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Collective Soul and I go way back…. well in my mind.

It was 1995 and I was just starting to get into “real” music.  I was just beginning my teenage years and discovering rock music.  This would have probably been a challenge normally, but I have an older brother that is eight years older than me and that genre was definitely his scene.  I would say I liked the bands he did just because I looked up to him, but I hadn’t really found a connection with any particular artist quiet yet.  I remember a commercial that would play almost nonstop showcasing small segments of music videos and advertising a greatest hits collection. (I’m sure you all have seen them)  One of these segments was December by Collective Soul, however the commercial failed to specify the name of the artist and the internet not being developed well enough at this point proved itself to be a challenge for me to find out.

Finally one day they mentioned it on the radio or something and I immediately rushed over to my brother’s collection of cassette tapes.  (Which I was allowed to listen to when he wasn’t around)  Sure enough my brother had the “Blue” album this entire time.  It started with me listening to December over and over but for those who missed the tape era, it kind of sucks having to constantly rewind.  So I just started to let the album play and I found more and more songs that I connected to over time.  This album would be the soundtrack for my life for quite some time after.  Whether I was listening at home on my boom box or jamming in the back of my parent’s car with my Walkman this album rarely left my side.  For the ones who have been through this, you pour over the artwork, you learn every note and you find a connection to every track on the album.

I followed Collective Soul periodically throughout the years and was excited when I heard about the release of the new album “See what You Started By Continuing”, I also about flew through the roof when I found out they were playing Louder Than Life this year.  I have been to a ton of concerts in my life, but I have never had a chance to see them play live and I couldn’t wait.

Just in case all of this wasn’t enough excitement, I quickly found out I would get the opportunity to interview Ed Roland during my visit.  I was floored!  I mean what would I ask?  A band that had introduced me to Rock and had such an impact on my life throughout my teenage years!  Luckily I’m good under pressure and things like this come with the territory, so I had to take control of my excitement and stay professional.

I had the interview scheduled for early afternoon and as luck would have it, this would be the first one of the day.  I don’t know if this would have made a difference, but perhaps a good warmup interview would have helped me get in rhythm.  However in this industry you simply go with the flow and have to be able to prepare yourself at a moment’s notice, so now was as good of time as any.   Good thing because the call was right on time… “I will be there in about five minutes with Ed.”  Sure enough, five minutes later Ed Roland was in sight and we had our chance to get a glimpse into his world.  After our brief introductions and discussion of our website we quickly got started with our questions.

UG:  “See What You Started By Continuing” is your first album in six years, with such a level of success that Collective Soul has reached, what was it like taking that time off?

Ed:  Great, very necessary.  We got to a point where we didn’t necessarily like each other or like what we were doing.  Shame on us!  So with my brother being in the band, you know family first.  We just took some time to make sure we were cool.  It’s good for us during our time off, it gave us time to look back and be proud of what we had accomplished and also go “You know we’re a rock band and we’re not going to make any apologies about it”.  I’m tired of hearing people saying “rocks dead” fuck that!  We’re going to go make a rock record and that’s what we did.  Then we came back adding Jesse and Johnny and they kind of kicked us in the ass with some new attitude!

UG:  Were there any hesitations or anxiety stepping back into the studio?

Ed:  No, not at all.  We had decided that we were not going to be one of those bands that toured on their greatest hits.  I mean there are years that you do that, but I wasn’t going to make a living doing that. When we got back and we were excited about it again, it was an easy decision. Organic like “Yeah let’s do it!”

UG:  During some of these breaks you all had pursued some solo efforts.  Did you take anything from those experiences?

Ed:  Yeah took a lot! Dean started Magnets and Ghosts, I think it helped him realize you know being a leader in a band its hard work and you have to make tough decisions sometimes.  Then with me it gave me the opportunity to learn to co-write, and open up more from writing production.  With Will… Will’s just so laid back and smooth, it taught him nothing he’s still just as laid back and smooth.

UG:  Jesse and Johnny are the new additions to the band, what was it like bringing them on this record?

Ed:  Oh man it’s been great! Johnny’s been with us about three years now and I remember we were looking for a drummer and we were at NAMM and through a mutual friend we heard Johnny was there and he was interested, so we went and saw his seminar.  Will goes, “Do you want him to audition?”  I was like… “Dude he’s over qualified, did you not just hear him play?”  So that night we went to a bar had some drinks and signed him on.  Then Jesse actually played in the band that I had started The Sweet Tea Project.  Jesse’s just pure emotion, plays with feel and just wants to play.  So that enthusiasm just really helped you know with the band and our attitude from being out there for so long.

UG:  One thing I found out while researching the band is that you have produced every Collective Soul album.  Do you ever like you take on too much or feel overwhelmed? 

