Composer Tree Adams talks beginnings, music, and Power Mac 8500 computers!


Happy Holidays, Reactorites!

This is the time of the year we set aside our controllers, cards, comics, and computers, and spend time being thankful for all the wonderful things that have come our way. And, if you’re like me, you’ve been super thankful lately, with the release of the Captain America: Civil War teaser, the second BvS trailer, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens being just around the corner. Yes, this has definitely been a year for geeks, fanboys and fangirls, worldwide, but to many out there, this time of the season means a bit more than just trailers and superheroes. It’s a time that reminds some that they are proud to remember where they’ve been, and thankful for where they’re going. A time to recognize that life has given us some great opportunities, and we’re grabbing a hold of each one. A time where men and women are grateful for taking that leap of faith into the unknown, and aren’t thinking once about jumping back to normality. One of those individuals we speak of is composer and musician, Tree Adams.

Composer of hit shows and films such as Reba, In Plain Sight, Californication, The 100, and 2008’s Keith, Adams holds a true passion to what he does, as we got a chance to sit down and talk a little bit with him. “I grew up as a Rock guy. All the Blues guitarist coming up,” he tells us, talking about his past. “I was a Hendrix fan, all the different permutations of that. I studied Freddie King, Albert King, B.B. King, everybody in that blues world. Then I got into classic rock like everybody else did.”

But Adams hasn’t always been a rocker, or at least, he wasn’t trained to be one. “When I was little, I was forced to play the piano, and I hated it,” he laughs. “I was trained like from before I could even stand up at the piano when I was very little. My grandmother taught me how to play.” Alongside the piano, Adams picked up the clarinet and flute, showcasing his talents in the school orchestra. “It wasn’t really my thing so much, I was an athlete in school, but then, I heard Hendrix and I was like ‘there’s something in this guitar thing’ and thought I should go over and try that. That really pissed off my family,” he jokes. “I got to tour in a rock band for ten years, made a few records for Atlantic Records. I had a good experience opening up for some of my heroes. Allman Brothers, Buddy Guy, some of those guys.”

But Adams knew that this wasn’t going to be the only thing he was bred for with his talents and realized that it was time to make a change in his career. “I was classically trained as a kid, and after playing like 300 shows a year for a decade, I kind of got the itch to do something other than being a long-haired rock dude.” That’s when Adams decided to make the switch over to film and TV.


Tree Adams (R) attends the 2014 BMI/TV awards held at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on May 14, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California

Working with Brad Silberling and Collin Wilson, the director/producer team behind 1995’s Casper, gave Adams one of his first big breaks. “We got to do an opening title while my band, The Hatters, was in studio making our last record. We sat down, did this little stride piano/ New Orleans-style thing. We had the uptown horns, it was a great experience,” Adam states. “It was a blast! We made more money than our entire recording budget! I was like, oh my god, there’s something to this.”

After his first taste of working in the industry, Adams knew he had caught wind of something that wasn’t going away. “I met up with some people from Juilliard in New York who were working with a Power Mac 8500 and Logic, and I checked it out in some one’s one bedroom apartment,” he laughed. “But to see someone using it and see someone at the computer with the whole orchestra at their fingertips, I was blown away.” That’s when Adams knew his road to composing started there.

Adams has since had a chance to be a part of several films and TV shows – from independent films to very well-known and popular shows. “I started by working on a movie for a friend called The Definitely Maybe. He was doing his first thing, I was starting out, I had just bought the Power Mac 8500, so I was ready to roll!” Adams chuckles, remembering the fun memories.”That was a real disaster! There were like system crashes every twenty minutes or so. Working out of a one-bedroom apartment, I remember trying to record drums, and then we would hide real quick while the neighbors were calling the cops,” he laughs. “The doorman downstairs was looking around trying to figure out what apartment it was coming out of!”

