Editors’ Notes If Oliver Tree confounds you, he’s done his job. The 27-year-old alt-pop-rock eccentric fancies himself a visual artist who just so happens to make music as joyful and strange as his signature look: JNCO jeans, a bowl cut, and a face so expressive it reads like a meme come to life. And yet, outside of all the ornamentation, the prankster public persona, the viral music videos and the Atlantic Records deal, Tree’s debut album Ugly Is Beautiful is a masterwork of eclectic hooks and charming sincerity. There’s the anti-consumerist guitar-pop “Cash Machine,” the twenty one pilots-esque rap-rock of “Hurt,” the old-school turntablist nod “Bury Me Alive,” the harmonious indie-rock fuzz of “Miracle Man,” and everything in between. “Eighty percent of my recording process is improvised,” Tree tells Apple Music. “I get into the booth and record for 30 minutes; the songs tend to write themselves. Sometimes it’s gibberish; sometimes they’re perfect and I couldn’t recreate them if I wanted to. There’s some magic in that moment—[music] that is raw, vulnerable, and pure. It can’t be replicated.” Below, Oliver Tree walks Apple Music through his debut (and, apparently, last) album, track by track. Take his humor with a grain of salt and take the message at face value: “In my trials and tribulations, I’ve fallen on my face time after time,” Tree explains. “Ugly Is Beautiful is about finding the things in ourselves that we see as flaws and learning to love those things.”

Me, Myself & I
“People tend to feel like they have to keep to themselves in fear of saying something stupid. This song, to me, is about how I'd rather say some stupid things in my life than say nothing at all. At this point, I'm currently working on learning how to filter my thoughts so that I can be a little more fine-tuned with it, but ultimately, I'd rather say something than nothing. It can be a bit much, but it does make for very honest reactions.”

1993 (feat. Little Ricky ZR3)
“Ricky Robinson is Little Ricky ZR3, and he's the only feature on this debut album. I don't really listen to music. The only real artist who I fuck with at this point is Little Ricky ZR3. This dude is totally in his own world. I sincerely feel in the next few years, he's going to be the biggest artist on the planet. The song is really about growing up. I spent my whole life falling on my face, but I never let that stop me. I was given the name Oliver Tree at my birth. I was born in 1993, but it somehow took me 27 years, until I finished this album, until I realized who I was.”

Cash Machine
“I spent the last three years traveling around the world, and everything I own fits inside a big [faux] Gucci carry-on suitcase. That and my backpack fits my entire life. If you think you need money or material objects to be happy, then I honestly think there's something wrong with you and you are sick in your head. We waste the best years of our lives chasing after money so that we can buy all these things we don't need. It's absurd.”

Let Me Down
“I wrote that song a couple of days after [Los Angeles went on] shutdown. I had to cancel [my album release] due to COVID-19. I couldn’t shoot the videos I needed to shoot, so everything got pushed back. I couldn't share this without the proper visual support. And so ultimately that song is really an apology to my fans. I let a lot of people down when I had to cancel the album. I lost 150,000 Instagram followers over the course of a few days. I let people down, and I wrote the song to ask for forgiveness. Ultimately, if they forgive me or not, I don't give a fuck. They can do whatever they want. It's not my problem, but it was just a nice memento.”

Miracle Man
“As far as ‘Miracle Man’ goes, all I can say is, do not spend your life waiting around for a miracle. You got to go out there, you got to get your hands dirty, you got to fall on your face. If you want to do it, you got to follow my three-simple-step formula: One, wake the fuck up; two, get your ass off the couch; and three, go do that shit. This comes down to one experience I had in elementary school. This kid at my school, his sister was drowning. His name was Danny Stromboli and his sister was in the lake and she couldn't swim. She's out there by herself, she's screaming, and there was no lifeguards, nothing. So I run out there, jump into the water, I reach her, I bring her back into shore. And I realized, what if someone just prayed for her to come back? It's like, am I going to wait here hoping someone's going to come save this poor little girl or am I going to go and save her myself?”

Bury Me Alive
“‘Bury Me Alive’ is actually about the time I ate too much acid on a family vacation at Burning Man. I thought I had overdosed and I was convinced I had died. I watched my whole funeral take place. I ended up running naked through the desert for about six hours and I nearly died that night. I went through a period of dealing with drug issues, and that was my rock bottom. After that experience, I realized that was not the way to live my life. Instead of being consumed by drugs, I became consumed by music. The trouble with getting off drugs or changing your lifestyle is that you don't have something to fill that void. I was very fortunate that music was there.”

