The Giving Tree Band

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I've mentioned in past posts the encounter that led to an almost two year project photographing the Giving Tree Band as they toured and worked toward completing their fourth album, Vacilador. I was at their studio the night they began recording it and have spent a great deal of time with them through the entire process. Witnessing the recording process, hearing songs transform from the simple strum of a guitar to complete arrangements that can knock a person right over, I've seen band members move on to other things, new members welcomed in, have been with them as they toured sizable portion of this country, and even collaborated with them to produce a music video. I have seen first hand how much of themselves each and everyone of them poured into every aspect of Vacilador and feel immense gratitude for the opportunity to have been part of this special endeavor. So much of who I am has been transformed by the time I've spent around these amazing folks; my work ethic, my outlook on artistry, my perspective on living in and of itself.  I have met and worked with a number of musicians and artists and can say with sincerity that there is no one else out there who walks the walk like them: they are artists through and through.  Tonight these seven men will be at the House of Blues Chicago, officially releasing this album and I couldn't be happier for them.

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[a very quick glance at the past two years:]

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Congratulations, boys. Much love.

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Be sure to check out their album, Vacilador--available on iTunes & Amazon.

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Andrew Page, Musician

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Early last month, London-based musician, Andrew Page agreed to meet up with me to discuss his creative process and views on artistry. As we sat down in a Costa Coffee late that afternoon, Page warned me that he'd have to be on his way shortly because he had a birthday party he needed to get to that evening. He failed to mention until the end of interview that the birthday party he needed to get to was actually his own. With Page's steady schedule of shows throughout England, it wasn't entirely surprising that the little time he had available to meet up was between celebrations on his birthday--the only night off he had that week.

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Just a little over four years ago, Page was casually toying with the idea of taking his passion for music to the next level but struggled a bit with the idea of making the transition from musical hobbyist to serious musician. "There was a period where I was playing some of my own songs live and kind of entertaining the idea of being a serious songwriter but still had one foot in the idea of wanting to do covers and not too bothered about my own songs. And the other side of me wanted to take it seriously", he said, explaining that some encouraging words from a close friend pushed him to make the leap, "One of my musician friends, David Kerrigan said, 'Just do it. Just go and actually record this album and get it done...You could potentially live the rest of your life thinking what would have happen if I had recorded my own album and if you never'd done it, you'd be constantly regretful." That was exactly what Page needed to hear. Shortly after, he left his job in product design and decided to go into the studio full time to focus on putting an album together.

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With childhood influences ranging from Bon Jovi to Simon & Garfunkel to Garth Brooks, Page found his own voice in acoustic driven music and began preparing songs for his album. In the same way that a photographer or painter looks at the whole world and envisions it as a piece of art in their respective medium, Page has developed a keen sense for listening to the world to find inspiration. Some of his songs were just inspired thoughts while others, he explains, had exterior sources, "There's one song on my album, I was actually writing a letter to a love interest, post our relationship and then I realized that something I said in that, it just came out as I was writing it... I thought there's a song in that and turned that into something. It's always different. Sometimes I'll hear somebody else say something and I'll think that sounds good or I like the rythm of that, the phonetics of what they said, so I'll try to blend it in."

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Page described the experience he had recording his first record and on his own, none the less, saying, "At the beginning, I was the most forward thinking but at the same time daunted by the fact that I had a blank sheet...There were days where I was very driven, I would get up early and work solidly throughout the entire day. But there were days where nothing's working. You just get to the end of the day and think, I've acheived nothing today, I'm fed up. You just kind of have to take hold of yourself and go, 'This is your project and the only person who is going to make it happen is you.' It got easier on the days where I tried to be more structured. I would set the day out... those were the days where I'd achieve the most. If I put the blinds down and shut the door, those were the days I got the most done. No distractions. But there were also days where I got too close up to it and had to take a step back. I think a lot of times you can get too close to it."

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With his album, Open the Door, complete, Page has been heavily making the rounds throughout England and focusing more on playing live for the time being. His next album isn't imminently in the works but he says, "[I'm] just frantically playing so many of the songs, I don't have time to sit down and write anything else out. In the meantime I'm constantly waiting, always on receive, if anything comes in, I've got a notepad on my phone that's just chock-full of little things that I think of that hopefully one day I'll be able to turn into a song."

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Page hasn't had a chance to make it stateside quite yet (though he recently informed me that he's planning a trip over the summer), but you can learn more about him and listen to portions of Open the Door on his website or on Facebook.

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Ryan Selvy, Illustrator

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Armed with an old fashioned sketchpad, emerging illustrator Ryan Selvy creates short comic strips expressings his thoughts on our culture before transferring them to Adobe Illustrator to polish and share with the world.  If you're a Tumblr user, there's a good chance one of these quirky illustrations has shown up on your dashboard as Ryan uses the site as the platform to share his creations and his popularity on the site is growing.  "Back on May 13th, 2008 I made a Tumblr just for fun. For almost two years I just reblogged and 'liked' other content but never made anything of my own. In February 2010 I made a small strip about my opinion of days of the week and it got a significant amount of notes. Due to its success, I started just making a bunch of different doodles and designs and eventually it just morphed into this comic hobby-thing. Never expected it, but ever since it’s become routine I’ve loved doing it."

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At first, with no plan for the comics, Ryan self-admittedly had a style that borrowed a bit from "Cyanide & Happiness" but over time, he's developed his own trademark style. He elaborated by saying,  "I now have these unofficial reoccurring characters that kind of point out the unobvious obvious truths about life." These "unobvious obvious truths" are inspired thoughts that come to the artist as he goes about a normal day but he says the greatest source of inspiration is simply conversation with friends.   "So many of my ideas come from sitting around with friends and joking around. It’s kind of become a usual thing to have a conversation erupt and someone will yell out “COMIC!”

With a growing fan base and increasing attention from across the web, Ryan plans on expanding the blog to an online retail shop where merchandise inspired by the comics can be purchased. His decision to do this stems from rising requests for tshirts and stickers from fans and is scheduled to be online within a month.  All of these endeavors are being done as Ryan works to finish school at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.  The workload hasn't deterred Ryan from pursuing this passion project, stating that he was once given a piece of advice that has helped him stay on track, "It’s extremely cheesy but I remember my Dad told me when I was in middle school that I could do anything I wanted and as long as I loved doing it I’d find success. He said even if I wanted to be a garbage man, if I loved it enough I could have the opportunity to do great work and become head of my own garbage company. While I certainly don’t think I’ve “made it” yet, it still helps me going forward in things I love to do."

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Please check out Ryan Selvy at ryanselvy.com.

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