Collective Soul: Now Is the Time

It’s been 25 years since Collective Soul front man E. Roland’s iconic “yeah” (from the band’s debut single “Shine”) was first heard over the radio airwaves. Since then, the Georgia quintet’s infectiously catchy songs have been a staple of Top 40, contemporary rock, and—more recently—classic rock radio. And to celebrate their silver anniversary, the band are not only touring throughout the U.S. with the Gin Blossoms, but also releasing Blood (June 21, Fuzze-Flex Records). The 10-track album which features the classic Collective Soul sound is, as indicated by its first single, “Right as Rain,” certain to add to the band’s legacy of hits.

Once referred to as “The Jukebox Heroes of a New Generation,” Collective Soul have always had to contend with lazy music critics determined to categorize them. When they first emerged during the mid-nineties, they were incorrectly branded Christian Rock. That was followed by the even more inane “post-grunge” label. Recently, the band have been written off as “nineties rock,” as if their sound has grown stale and dated. As the band continues to prove, however, they are as fresh and viable as they were more than two decades ago.

When starting out, Collective Soul’s members shared one Georgia home. Today, the band, which also includes bassist Will Turpin, guitarist Jesse Triplett, and drummer Johnny Rabb, are spread across the country. Guitarist Dean Roland, for instance, is enjoying a rare overcast afternoon in his adopted San Diego, excited to talk with The Aquarian about the band’s past, their new album, and their very bright future.

25 years of Collective Soul. That is an exciting milestone.

We’ve never been a band that reflects on our past; we continually make records and look to bring our music creatively forward. But this [milestone] is special. We’ve been around for a minute, so let’s step back and enjoy it. It has been nice to look back and see how far we’ve come and what has changed and what hasn’t changed.

Part of the celebration includes the new album, Blood.

We had been in our studio in Atlanta, our home base, but there were too many distractions. Friends and family: life distractions. We decided we wanted to go back to doing things the way we did on our [early] records when we would go away and seclude ourselves.

We found The Barbershop, which is in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. We were there for a few weeks recording this record and we had a blast. We all lived in the same house just like we used to do it 20 years ago.

How has the creative process changed during the last two decades?

Lyrically, E. still writes about our life experiences: where we are now and how we arrived here. Like everyone else in life, good things happen, and bad things happen. We just take it in and write about [those experiences]. That is our job or duty as songwriters.

After 25 years, the songwriting process is certain to have changed or evolved.

We have refined our approach to songwriting. We’ve gotten better at playing our instruments, which helps [laughs]. We’ll head into the studio with ideas and, if we are in that zone, we’ll have fun and the ideas will flow. E. may have a song idea, or someone may have a guitar riff to work off of. [While working on Blood] things just seemed to happen quicker than usual.

When we record, we try to play as much of it live [as a band] as we can. Then we’ll go back and record overdubs as necessary. We were able to do that ‘cause we had played a lot of the songs live during the last year or so. Our recent tours were, in a way, our pre-production for the new record.

I have been reading about Blood for a while now.

We considered releasing Blood as a double album. When we went into the studio to record this current batch of songs, however, it just happened so fast that we decided against the double album. We just locked into the songs that make up Blood. The songs just seemed to fit together.

And now, we have another record that we’ll release next year. Before doing so, we’ll jump back into the studio and record a few more songs. We have the music. We just flipped the script on ourselves.

Things are so different today. There is no longer a massive setup required to release new music. You just upload it and send it out into the world. These days, you can release a record on a whim.

What helped the created juices flow? Was it a break from each other? Was it dabbling in side projects?

During the last few years, we took breaks to do our own things. E. had his own project and recorded a solo record. I have my other band, Magnets and Ghosts. Will did a couple of solo records. Those things definitely help.

When you are in a band together for 25 years, you begin to build creative walls that you don’t realize are there. When you take a breather and then come back, those walls no longer exist. And you begin to look at things from a fresh perspective.

Despite the 10-year age difference, building walls must come naturally between you and your brother, E.?

E. and I have a healthy respect for one another’s talents, which results in a fun rivalry. But E. is my biggest fan when it comes to what I do with Magnets and Ghosts. And I am his biggest fan. We are all supportive of each other. You cannot be in a band and in such close proximity to each other and not share a mutual respect. If you are going to make it, you have to make it work. At the end of the day, we enjoy each other’s company and music is our common passion.

Maturity is also important.

Maturity is big, and so is the realization of just how lucky we are. This thing could have ended in September 1994 after just one hit. It didn’t, but we have never taken any of it for granted. We love what we do and keep trying to do it at the highest level possible.

Collective Soul certainly achieves that with Blood.

People that dig what we do will enjoy it. It sounds like a band playing. There is no gimmickry on the record. It is just five dudes making music. And that is why I enjoy playing these new songs live. I will be on stage playing and begin to trip out—have this out-of-body experience—when I realize it is five human beings performing this music. There is no [outside] help. It is just five guys leaning on each other to make these songs happen.

The first single, “Right as Rain,” is already a hit.

It’s a rock-pop, almost Americana, song with a title inspired by something my southern-bred grandmother used to say.

The song features a special guest.

Peter Stroud, who is Sheryl Crow’s lead guitarist and musical director, is a good friend of ours from Atlanta. We invited him over to play the slide-guitar solo on the song. Styx’s Tommy Shaw sings on the closing track “Porch Swing.”

The band are performing seven new songs during live shows?

We played a few warmup gigs last week [before the tour officially starts] and we played seven new songs. We’ll rotate them in and out of our set list. We will be playing at a few festivals this summer where our set times will be limited, so we will have to stick to the hits.

Collective Soul does have 25 years of music to choose from.

That is a lot of music to cram into a couple of hours, especially with the new album. But it is a great problem to have.

Some veteran bands seem to go through the yearly cycle of a new album and tour. When talking about new music, they seem indifferent, if not bored by the process. You seem genuinely excited about Blood.

It’s what keeps us going. We’re excited about what is next for us. We want to keep creating new music.

For the members of Collective Soul, music is still a passion.

Who am I kidding? I haven’t had a real job since I was 20 years old. I get to write and play music for a living. We all have to roll with the punches and do the best we can. It’s like I tell the younger, up-and-coming artists: ‘Just do it your way. Times change. Your integrity and what you do as an artist: that is all that should matter.’

There was a time when the members of Collective Soul were nervous about approaching veteran artists. Ironically, you are now that veteran artist offering sage advice.

Anytime we perform at a music festival and there are young bands doing their thing, I am impressed. It is harder today to make it than it has ever been. Anytime I can offer my perspective and my two cents, I love it. You need guidance and clarity, ‘cause this business can get overwhelming.

Collective Soul are self-sufficient, but up-and-coming artists no longer have the support of a strong music industry.

Getting the financing together to tour and record is insane. And being a touring band with instruments and equipment is not like a DJ who travels around with just a computer. I think it is worth it to be in a rock band, but there are no short cuts or easy paths to success.

Where will the new Collective Souls come from?

I have no idea, but I hope they keep fighting and keep coming.

Collective Soul’s summer tour begins on May 25th at The Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City. Support comes from Gin Blossoms.

During the last few decades, we’ve played one-off shows with them, but this is our first tour together. They’re friends of ours so it should be fun.

Catch Collective Soul and Gin Blossoms’ “Now’s The Time” Tour in Big Flats, New York on June 2, and in Morristown, New Jersey on June 4. For ticket information check out