Plain White T's song inspired by classic children's book

Plain White T’s singer and guitarist Tim Lopez turned to a classic children’s book for inspiration for the band’s latest single.

In “The Giving Tree,” Lopez sings about a one-way relationship where he is always giving but getting little in return, not unlike the relationship between the tree and the boy in the Shel Silverstein book of the same name. The single is featured on Plain White T’s “Should’ve Gone to Bed” EP and will be part of the Chicago-area band’s upcoming album, “American Nights,” in early 2014.

“The song is about a long relationship that I was in and, like a lot of relationships, it felt unbalanced,” said Lopez, the only member of the band not from the Chicago-area, by email. “I felt like in the end I was giving all that I had while she was taking what she could and not giving in return. This is what reminded me of the childrens book. By the time we fell apart I really felt decimated, that I had nothing left to give to her or anyone else for that matter.”

The music video for “The Giving Tree” took the children’s book analogy a step further by transforming Lopez into a tree, using body paint, and then a wooden boat and wall. Jason Koenig, whose video for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' “Can't Hold Us” won the “Best Hip-Hop Video” award at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, helmed the Plain White T’s video.

“Jason Koenig and I came up with the concept for the video while at my sister's engagement party,” Lopez said of Koenig, who was the best man in the wedding party. “...I dragged him out to the driveway in my parents’ house and played him ‘The Giving Tree’ in my dad’s car and we just started riffing on ideas for a video concept. ... Together we had come up with the idea that I should be represented as the Giving Tree through body paint and, just like in the book and song, would be ‘used up’ or repurposed.

“We had 3 and a half days to shoot and we didn't waste a minute. I never slept more than 2 hours a day and was either in front of the camera or laying on the floor of a garage getting body painted. The painting took an average of 6 hours a day to complete so I would start the body art around 1 a.m. and start shooting at sunrise. ... I think I worked harder on this project than any before it, but have never felt so rewarded.”

Plain White T’s will perform Dec. 6 at 101.9 FM The Mix’s Miracle on State Street concert with the Backstreet Boys and Colbie Caillat.

lgomez@tribune.com | Twitter @TribLuis

For more celebrity news and sightings in Chicago, go to chicagotribune.com/luis

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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