Ed:  No it started that way I grew up in a studio.  I worked in a studio as an Engineer and I enjoy that part of it.  You know with writing the songs there’s somewhat of a vision and over the years the guys have learned.  It’s the easiest band to produce to me.  I’ve gotten to produce other bands and we just know each other so well after twenty something years and playing as much as we have.  You know I can kind of nod and they go…. “I got it”.  That job’s easy and really they help a lot too you know.  I’ll just kind of say, “Hey man, what about this sound or this sound?” and everybody does their part.  If somebody comes up with a piano….you know it’s a group effort to some degree, but there has to be somebody kind of focused and guiding it down the right path.

UG:  You mentioned taking time off for the relationship of you and your brother.  You know, there are times when I can’t stand my own brother.  What is it like with the both of you being in the band?

Ed:  It’s great!  Once again I’ll go back to like he’s my brother, I love him and I would die for him.  It’s just tough when you’re in basically a tube going down the road and you know just normal things can make you….. It just takes a second.  You just need a break and we didn’t do that, we got so excited about all the success and everything and forgot to take time for ourselves and quit worrying about and focusing so much on Collective Soul….. You know it was just a very necessary break.

UG:  Now I don’t want to focus on your personal life too much, but I noticed on your Facebook you have a young son?

Ed:  Yeah! A six year old.

UG:  Well, two sons total.

Ed:  Yeah!

UG:  Most dads are a painter or have regular jobs.  What is like being a father in Collective Soul and is there ever a struggle finding that balance? 

Ed:  No, because I just set a rule a long time ago.  I have a seventeen year old and set a precedent a long time ago.  I don’t go longer than two weeks without seeing them no matter what.  I’ve flown from Seattle to Atlanta just to take my son to school and then head right back, get on plane and head back to Seattle.  They learn that’s what daddy does as long as I teach them and they know that I’m there for them.  It’s not easy but you know…that’s what I do

UG:  Speaking personally, we love you guys and think you are awesome.  I was a teenager rocking the “Blue” album on cassette.  Is it ever surreal to you knowing the kind of impact you have on your fans? 

Ed:  It is…you know at first I didn’t know how to accept it.  Everything happened so quick with us, the first CD or recording was a batch of demos made over a five year period.  We got signed and immediately were thrown out with Aerosmith and Woodstock and we were just numb to it all.  We didn’t know how to….. We were socially immature for what had been thrown on us if that makes sense.  Most bands get at least a year when they get signed.  There’s a year of being introduced to people and they get all this press and hundreds of millions of dollars thrown at them to just give them time to grow.  We didn’t have that time, we were playing catch up to the songs so it took me a second to realize when people told me that. I wasn’t flipping about it, I was just like….”Me?”  Now it’s very special, I absorb every second and word people tell me.  That really helps keep me going and I’ve learned to accept that.  That time off helped me with that and I realized how blessed we were and…. yeah it inspires the shit out of you.

UG:  We know you’re busy and won’t keep you, but we do have one more question.  You just released your latest album….Congratulations by the way

Ed:  Thank you bud

UG:  You are touring until the end of November, What is next for Collective Soul?

Ed:  Well, we go to South America in December and we’ll get home the middle of December.  Then I think we are going to take January off and then go back out for next summer.  Next fall we’re taking off making the next record.  We got Football season….so we didn’t time it right on this year.

UG:  Alright, well thank you so much.

Ed:  I appreciate it man.

After meeting Ed I quickly came to the conclusion that he was perhaps the most humble, genuine performer I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  With Collective Soul being of such cultural significance and fame, he could have easily been conceded or short but I got nothing but the opposite from him.  I got the impression of legitimate caring and respect for the fans as he obviously respects the responsibility of being in his position.  Overall he just seems like a really great guy and I would love to spend more time talking with him in the future.

After our interview, it was time to watch them take the stage.  Luckily we made our way to the stage quickly and got a pretty good spot to watch the performance.  I can’t stress how cool it is to have spoken with Ed and then watch them take the stage soon after.  The set they played was amazingly perfect for the atmosphere and crowd.  The audience was there to rock and Collective Soul did just that with a hard hitting set.  Unfortunately they only had a thirty minute window, but the guys sure made the best of it.  At one point Ed stated “We got a short window, so not much talking!” before launching into another classic.  Keeping the performance to classic and heaving hitting hits, it’s clear that experience has served them well over the years while they managed to still consistently engage the audience.  I was surprised at how well they were in tune with the audience and gave everyone in attendance so much energy.  Finishing up their set with “Shine” and orchestrating a singalong of the chorus literally gave me chills.  As they left the stage you could see Ed Roland pat his heart showing admiration for the fans and left us all wanting more.

With that performance I felt like the band really energized me as a fan and reminded me on why I fell in love with them in the first place.  They obviously have their live set down to a science and seem to hold their fans in such high regard.  Meeting Ed certainly had personal meaning to me, but even as a journalist it’s clear that he cares about his fans deeply and holds them dear to his heart.  He is a man that loves his family and manages to somehow keep perspective while being a Rock star

I hope that everyone enjoyed our snapshot of Collective Soul.  For more information check out their Official Site here.

For more information on the Louder Than Life Festival go here.

Stay tuned for more of our band coverage….

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