, CO – Four Corners Folk Fest
9/1 New Munster, WI – Labor of Love Festival
9/1 Birnamwood, WI – Jackpine Jamboree
9/7 Manteno, IL – Shoe Fest
9/12 Champaign, IL – Cowboy Monkey
9/13 Carbondale, IL – Hangar 9
9/14 Lisle, IL – Depot Days
9/21 Thompson, IL – Melon Days Fall Festival
10/3 Newport, KY – Southgate House Revival
10/4 Bloomington, IL – Six Strings Club
10/5 Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
11/13 Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle
11/14 Nashville, TN – The Basement
11/15 Tupelo, MS – Blue Canoe
11/16 Monroe, LA – Live Oaks Bar & Ballroom