Alien Boy
“The song ‘Alien Boy’ is dedicated to all the alien boys and all the alien girls out there. The human experience is extremely strange. Most of us feel like aliens at some point. We feel like an outcast, but at the end of the day, who wants to be normal? This song is really about embracing our true selves and really letting your true self shine.”

Joke’s on You!
“Never judge a book by its cover. I've seen the way people treat you for looking different, for being a little 'outside the box.' I've seen the toxic energy that exists in the way that people project their own insecurities and their own unhappiness on others. A lot of people struggle to look in the mirror and say, ‘I love myself. I'm able to accept myself. Flaws make me beautiful. They make me me.’ You need to learn to love yourself, you need to learn how to laugh at yourself, and you need to stop taking yourself so fucking seriously.”

Again & Again
“We are all habitual beings. Our patterns tend to repeat themselves, some for better, some for worse. If we don't learn from the mistakes, we will repeat them over and over again. But the human brain is so powerful that it can pick out whatever these negative patterns are and it can actually start new and improved patterns. We have the capability to re-hardwire the brain. You can go from a drug addict to being completely sober. Nothing happens overnight, but it starts with recognizing an issue.”

Waste My Time
“Little Ricky ZR3 actually played the violin on this song, and it’s only for the outro. He did a violin, viola, and then he also doubled it with the cello, which was incredible. As far as the song goes, time is the most precious, coveted thing in existence. There really isn't enough hours in the day to do what we need to do. One thing I will say is do everything you want to do. Your time here is extremely short, and that needs to be taken with great understanding.”

Jerk
“This is a song that I made when I went to Marshmello's house. I made it there with him and my engineer. But as far as the song explanation goes, I think we've all met a jerk or two. We all know people that we hope we'll never see again, but it's important to understand that we've all probably been jerks at some point in our lives, as well. It’s a double-sided blade, but it's a song about those people that you really hope you never see again.”

Hurt
“I grew up competing in freestyle scootering, the pro circuit. I did that for a couple of years. During a semifinal run, I was going down this 25-foot roll, at 35, 40 miles an hour. I was going balls to the wall, and out of nowhere, this little fucking pebble shows up. I hit this thing. I go flying roughly 12, 13 feet. I put both my hands out to break the fall, and sure enough, I break my left wrist, I break my right wrist, I break the joint that connects my thumb to my hand. I had a concussion. There were some minor abrasions. My right hand was less usable, but my left still had some good fingers, so I started learning how to produce. I spent the entire scooter season—five months—locked up in a bedroom, just writing music. And the first song I wrote and the song that really capsulated this experience was ‘Hurt.’”

Introspective
“The song ‘Introspective’ is really about getting lost in the thoughts in your own head. Sometimes we have things we want to keep to ourselves, things we don't want to share with others. Sometimes we just don't have the right words. Sometimes those words don't exist. Sometimes we make assumptions. Sometimes we, in our head, make up a million scenarios, and it's not the best way to go about things. Don't overthink it. Don't try to spend too much time trying to think about how it's going to go wrong. Just put your bootstraps on, buckle up, buddy, and go in there, do it.”

I’m Gone
“It’s over. This is the first and last Oliver Tree album. It was fun while it lasted, but this industry is too much for me and this is not what I want to spend my life doing. I don't want to be a 60-year-old guy with a bowl cut dancing around onstage. I can't do this anymore. I'm going to be segueing on to the next portion and moving out of music. At this point, I have no interest to make album after album for these snotty-ass fans and people who literally talk shit and make my life miserable for this art that I've dedicated my whole life making for them. I'm fucking done. I am out.”

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Other Versions

Music Videos

  • Bury Me Alive
    Bury Me Alive
    Oliver Tree
  • Miracle Man
    Miracle Man
    Oliver Tree
  • I'm Gone
    I'm Gone
    Oliver Tree
  • Hurt
    Hurt
    Oliver Tree
  • Let Me Down
    Let Me Down
    Oliver Tree
  • Cash Machine
    Cash Machine
    Oliver Tree

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