The Legacy of Collective Soul
Founder Ed Roland Looks Back on the Bands 25-year History
Originally from Stockbridge, Georgia, Collective Soul first began its journey with help from college and alternative radio stations. Atlantic Records picked up on the popular group and released Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, in 1994, promoting the single "Shine" which ultimately ushered in an international wave of popularity for the¬†band.
Still based in Atlanta, the creative nucleus of the band continues to be lead vocalist Ed Roland, rhythm guitarist Dean Roland and bassist Will Turpin with drummer Johnny Rabb and lead guitarist Jesse Triplett. As they prepare for their 25th anniversary next year, the band will headline this summer's Rock and Roll Express tour with 3 Doors Down and Soul Asylum.
INsite spoke with founder Ed Roland as he prepped for the¬†tour.
The band is spread out a bit now geographically, but does an Atlanta show still feel like a homecoming?
Oh yeah, my brother Dean moved out to California, but we grew up here. Jesse, our guitarist, lives in Madison and we spend so much time recording here at my house when we're off, so Atlanta's still home.
Speaking of recording, you guys have been busy in the studio¬†lately.
Yeah, Jesse's over here this week and when we wrap it up, we'll have about 22 new songs when all's said and done. We wanted to get it all done before we went on tour, so we could just focus on the show and not think about recording.
When will the new material be released?
I think we'll do it next year, that's the 25th anniversary of the band. We figured why not blow it out with a new record, or maybe two because we've got so many songs. We've gotta figure that out.
How has your songwriting changed over the years? Some writers just stop after producing as much material as you've¬†released.
I think a lot of it has to do with just changes in life. Some of us got married, some of us had kids and that brings new subject matters - good, bad or indifferent. But it opens you up to parts of life you've never experienced. After doing it for so long, I think the band knows how to express them and I've gotten better. You should, over time. It doesn't matter what your skill is, you should be better at it than when you first started.
For the [Roland's side project] Sweet Tea Project, do you have a different writing technique than for Collective¬†Soul?
Oh yeah, that's a lot different. It starts mostly with just kind of a feel. More of a laid-back feel because it's such a different genre of music. Then lyrically, it gets a little more into storytelling. That's something I enjoy. But for Collective Soul, very few songs are 'stories,' for lack of a better term.
Speaking of songwriting, do the crazy times we live in have a factor in your thought process? A lot of the bands we both love came from the '60s, when change was in the¬†air.
Oh yeah. Very much so. Especially on the new record. But we're not a political band and I wouldn't say they're political songs. I hate to sound like a '60s guy, but I do think peace and love will win out in the long term, so we kinda get those vibes going. I've had fun writing a few things like that. I'm not trying to take a side, I'm just saying we can come through this because we've been here before. At my age, I've seen it a couple of times, you know? It's nothing that hasn't been resolved before. So keep pushin.'
That's been the Collective Soul mindset since the beginning, keep pushing. You've always pushed through on your own¬†terms.
That we have. And we made mistakes along the way but that's ok. Just don't be dumb the second time. Make mistakes, grow and learn.
You never gave into fads or industry trends. You can hear a Collective Soul record and it lives on its own timeline - unlike so many of your peers.
I appreciate that you think so. We've always prided ourselves on that. When we first started, we experimented a little bit, but then we realized that people like what we do, why would we want to change it? If we want to do something different, we can form a new band. That's what I did with Sweet Tea or Dean with Magnets and Ghosts and Will with his solo records. I find that's very healthy for Collective Soul. It's like, all right this is what we¬†do.
And doing what you wanted to do got you the contract with Atlantic that started it all.
[Laughs] And that's why we left Atlantic - because we wanted to what we wanted to do, too.
But now you have complete artistic freedom as an independent act.
We did back then because Atlantic didn't even know what we were doing. They never showed much interest. No A&R man ever went into the studio with us, we'd just go in and do what we do.
I know that's frustrating, but at the same time, it's very¬†rare.
Yeah, it got frustrating, but I've talked to a lot of artists from that time and they're like, 'You have no idea how lucky you were.' So it works both ways. Of course, you want to feel some love and support, but some of those [industry guys] get in there and they really don't know what they're talking about. But with us, recording has always been a joy. We know what we can do and we push each other. I don't know man, I'm just blessed to know the guys in band personally. But to work with them has been pretty awesome.
And what a good time for a band to come on the scene. You had the power of commercial alternative radio behind you, but you didn't have to sound like the other bands on their¬†charts.
Yeah, we were like the last of the rock world to come through, that incorporated the old school rock sounds. The idols we grew up loving, like The Beatles, Zeppelin, The Who.
You benefitted from that sort of 99X-style commercial alternative push and you were all over the radio. Nowdays, that might not even happen.
But we've never worried about that. That's one of those things that when we were all over the radio, we weren't like, 'We've gotta write a song that gets us on the radio, dude!' You know? We got lucky that people love what we¬†do.
People are starting to call you a "legacy act" now. How do you feel about that?
It just means we've been around long enough, I have no problem with that. Twenty-five years ago, if someone were to have said to me, 'Twenty-five years from now, you're about to release your tenth or even eleventh album, because we have so many songs ready. You'll be called a legacy band.' I'd say, 'That sounds like a great ride. Let's go.'
Yeah when you look back at the catalog, it's a significant amount of work. You'd have a box set that twice as thick as Led Zeppelin at this point.
We do think about that. It's a lot of music.
With the 25th anniversary ahead, what are you planning?
We'll definitely tour and we've been in talks about who we'd like to go out on the road with. Not many bands can say they've been around 25 years, and be still relevant, still putting out music and having people show up at the shows. So we're gonna take full advantage of that and make sure everyone knows what we have accomplished so far.
You still haven't had to rely on nostalgia or recycling old¬†stuff.
That's why we keep putting music out. If you think about it, in 2020, if we have an album out and it charts, we'll have had an album in the Top 40 in four decades.
Even classic rock bands can't say that.
Absolutely. But for us, we're enjoying it more than we ever have and I think I shows onstage. We enjoy each other's company. Doing our solo projects has just brought out more confidence. Now we record like we used to when we first started, just sitting in a room together and playing live.
Not many bands do that anymore.
At one point we got off of that too. With technology, people were like, 'Oh I'll just do my part at home.' But we made a conscious effort that we are a band we are gonna do it this way. So we sit in a room and just rock it out.
Just like The Beatles.
That's it! We took one break and then we came back and just felt so excited about it. I'll never forget when Jesse and Johnny came in the band, they just lit a fuse under us. They came in and said, 'Guys, we're Collective Soul, we're good. So let's go.'
Collective Soul plays at State Bank Amphitheater at Chastain Park on Friday, July 6. Showtime is 7 p.m. For more information, please visit chastainseries.com.