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Collective Soul – INTERVIEW with ED ROLAND

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Collective Soul’s 12th Studio Album: From Here to Eternity – An Epic Journey Through Elvis’s Realm.

April 11th, 2024

2024 is a banner year for the legendary rock band Collective Soul! Frontman and chief songwriter Ed Roland takes us through the making of the band’s latest musical offering, the double album From Here to Eternity, (available May 17th) and their upcoming tour with fellow icons Hootie and the Blowfish and Edwin McCain, on the Summer Camp with Trucks tour, visiting 43 cities across the U.S. and Canada. The tour will kick off May 30th in Dallas and will run through September 28th in West Palm Beach.

Your new album From Here to Eternity will be released soon and this marks a significant milestone in your career since it’s your 12th studio release. How does it feel to reach this point in your career, especially considering that you have three decades of your musical journey culminating in this moment?
Ed – I try not to think about things like that, because it does get a little overwhelming to get down to it, because when you start, you never think we’re starting our fourth decade. You never think of decades, you just think about that moment, like will people like this record. So, to look back in time, it’s kind of strange, scary, but humbling and exciting. We’re very excited about where we are and what we’ve accomplished and what we’re going to continue to get the opportunity to let people hear what we’re still doing. It’s an honor.

I imagine that being able to make this album in the unique space and energy of Elvis’s former California home must have really influenced your creative process. How was it to be in the presence of that aura if you will.
Ed – At first it was a little overwhelming. We’d been there before; we knew the people who owned the house. So, we’ve been over there before and kind of gotten the getting’s out, you know, “God, we’re in Elvis’s house: this is his bedroom, this is Priscilla’s bedroom, Lisa Marie’s bedroom, look, it’s the party room.”  You know, because we jumped in the pool, had a party over there one night at Dean’s bachelor party. So, we kind of had that out of the way a little bit. But, then when you start working, and you stand where Elvis stood when he did his last three records, and I slept in Elvis Presley’s bedroom, that was my room, and I’m the only man that’s ever done that, you know. There are days you wake up, and it’s “How did I get here, man, this is kind of cool.”

And I came in with 12 songs, and the band recorded them. We recorded them in four days, the basic tracks, like everybody was on fire. So, I was like, “Guys take four days off.” We still have three weeks here that the guys that own Elvis’s house allowed us to stay there. So, they took four days off and I went into Elvis’s party room and I brought out all my vinyl, well not all of it, but like 100 records and a record player and sat in there and wrote 10 more songs in four days. And they came back, and we recorded those in like five days. So, we were constantly busy and recorded a couple of covers, Elvis cover tunes, because we had time to do it. The guys were just working great, fast and there was a lot of excitement. I don’t know if it due to being in Elvis’s house, I’m sure that had a lot to do it, but we were excited to be around each other. We enjoyed each other’s company, and I think I presented songs that they really liked, and they were just on fire.

And then we had artists that live there, like Brian Ray who played the lead on “Mother’s Love.” He’s Paul McCartney’s band director and lead guitarist. He lived there and I just said, “Hey dude, we’re at Elvis’s house, do you want to come over and break bread?” He was like, “Of course!” I said, “Why don’t you bring your guitar while you’re at it.” We had Mickey Thomas who lives there, who’s from Starship, who sang on like five background vocals. We brought out Peter Stroud, who’s Sheryl Crow’s band director leader and we just had fun with different people coming in and out.

When we finished, Sean, our producer and engineer, he and I were listening to basically 24 songs. We were just like, “How did we do that in 29 days?” We also did four shows on the West Coast during that time, and we just looked at each other, just amazed. It was almost a blur. But, I will say there was a presence of feeling Elvis in the room.

