A Few Minutes With Collective Soul’s Ed Roland

Ed Roland gives us a look at Collective Soul’s upcoming album – its first full-length effort in six years. The frontman says the guys set out to capture the urgency, loud guitars and killer riffs that the alternative rock band was founded on more than two decades ago.   

Marking Collective Soul’s ninth studio album overall, See What You Started by Continuing is due out Oct. 2 via Vanguard Records. Between releasing 2009’s self-titled album and the new LP, Roland formed the side project Sweet Tea Project while rhythm guitarist Dean Roland established the duo Magnets and Ghosts and bassist Will Turpin worked on his solo career.

See What You Started by Continuing is the first release featuring drummer Johnny Rabb, who took over for Cheney Brannon in 2012, and lead guitarist Jesse Triplett, who replaced Joel Kosche in 2014.

Ed Roland has two other albums in the can – a solo release and a second LP from the Sweet Tea Project. But for now the focus is on Collective Soul. The band is supporting the new album with a fall tour that begins later this month. As Roland notes, playing live is “still the best way for people to hear what you do.”

Photo: Scott Legato / RockStarProPhotography.com
Sound Board @ MotorCity Casino Hotel, Detroit, Mich.

See What You Started by Continuing is the band’s first new full-length effort in six years. Was it freeing to have time to work on your own individual projects?

We actually decided we were going to take a year off. Everybody didn’t know we were actually going to go do other projects. I think we were like, “This is fun but we need to do something.” So Dean [Roland] went and started Magnets & Ghosts and I did the Sweet Tea Project. … When we came back together we were excited. Vacations and holidays are very necessary. We kind of forgot about that for a second. And it was the first time, I think, in our career that we just set Collective Soul aside and went out and decided to figure who we were personally and musically also. Everything was so about Collective Soul for so many years that we kind of got lost in everything. Just to take that time and, you know, make sure our family still liked us and knew who we are (laughs), which is kind of necessary. And when they did like us, it made everybody happy again.

It seems like the break really affected the band in a positive way. You’ve said it gave the band confidence going forward.  

It did and we added two new members to the band, Johnny Rabb and Jesse Triplett. And they came in fired up. They were really kicking us in the ass. Made us feel good about what we had done in the past and they were excited for what they felt like they could add and what we could do in the future. So it was a great combination for us.

I was wondering if there was something that made you guys feel you were ready to put out another Collective Soul album or if the timing just felt right.

I think it felt right. When we got Johnny and Jesse in there and went out and did some shows, just to get them used to the catalog and then I started throwing [new] songs out. …  [Watching] the reaction of the crowd, enjoying and liking what the new material was, I think was the spark. We’re still that old-school kind of band. We want the people to like it. And this time we actually had the convenience to rehearse and go out and play in front of people. And kind of go, “Ooh they like that? Maybe we can change this?” It was fun to actually do pre-production live.

As you mentioned, this is your first album with your new drummer, Johnny Rabb, and lead guitarist, Jesse Triplett. How did the lineup change affect the songwriting and recording process?

Well, the songwriting, you know, I’ve always done. So that was kind of my gig; that’s my responsibility in the band. … Like I said earlier, [Johnny and Jesse] came in excited. They had that new-kid, first-day-of-school excitement coming in the band. Not that Will and Dean and I didn’t, but it was nice to have that little pump of encouragement and the recording went real easy. And we experimented with different things … sometimes recording you get kind of lost and you get used to your old ways. It was fun to put the band in one room and go, “Press play and record” and we did that this way this time. It was just so much more enjoyable. And I think it shows in the recording. I think the songs call for that. It’s a fun record, a lot of guitars and riffs and solos. And that’s what we set out to do when we started recording. I was like, “Jesse, you’re called the lead guitarist for a reason. Play lead guitar.” And Johnny, you know, they’re hoots. Johnny brings a lot of jokes and enjoyment and a fun atmosphere when he’s in the studio, as he does on the road, as he does in everyday life (laughs).

Did you have a certain vision for the album going into it?

