Chuck Leavell: Keyboardist, tree farmer, and author
Chuck Leavell has been a melodic force behind some of rock 'n' roll's biggest acts. He played with George Harrison and Eric Clapton and has been touring with the Rolling Stones for nearly 30 years. (The rollicking piano solo on the Allman Brothers Band's hit instrumental "Jessica" is his.) Leavell is also a committed conservationist and tree farmer. He and his wife, Rose Lane, grow oak, elm, and pine trees on their 2,500-acre forest in Bullard, Georgia. A cofounder of the popular eco-site Mother Nature Network, he just finished his fourth book about conservation, Growing a Better America.
Q: What got you into tree farming?
A: It's all my wife's fault. She comes from a family that's dedicated to the land and has been for generations. In 1981 we inherited property from her grandmother. We considered all manner of possibilities for it — pecans, peaches, different options. But the more I studied forestry, the more I got a long-term view of what managing a forest has to offer.
Q: What's good about planting trees?
A: Oh my goodness. What's not good about planting trees? First, they give us incredible natural, organic, renewable building materials. Second, they give us a tremendous list of products. They also clean our air, clean our water, and provide home and shelter to all manner of wildlife. Trees are the best sequesterer of carbon there is. To me, they're really the most important natural resource we have.
Q: Do musicians tend to be more in tune with the earth?
A: One of the first "aha" moments I had was realizing that my instrument comes from the resource of wood. It's the same with just about any other musical instrument — even saxophones have a reed. So there's already, for me, a very strong connection to the earth with music. I think musicians in general are sensitive to that.