Our Interview With Collective Soul

by Nick Paruch, S. Pulse

Austin101: Your recently released single “Right As Rain” is part of a new studio album that will drop June 21st. The single is a firm nod that Collective Soul will continue to create the type of rock that propels a high-fiving crowd to their feet. Despite being in the business for almost 25 years, is there ever a conversation about throttling back the intensity or changing the band’s rock direction? Why not?

Will Turpin: After 25 years and I do get what you’re saying that “Right As Rain” is right up the middle but that the whole thing of the song. It’s also a little bit of a nod to Tom Petty, the production on that. So yeah it is and sometimes it’s good to like just kinda say hey, it comes easy it’s still like the natural writing, Ed’s songwriting falls amongst the best of our peers. When we get together and turn things into Collective Soul and getting the right groove or arraignment, all those come really naturally, really easy. We don’t really over think it, to be honest with you, it’s just where our natural feel takes us to. And then you have to be like okay, it’s nothing ground breaking, it’s just a great song. It’s just a great song. So you have to kinda just go there and then go to the next song. You could spend too much time overanalyzing the details of each song and where we’ve been in 25 years and it would be really easy to do that. I think just the natural feel and the natural organic way that we go about creating music is kinda what we like to do best.
In addition to Collective Soul, many of you are involved in other projects. (Ed Roland’s Sweet Tea Project, Dean Roland’s Magnets and Ghosts, and Will Turpin’s The Way). Like a multi-sport athlete, do you feel that participating in those other groups somehow benefits Collective Soul?

Yeah that’s our thought process, the fact that we can go do other things outside of Collective Soul and when we get back together we’re energized and understand how important it is. It’s not like we need to be retold, I mean, it is our main focus, all of our main focus is always Collective Soul but artistically it really helps you out to go do something outside of Collective Soul. It’s a two-way street, like it’s fun go do something else besides Collective Soul, that invigorates you and when you get back with Ed, Dean and Johnny and Jesse you’re like, okay this is why they’re one of the best bands around.

Does some subconscious cross-pollination take place?

A little bit. At least for me music is an always-evolving learning process. It doesn’t matter if it’s with someone else or Collective Soul or even just, I think musicians can learn and grow just by opening their ears and watching somebody else or listening to something else. So it’s always a process of what tools you feel sharpened up or what things you feel like you’ve grown with. For me it’s kinda different because I create my solo stuff. I sit behind the piano and melodies and lyrics come to mind. With Collective Soul I get to focus on the rock ‘n roll rhythm section first and then I can focus on supporting melodies and maybe coming up with some different harmonies and stuff. But I love focusing on making the rhythm section right but at the same time it’s tricky.

Collective Soul has received a lot of adoration for their songwriting ability, largely driven by Ed Roland. Paul Simon once said about song writing, “It’s very helpful to start with something that’s true.” What starts your song-writing process?

Some songs kinda appear from a guitar riff or maybe a drum beat. Then a lot of songs start with Ed on acoustic and he’s already got, verse and chorus and already kinda got it flowing. And then we kinda figure out how we are going to make that sound like a Collective Soul song, what is the rhythm section gonna be, do something here, do something there and kinda just talk about it- we talk about it a little bit with some ideas and then, I mean for us, once we get a few ideas we want to work on and we want to develop, we don’t spend a whole lot of time talking. We use ears and we create by what feels best. When it feels right, we know, we all know. We work it a little bit but we don’t talk about it. We kinda know where the final product needs to be. Then when we get to a certain point where that was pretty good there, let’s listen to it, then we talk about it maybe one or two more times. We go over it but we don’t; once we trip over what feels natural, we don’t overanalyze it.

Your musical success started in the 90’s resulting in Collective Soul often being lumped in with the Grunge Bands of the Pacific Northwest. Your blockbuster single ‘Shine’ was misinterpreted as a Christian Rock anthem. Hailing from Georgia, I’ve heard your music also referred to as Southern Rock. In hindsight, the mislabeling of Collective Soul seems quite silly. Do you ever give any consideration to these labels or categories?

You can keep going. Nobody could really pigeonhole us, which was cool.

What is the craziest sub-genre description you have heard used to describe Collective Soul?

I don’t know, we were in all those sub-genres at one point. When you go back to the Christian thing or the grunge thing, it’s not like we didn’t appreciate what was going on in the Northwest. I mean, my God that was over changing in the music industry as far as the grunge movement, but we weren’t grunge, everybody wore flannels and was over the whole make-up and Sunset Strip scene. Everybody 22 years old was wearing flannels and grungy looking. But musically we weren’t grungy other that maybe some distorted guitar sounds. Same thing with Christian rock, we grew up in the church and we would definitely say we had our followers of what Jesus did when he was on Earth but at the same time we never ever wanted to think that our music wouldn’t be enjoyed or therapeutic for a Jewish person, a Muslim, or a Hindu. We always thought bigger than one religion and hopefully that’s not being anti-Christian. Hopefully Jesus would have said the same thing. Why would I make music for just one group that’s kinda not what his message was anyway? Nobody could ever figure us out. Same thing musically- the different amounts of genres we tap into as a band are pretty broad; it falls under the rock n’ roll umbrella for sure. Rock n’ roll encompasses a lot of different sounds but for someone to say we’re a specific genre, that would be really tough because we don’t, we put out all different kinda sounds and that’s a product of who we are. It’s still there today, when you listen to our albums there’s all kinda different sounds that are coming at you.

Finally, I’m guessing that touring today is a lot different than when you were first starting out. What is the biggest difference between touring today and touring in the 90’s?

When we first came to light we didn’t have all these responsibilities, we were younger and had more energy. We would wake up on show days and we would literally rock n’ roll during the day, rock n’ roll all night, wake up again the next day. We focus a lot more energy on the stage these days. The crowd is older, the average age is a littler older. I enjoyed watching some of the younger generation get back, especially at festivals. They’re into rock n’ roll and they have to check out these bands that they’ve heard of and they kinda know. They heard them when they were young kids or they listen to their parents play the music. So there are some kids showing up at festivals to check out the rock band. In general, I mean, it’s 25 years later, mentally I’m almost doing the same thing. Getting up here and just trying to.. it’s about energy, energy transfer to the crowd and the music. Focusing on the music, focusing on the songs..playing music and how fortunate I am. We feel very fortunate to be able to do it.

Notes: We covered Collective Soul recently at KAABOO MUSIC FESTIVAL in Dallas. Check out our review and photo galleries on Austin 101 Magazine

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