I did. When we went out and started playing together, we literally sat down and listened to old live recordings of us when we first started in the mid-’90s. And we were like, “God, we were rocking.” And you could tell we were new and it was like an urgency. I was going for all I had vocally and guitars were just loud. I was like, “Let’s kind of go back to that.” And everybody was in agreeance with that. And when I would present the songs, some songs they’d go “yea,” some they’d go “nay.” And we all kind of agreed on the ones that … had the riffs. Which is, you know, kind of what we’re known for. Turn the guitars up, let’s go play. We recorded more songs than [what’s] on the record. We took a lot of the mid-tempo songs off the record because we felt like we just wanted more of a rock record for a change.

Photo: Joseph Guay
Jesse Triplett, Will Turpin, Ed Roland, Dean Roland, Johnny Rabb

You’ve said recording “Tradition” was one of the hardest things you’ve done. Can you expand on that?  

Yeah, actually when I wrote it, I had the chord progression and I had the chorus and I didn’t know what I was going to do in the verse. I wrote it on a piano, one of those keyboards that had a beat in it. It was like this funky beat over these chords that I liked … we were in there playing and I was like “No, it’s just not working.” … I actually went and saw Bruce Springsteen for the first time. And so on the way to his show we were listening to “Darkness on the Edge of Town” and “Candy’s Room” came on and I was like, “That’s what we need to do!” Something similar, you know, the hi-hat and then the spoken word and I said, “I think it will make the chorus pop more.” And I thought, “Plus, that will be easy for me to do.” You know, everybody can speak. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Being Southern you don’t want to come across with the Southern accent being too strong; you don’t want to sound like you’re speaking too fake. And then the phrasing. I mean, I spent two days just trying to get – I do the other vocals in three takes. I spent two days just like, “My god, this is killing me!”

And then finally the engineer just handed me his iPhone and said, “Go in the other room and just talk the lyrics.” And that’s how we did it.  And we actually manipulated what I spoke into the iPhone back into the verses.

It seems like everyone kind of over-analyzes how their voice sounds when they hear a recording of it.

Yeah, I’ve heard my voice singing for years so I have the comfort level now, like that’s how I sound, whether people like it or not, that’s just how I sound. But then to hear yourself speak on tape (laughs) – I’ve never heard that before! So I don’t know if I like that!

Did you have a hand in picking “This” as the album’s first single?

Yeah, we did. Actually, the record’s been done for a year. So last Christmas we let everybody stream it for a day on Christmas day. Only thing was, “Just tell us what [songs] you like … don’t be over-critical. Don’t tell us we suck and shit like that. But help us out.” … Overwhelmingly “This” … and “Are You The Answer” were the two ones that most of the fans enjoyed the most. And we wanted to come out with some, you know, guitar riffs and that seemed to fit pretty well.

When was the album recorded?

It was done last October. It was done off and on … we started in February 2014. We decided we’d take two months to make the record and do no shows, but then we started doing shows. And then we’d go out and play them live and we’d go, “Oh, people like that, let’s do this and let’s rearrange this.” So we didn’t really get busy until the middle of, I would say, May and then we’d already booked so many shows. I mean, we did over 70 shows last year and made the record and then I had another 30 with my other band, so I did 100 shows last year. 

That’s a pretty busy schedule.

Yeah, but it was fun! It worked out good. Like I said, for us to be able to go out and test the waters with them live really helped a lot.

So we talked about “Tradition” and “This” a bit. Are there any other tracks that stand out to you as favorites personally?

You know, when you get done with it and you take time away from it because you get so caught up making it, you don’t really listen to it and you’re over-analyzing. Then you get back and you step away from it, I gotta be honest with you, I’m extremely proud of the whole project. I mean, there are certain songs that are fun to play live. “Hurricane” is fun to play. We love that song, just to play live. I’m not saying it’s a better or worse song. But on the overall whole, I think it’s one of the best, consistent records we’ve made in our career.

You once again produced the album. It must be nice to have that control in the recording studio.

It is and I’ve always produced the records. I’ve always wanted to be a part of that. I’ve had co-producers in with me. But that’s something I’ve always enjoyed. You know, when you write the songs, it’s kind of fun to start getting the different colors in there and painting the picture. … Plus, the studio’s in my house so it makes it real convenient.