Could you elaborate a little bit more about the overarching themes or the concepts behind this latest double album, and how it reflects the journey the band is on, but more importantly, how that’s projecting into the future?
Ed – Well, we’re a band that’s a band, we don’t do tracks like we literally are drums up. We were in Elvis’s main room, which RCA had acoustic tiles put on and that’s where Elvis did, like I said, his last three records, spent his last Thanksgivings, birthday, and Christmas there in that house. We horseshoe around Johnny, and I’ll present a song, and we’ll kind of go over like the vibe we feel or, when I write what I felt, and we’ll listen to some records for production values and ideas, and then take about an hour to learn everybody’s parts. Everybody feels good. There are no egos, everybody’s working with each other. Somebody would say, “Hey Ed, why don’t you do a vocal a little different here.” You’ll go through that for about an hour, and then we’d do three or five takes, and that’s it, it’s done. That’s the way this band has been doing it for this incarnation with Jesse and Johnny I guess for 12 years now. It’s a lot of fun.

So, the first set of songs I had were very, to me, very Collective Soul. With the second batch of songs I wrote, I kind of had a little more fun with, not going too far off path, but I just had fun more lyrically. It’s a little bit more exploratory sexually and sexual lyrics. I was listening to the Stones, and the line that got me was on “Miss You,” where Mick sings about Puerto Rican girls that are just dying to meet, you’re going to bring a case of wine. A case a wine struck me, like he’s been so extravagant. He wasn’t bringing a bottle of wine, he’s bringing a case of wine! and I was like, “You know, what, I’m just going to have fun lyrically with this and let it flow.”

On “Bluer Than So Blue” and “Sister and Mary,” I just let it go for the first time. I mean, we already had a record done, so it was kind of like a free for all on the second batch. I think it really inspired the guys. It wasn’t the formula that Collective Soul does all the time, even from guitar riffs. There’re even some piano songs. Lyrically, it was a little more extravagant. Thank you, Mick!

Collective Soul (L to R: Johnny Rabb, Will Turpin, Ed Roland, Dean Roland, Jesse Triplett). Photo by Lee Clower

Do you find that giving yourself and your bandmates room to improvise and riff off of each other influences not only your music, but the themes you are putting into your songs?
Ed – Once again, we’re a strange rock and roll band; we actually like other, we enjoy each other, and hanging out with each other. It doesn’t mean we don’t get mad at each other and want to pop each other in the face here and there, but it’s a really unique relationship we have, and it starts with trust. They trusted me to bring in songs that they feel good about, and I trust them with their interpretation of where I’m trying to go when I wrote the song. And, knock on wood or whatever, it just works right now, and I think that it boils down to trust in each other’s ability to do their job on the songs.

When creating this album and choosing the title of From Here to Eternity, was there a connection to the Academy Award winning film or maybe just how you don’t see yourselves as stopping anytime soon? What do you think this album can do to open up the doors for even more new fans, the next generation, the Alphas, to fall in love with you the same way that the Gen Xers, like myself, and the Millennials grew up with you?
Ed – That’s out of our hands, you know. The boys stayed at Burt Lancaster’s house, so the title came pretty quickly for me because From Here to Eternity has Frank Sinatra in the movie, and Frank was such a big part of Palm Springs, so From Here to Eternity felt like the perfect title for what we were doing. I don’t think it was egotistical, but we’re confident in what we’re doing, and that’s how we approached the record.

If people hear it – which we want, we want as many people as possible to hear it – if they like it, that’s great. But if they don’t, that’s fine, too, everybody has their opinion. But if we as a band are not proud of it, we can’t expect anybody else to like it. So, we kind of just approach it in that manner, and then after that, it’s out of our hands. But we do present it like we really love this record and love what we do. It’s like anything else I think people do in their lives; you present the best you can. It’s no different than paintings or other art type things. Some people love this painting, some people won’t. Every artist wants to be loved by everybody. But realistically, that’s not going to happen, but they have to feel confident in what they’re presenting to the audience, and that’s the only thing we’ve learned over the years. “Are we proud of these guys?” and everybody goes, “This is unbelievable, for us.” We’re not saying it’s a top-ten double album of all time, but we go out of there going, “We think it’s a top five double album of all time!” So here we go.