Starting out in New York, Adams remembers how difficult it was to record while out there. “Out here in L.A., everywhere you look, someone’s got a recording studio, but in New York, it was much more difficult. You either had to go down to 30th street, where they had some cheap studios to use, or you needed to have a fortune to soundproof your place. I had none of the above, so it was tough at the time.” Adams made the decision to finally head out to Los Angeles in 1998, and with the help of his good friend, Gwen Bethel Riley, the music executive at Artisan Entertainment, Adams was able to grab some small jobs in the industry to get his name out there. In a couple of cases, Adams was brought on to assist on some films such as 1996’s Black Mask starring Jet Li. After a couple of small parts, however, Adams finally got an opportunity in TV with the help of David Grossman, former TV music executive for Paramount Pictures.


Black Mask with Jet Li

“I would send my songs to all the different studios, trying to get them to license stuff. Just like that. My wife would help me, writing up these magnificent letters, pretending to be my manager,” he recalled. “One day, I get a call on a Friday night from David Grossman’s office. He’s like, ‘Look, you’ve been sending us your stuff. You seem like you’re a pretty good songwriter. There’s an opportunity to write a main title for a new TV show, if you can get it to us tomorrow morning’. Wow”, he laughs. “I was like, eh no problem. So I knocked it out and they were like, ‘Look, this isn’t the song we’re going to use, but you did a good job. The head of the show wants to meet you, here’s his address. Oh, by the way, he’s a songwriter, and he wants to write some songs with you.’ And that was Jonathan Katz.”

Katz was a comedian and writer, most known for his contributions to shows like Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist from Comedy Central, and Home Movies from Cartoon Network. “I go over to his house, and he’s basically doing stand-up the whole time, cracking me up, I can’t even play guitar.” Together with Katz, Adams was able to get a few 30-second songs down on paper, but unfortunately due to the changes from higher up, the show ends up using another recording artist.

“So that got blown out of the water. But then, I got a call for another chance by some folks who asked about my ability to score a sitcom. I said that would be great, and that was my in, right there. I got the opportunity to score this little show called Raising Dad, and then that led to Reba, which was another sitcom. Then I got into doing longer drama stuff.” After shows like Raising Dad and Reba, Adams began to become a household name in the world of scoring sitcoms, as he has had an opportunity to be a part of great shows such as In Plain Sight, The Good Guys, Californication, Franklin & Bash, and so much more.


Showtime’s Californication, starring David Duchovny

Adams is more than grateful for the journey that he’s been on. “It’s been cool! I’ve had the good fortune to evolve across some different genres, and I think that’s one of the things that makes the job fun and exciting, as you try and grow as a musician.”

Knowing where he’s come from, and that his journey is far from over, is one of the things that makes Adams unique among most composers and musicians. “I began with some sitcoms, then I got into dramas, and now movies. I’m doing this show, Legends, which is an espionage spy thriller with Sean Bean. The score is real subtle, real dark and action packed at times. Then I’m doing this show, The 100, which is more post-apocalyptic type battle music. I can’t wait to see what else comes up.”

Both shows are big hits with their markets, as Legends is currently underway in its second season, and many fans are looking forward to the upcoming third season of The 100 starting in January of 2016. “One of the things that I really like about my line of work, as opposed to just trying to be like the same guy every night performing, is that this allows me to shapeshift. It takes time, but over the course of a decade, I got to go from being the guy scoring Reba, to now being the guy scoring dark espionage work or adventure projects. It keeps you growing.”

Adams is definitely one to look forward to many more chances coming his way, as he realizes in all his time of being a musician, this is definitely the path for him and he loves it. “I wake up every day charged up about finding new and exciting sounds to compose scores, refining my approach in action sequences. Whether it’s trying to get the most out of the orchestra, or, like with The 100, I’m using female vocalists belting on top of this epic orchestral stuff, I’m trying to learn how to employ that the most effectively, and I’m really loving it.”

As the old saying goes, a man who loves his work will never work a day in his life, and it seems like Adams is on a permanent vacation.

You can find Tree Adams’ work on his website, as well as in the hit shows, Legends, this Fall on TNT, and The 100, debuting its third season January of 2016 on the CW.


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Eddie Villanueva Jr.
Eddie Villanueva Jr. 313 posts

A movie connoisseur of only the finest films, and an Encyclopod of geek and nerd knowledge. And if you know what an Encyclopod is, you're cool too!

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