You also have an album coming out with Sweet Tea Project. Have you set a release date for that?

No, because everything revolves around Collective Soul, the mothership’s gotta get out there and get things rolling. But we’re done with that record, it’s in the can. And then I actually have a solo record that’s in the can so there’s a lot of music we’ve been recording. We haven’t been sitting around for six years and [just] enjoying life. We have enjoyed life, I shouldn’t say that. But we stayed busy.

Collective Soul’s been around for more than 20 years. Not too many bands can say that. Looking back on Collective Soul’s history, is there any advice you’d give to a 20-something Ed Roland, when you first starting the band?

Get a good attorney. From the very beginning. It’s the music business and the business word is in there for a reason. We kind of got burned there early on and, you know, we had to learn the hard way. And it’s a shame that that still goes on. And someone that you can believe in.

And then go play live, that’s still the best way for people to hear what you do. I truly believe in that. Of course, you can put it on YouTube. I think that’s great. All the new avenues are great but I still think it comes back to that live vibe.

Absolutely. You can never replace going out to see a concert live.

You can’t. People still want to do it. Just ask the Foo Fighters, ask Zac Brown Band, ask all these great [artists]. I mean, look at all the festivals that go on. People still want that. They thrive on it.

Photo: Joseph Guay

Upcoming dates for Collective Soul:

Sept. 19 – Deadwood, S.D., Downtown Deadwood (Deadwood Jam)
Sept. 29 – Lake Buena Vista, Fla., House Of Blues   
Oct. 1 – Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Revolution Live        
Oct. 3 – Atlanta, Ga., The Tabernacle          
Oct. 4 – Louisville, Ky., Champions Park (Louder Than Life Festival)         

Oct. 6 – Columbia, S.C., Music Farm Columbia       
Oct. 7 – Raleigh, N.C., The Ritz         
Oct. 9 – Charlotte, N.C., Fillmore Charlotte

Oct. 10 – Greensboro, N.C., Cone Denim Entertainment Center     
Oct. 13 – Silver Spring, Md., The Fillmore Silver Spring      
Oct. 14 – Philadelphia, Pa., Theatre Of Living Arts  
Oct. 15 – Huntington, N.Y., The Paramount

Oct. 17 – Albany, N.Y., Hart Theatre @ The Egg     
Oct. 19 – New York, N.Y., Irving Plaza         
Oct. 20 – Boston, Mass., Paradise Rock Club           
Oct. 25 – Cleveland, Ohio, House Of Blues  
Oct. 26 – Detroit, Mich., St. Andrews Hall    
Oct. 27 – Indianapolis, Ind., Egyptian Room
Oct. 30 – Denver, Colo., Summit Music Hall
Oct. 31 – Salt Lake City, Utah, The Complex            
Nov. 2 – Garden City, Idaho, Revolution Concert House & Event Center    
Nov. 3 – Seattle, Wash., The Neptune            
Nov. 4 – Portland, Ore., Roseland Theater   
Nov. 6 – Reno, Nev., Silver Legacy Resort Casino    
Nov. 8 – Napa, Calif., Uptown Theatre Napa           
Nov. 9 – San Francisco, Calif., The Fillmore            
Nov. 10 – San Diego, Calif., House Of Blues            
Nov. 11 – San Diego, Calif., House Of Blues            
Nov. 12 – Las Vegas, Nev., House Of Blues  
Nov. 13 – Los Angeles, Calif., The Wiltern    
Nov. 14 – Riverside, Calif., Riverside Municipal Auditorium
Nov. 16 – Tempe, Ariz., The Marquee           
Nov. 18 – Dallas, Texas, House Of Blues      
Nov. 20 – Austin, Texas, Emo’s         
Nov. 21 – San Antonio, Texas, The Aztec Theater     
Nov. 22 – Houston, Texas, House Of Blues   
Nov. 24 – Memphis, Tenn., Minglewood Hall           
Nov. 25 – Nashville, Tenn., Marathon Music Works  
Nov. 27 – Chattanooga, Tenn., Track 29       
Nov. 28 – North Myrtle Beach, S.C., House Of Blues

Please visit CollectiveSoul.com for more information and check out the band’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.