Are there any particular songs that really stand out from this album in your mind that will reflect the overall feel that the band is trying to evoke?
Ed – I don’t think so. When the management said, “What single do you want to put out first?” I just said, “Put the needle on the record, whichever one it lands on, it lands on.” That’s how excited we were about the record.

I can give you stories about each individual song, but I don’t think one song stands out, and that’s what I loved about this project. The whole thing felt like one thing. Like I said, at the end of the 29 days we were there, John and I just listened through it down, and we just started hugging each other. It wasn’t one song in particular that stood out, it was the whole body of work that we were just beyond proud of.

Are there any memorable moments or unexpected surprises, any ghost stories or anecdotes about things going on behind the scenes that you’d like to share about this overall experience with the latest album?
Ed – Well, first off, you’re at Elvis’s house, so people would come by all the time and take pictures. If I saw them out there, I’d open the door and say, “Hey, we’re in here recording so be as quiet as you can.” It wouldn’t stop us. I said, “I don’t want to scare you, but we’re making a record,” and I’d show them around. Or Spike, who owns the house, would be in there. It was cool for people to see Elvis’s house.

I will say the night that Lisa Marie died, our control room was in her bedroom, and unexpectedly the ceiling caved in on all our gear and everything in her bedroom. And then there’s one song that I presented, it was the last song I presented to the guys, called “Be the One,” that I made them move the piano into Elvis’s bedroom. I recorded it in Elvis’s bedroom, and it was just a live take. The guys didn’t want to change it when they came in and heard it. They were like, “We don’t want that to add strings, no nothing, that’s just it.” It’s kind of a weird thing to say that I just sang a song in Elvis’s bedroom and it’s going to be on our recording.

There were all kinds of things going on. They were working so hard, and we were having so much fun. I mean, people would come in, we met the leader of Hell’s Angels in the southwest, he was hanging out at the pool, like it was just random people you’d meet, because we’re very approachable and we wanted people to be a part of it. There were vigils out for Lisa Marie and we invited them in and they’d sing Elvis tunes to us. It was just openness and I guess kind of weirdness at times, but it was it was fun. It was the emotion and the vibe that was going on at the moment, and we didn’t stop it. We accept it at all.

Do you think that you’ll be able to bring that vibe into your upcoming tour with Hootie and the Blowfish and Edwin McCain and all these other amazing acts?
Ed – 100%, because once again I go back to the recording, we had so much fun. We had so much fun in this record. I know I’d say that after every record, but this one’s going to be hard to top. You’re in Elvis’s! Like I said it was it was a special moment, and everybody was on fire.

Knowing Hootie and Edwin, all the boys in Hootie, we’ve known each other since they started. I knew them before they got signed. We’re pals and still are. Mark hangs at my house. If I’m not here, he’ll say, “Do you have any place to crash?” I’ll say, “Well, call my wife and let her know you’re downstairs rumbling around sleeping on the couch.” We have the same temperament, there’s no egos, it’s just really about how blessed we are to be in bands that are still around 30 years later that people actually want to see and hear and who appreciate the music. So, I look forward to this, because we’ve been buddies and pals before everybody was signed. It’ll be a fun summer tour, and I think that’ll show on stage since we’ve done shows with them before. And Edwin’s one of the great voices to me in rock and roll, and truly one of the funniest men in rock and roll. So, it’ll be a lot of humor going on, a lot of golf, but a lot of good rock and roll.

