My song "Sycamore Tree," originally released on the album Stop, Drop, and Roll, began with a beat played on the dining room table and grew into a complex story song—and ultimately one of my most requested songs at concerts.

I'm often asked about the back story of "Sycamore Tree" so am happy that it was featured on the podcast Tell Me About Your Song, hosted by singer-songwriter Jacob Haller. This nearly half-hour episode digs deeply into the writing, performing, and layered personal meanings behind the song. Listen to the episode (or read a transcript) here; you can also download it for free on iTunes.

Live with my band, "Sycamore Tree" became a real adventure, with a totally open-ended improvisational section in the middle—kicking off with a drum solo by Josh Dekaney and turning into a three-way conversation with drums, guitar, and bass. The 2019 album Live and Listening captures a particularly playful version, clocking in at over eight minutes.

Finally, here is a photo of the specific tree that inspired the song...

Sycamore Tree

Words and music by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

Sycamore sycamore sycamore tree
Sprouted from a tiny seed
Did someone plant you there for me
Sycamore sycamore tree?

On a soft and sunny afternoon
My parents bring me home and soon
They tie a bunch of blue balloons
Right around the sycamore tree

The grass tickles on my feet
When I’m rocking in my bouncy seat
The summer breezes smell so sweet
Blowing by the sycamore tree

I stand right up and fall back down
And search for treasures on the ground
Like the fuzzy seeds lying all around
Underneath the sycamore tree

We roll a snowman up so big
And on his head we make a wig
With a pile of knobby little twigs
Fallen from the sycamore tree

Sycamore sycamore sycamore tree
Sheltering a family
Did someone plant you there for me
Sycamore sycamore tree?

I can see the tree right from my bed
All bony smooth where the bark has shed
The leaves are as big as a daddy’s head
Wise old sycamore tree

In our front yard I kick the ball
But now that space is getting small
Some weeks I don’t go out at all
To run by the sycamore tree

I’m off to high school and one day
To a leafy college far away
But in my dreams I still play
In the shade of the sycamore tree

I move to the city, and then in time
My parents long for more sunshine
I hate to see that “For Sale” sign
On the corner by the sycamore tree

Sycamore sycamore sycamore tree,
Forever in my memory
Did someone plant you there for me
Sycamore sycamore tree?

I’m a husband now and a father too
We drive for miles to catch a view
Of the shady place where I grew
Loving that sycamore tree

There’s a red-haired girl with a lemonade stand
I put three quarters in her hand
So many footprints are on this land
Remembered by the sycamore tree

I sip the juice and the memories
My little boy is on his knees
Stuffing pockets full of fuzzy seeds
Children of the sycamore tree

Each seed is a promise that if you try
If your roots dig deep
And your trunk stands high
Your leaves will stretch and taste the sky
Growing like a sycamore tree


Behind the song

The Complete Singer-Songwriter