The Fruit Tree Foundation is an independent music project led by Emma Pollock and Rod Jones. Since 2010, the Foundation has been contributing to the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival every year.

In his interview with SMHAFF reporter Gemma Torras, Rod Jones explains “the first concert for the festival was very successful. It opened the door and I think it got rid of a lot of stigma! So then I thought ‘could we do something that has a longer lifespan?” The answer was the Fruit Tree Foundation. “What I found over the last few years running this project is that making music and making it together in a collaborative way can have a monumental impact on mental health, positive thinking and well-being.

Throughout the year the Foundation plans activities and workshops for songwriting and performing music. As part of this year’s festival, the members of the songwriting group put on a gig in Edinburgh’s Whale Arts centre. Just a few hours before they took the stage, we had the opportunity to speak with artists and members of the Fruit Tree Foundation as they were getting ready for the performance. Most of them had started going to the workshops since the creation of the Foundation. Jonathan kindly explained that the great thing about the workshops is that there is a nice informal and fluid feel to them, “we write songs, perform and record music; we all have different abilities and I suppose that Rod’s idea is to blend a different set of skills, and to help develop the group to be independent to play and give its inputs. Thanks to the Fruit Tree Foundation we had the opportunity to meet other people who also want to play and perform music; otherwise it would be difficult to have met them.

We asked the artists about the songs they were going to perform. April told us that it was her second time performing in the festival. She confessed that she always feels nervous before starting but very wisely added: “if you don’t have nerves, you are not human.” Suddenly, she went and shook Marie’s hand with strength and said: “we will do it great.” It was touching to witness the incredible level of cohesion within the Foundation’s super-group.

Talking to Rod about the workshop, he commented that “meeting other people and playing music and having something like that in their lives, made a big positive difference.” Meanwhile, Liz was rehearsing and sound-checking. Her songs, so genuine and honest, caught everyone in the room’s attention in a few seconds. We all stopped what we were doing and just listened to her. Then Liz asked Rod: “Am I done practicing now?” Rod replied: “If you are happy, you are done.

Hours later, Liz replicated the same trick on stage in front of the audience. She had everyone listening to her, laughing to her witty lyrics and crude jokes…  April, Marie, Gary, Rod, Jonathan, everyone performed in the warm atmosphere of the Whale Art centre. The evening was conculded with an amazing acoustic gig from long-time Fruit Tree Foundation mentor Dan Wilson (Withered Hand).

We had a fantastic time.

Written by Gemma Torras Vives