Are there any cities or venues, like Fenway Park, on the tour that you’re especially looking forward to?
Ed – Well, I went to Berkeley, in Boston, and so did Johnny, so there’s always something special in my heart about Boston. I’ve done the tours in Fenway Park and I can remember going to baseball games there as an 18-year-old, 19-year-old kid when I lived up there. That’s kind of special, to be honest with you. But we’re at that point with every city, especially Dallas, because we do remember the days when the only people that showed up were the people we were dating, and they probably were there just for the free beer, because that’s how we got paid. Now to be able to play anywhere, and there’s people showing up singing your songs louder than you can sing it, it’s something indescribable. I try to tell people, “You have to be on that stage,” which not everybody can. But for us, to use an analogy, it’s like you see a picture of the Grand Canyon. Yeah, that looks great, looks massive, but you go see it in person, and you kind of go, “Whoa!” That’s what we get when we’re on stage every night. It’s like, “Whoa, this is what we can do.”

I imagine that touring requires a lot of physical and mental preparation. How are you and the band gearing up for the demands of this tour? Are there any special rituals that you go through? Do you practice yoga? Are you hitting the gym?
Ed – No, I just tried to play as much golf as I can. I’m trying to take Darius’s money this summer playing golf. That’s the way I want to get ready, get in shape: take Darius’s money.

Given Collective Soul’s unique distinction as being one of the only five artists who have ever performed at both Woodstock festivals of ‘94, and ’99, how do you feel about all of these experiences that have been absolutely iconic and influential in your journey as a band? And how does that shape how you put on your performances live on stage every evening to different groups?
Ed – Well, once again, I got back to before we went on stage, we’re high fiving and hugging each other. In some places we have our own dressing room, but we all end up in the same dressing room together. We really enjoy each other. So, I don’t think we sit around and go, “Wow, we did ‘94 Woodstock. Wow, we did ‘99 Woodstock. Wow, we did the rock festival in Texas.” None of that hits us. We’re just like, “We’re about to go rock it with these people out there!” It’s that moment, not the past moments. We’ve learned from those moments to hopefully be better performers. 30 years later, you learn different ways to perform the songs, to arrange the songs that people are so used to hearing, but make it a little more interesting, for them and for us. So, I think that’s the only thing we take into it. We never sit around showing family photos to people from our past history. We’re ready for that night. We want to make that moment part of our history at some point.

What do you what do you enjoy more: the energy of a live performance, or the creative process that you experience in the studio?
Ed – I think the creative process is something that’s naturally a part of me; if I couldn’t write or play guitar or piano during the day, I would not be a person you’d want to hang around with. That’s just an extension of who I am. It’s taken me years to accept, that’s just part of what I am.

You know when your baby’s born, that’s so exciting? So, you create that life, and you get to nurture them to adulthood, and that’s what the live stage is, that’s adulthood. But you nurture it to get there and it’s just as much fun in adulthood is. You’re just as proud of your kid in their adulthood as you were when they were born. But that excitement’s there when it’s first created, and you actually don’t know what the hell to do with. And that’s the way the songs are to be honest with you.

I imagine that staying connected with fans is especially crucial given the digital age that we’re in. How do you ensure that you’re maintaining that connection while on tour with the hustle and bustle of traveling and performing? How do you release those babies out to fandom and stay connected?
Ed – Hire good people. Hire a great team. We have a great team, because it’s hard when you’re on the road. I mean, I know there’s downtime, but you do get exhausted. You don’t wake up, have a cup of coffee and go, “Woohoo! Time to go do social media!” You have a great team that does that for you, and allows us to do what we do, play live.

Is there anything else you think that the members of our community here at South Florida Insider should keep in mind as we’re getting ready for the new Collective Soul album?
Ed – I think that’s just it. Hopefully everybody appreciates it and loves what we’re doing. We’re going to continue to do our best and put out new music. But right now, we’re focused on this so come out, see us play live, it really is going to be a fun show. I think you’ll see such energy between all three artists. Because like I said earlier, we enjoy each other’s company, the band does. We enjoy Hootie’s company, they enjoy ours. Everybody enjoys Edwin’s company; you can’t help but love that guy. And like I said, his music and Hootie’s. It’s just going to be a fun evening for me. So that’s what we’re focused on right now.

 

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