Ed Roland Interview: Collective Soul Frontman Talks New Music
Image attributed to John Fulton
Since 1992, Ed Roland is best known as the lead vocalist and songwriter of the Georgia-based rock band Collective Soul that also features Dean Roland (rhythm guitar), Will Turpin (bass, backing vocals), Johnny Rabb (drums, percussion) and Jesse Triplett (lead guitar, backing vocals). He is also active with the Sweet Tea Project, formed in 2011.
Collective Soul’s single, “Shine,” off the album Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid (1993), reached the top of the Billboard Album Rock Tracks for eight weeks and went on to peak at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week. Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid became the number one Album Rock Song of 1994 and won a Billboard award for Top Rock Track.
"I’m not ashamed to say that I am a Christian. That’s how I was raised, and I find it to be a beautiful religion. I love reading the Bible, and I get influenced by that. It’s what makes me a better person."
Other notable singles include “December,” “Where the River Flows,” “The World I Know,” “Gel” and “Smashing Young Man.” The band’s 10th studio album, Blood, was released on June 21, 2019, and it peaked at number four on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart. The lead single, “Right as Rain,” peaked at the number 32 spot. Collective Soul is currently on tour with Better Than Ezra and Tonic.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Ed, how’s the tour looking these days?
Ed Roland: The tour looks fine for me. We call it “weekend warrior.” It’s been fun. It’s fun to be back out to see people’s faces and hear people’s voices. We’re touring with Better Than Ezra and Tonic. We were supposed to tour with them last year. We’re kind of making up dates that were scheduled for last year during the crazy pandemic.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you guys rehearse a lot before going out on tour?
Ed Roland: No (laughs). We kind of know everything, but we did rehearse a couple of days before we started this one because we had not played in about nine months. But we stay consistently busy. Even when we record, it takes us two weeks to do that. Then we’re back on the road just constantly playing live.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I usually have some people inquire about my accent, but you are from Georgia (laughs).
Ed Roland: I love your accent.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I know you are good friends with Tommy Shaw who’s also from the South.
Ed Roland: Yeah. I love Tommy. He’s one of my heroes, and it’s just fun to hang out and talk shop with him. What a good man.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Are you writing new music for Collective Soul?
Ed Roland: No. We have two albums done. We’re just waiting to release them. I guess we’ll release one next year in, I would assume, March or April of 2022 and the other one at the same time in 2023. We’re wanting to release them when a tour starts. The album next year is called Vibrating. It's made up of vibrations, so to me, that makes sense.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Any double albums coming up?
Ed Roland: We did plan for Blood to be a double album, but it’s not really necessary in today’s world. You know, I grew up loving double albums, but it’s just not worth it nowadays. It would just get lost. It was explained to us the pros and cons of doing a double album in today’s time. But the new ones are different type vibes, so it works fine.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Why did Collective Soul decide to collaborate with One Golden Thread?
Ed Roland: We always stay kind of tight with fashion. We enjoy that. It’s not something we search out. We just have fun with it because we’re on the road an experiment with different clothes and different looks. I just found it, liked what it was about and ordered some. I loved it and still love the energy of it. My brother got married, and he ordered some of the clothes for everybody in the band, and it just kept going from there.
I’m like, “I want to meet this guy that’s doing this.” So when I met Jeff Scult, I saw his energy and his pride what what he was doing and just fell in love with it more. He’s a really, really spiritual cat that believes in what he’s doing. I love that in anything. I don’t care what you’re doing. The pride that he has in giving back to the earth and trying to leave it better than when he started is a cool vibe and a cool message to me.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Growing up in Stockbridge, Georgia, was there a music scene?
Ed Roland: No. There was no music. We’re talking late 70s to early 80s. It was a small southern town where football, baseball and basketball ruled. But with that being said, my dad was a music minister, and my mom played the piano in church. Will’s dad had a recording studio. There was music there, but it took years before it came to anybody’s attention. Growing up, it was all about sports.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: SEC football.
Ed Roland: I’ve got no problem with that. Go Dawgs!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I think you know my answer to that (laughs).
Ed Roland: I know, Roll Tide. I know (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: (laughs) Since you’re older than Dean, did he want to follow in your musical footsteps?
Ed Roland: Yeah, he did. I was 10 years older, and he saw me working. He’d see me play out. But I didn’t even know he played guitar. He loved it. He loved music. He grew up loving all types of music, which is great. He still loves all types of music. The influence is all over the place. We love that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Did you name the band after a quote in The Fountainhead?
Ed Roland: Yeah. I think the character’s name was Howard Roark. He was arguing that we were nothing but a collection of souls. I was like, “Collection of souls.” It just felt right to me. When I went to the guys, I was like, “I think we’re going to call it Collective Soul,” and they’re like, “That’s cool.” (laughs) I was throwing different ones out there. They responded to most of them like, “No. We’re not going to be a part of a band named that, Ed.” (laughs)
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You’ve said that Collective Soul is not a religious band. Are you a Christian?
Ed Roland: Yes. I’m very spiritual. I’m not ashamed to say that I am a Christian. That’s how I was raised, and I find it to be a beautiful religion. I love reading the Bible, and I get influenced by that. It’s what makes me a better person. I think any person who finds any religion or ideology that makes them feel good about themselves and makes them a better person is a win-win.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Why hasn’t Collective Soul ever been nominated for a Grammy?
Ed Roland: I don’t know. But we don’t do it for that reason, to be honest. It would be nice to be recognized, but that is not the reason we do what we do.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How did you feel about Dolly Parton’s rendition of “Shine”?
Ed Roland: I thought it was one of the most beautiful things ever. She won a Grammy for that. To me, that’s my award, having one of the greatest songwriters and vocalists, an icon to think enough of you to sing your song. I loved it. I love her.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Why did you choose to cover the R.E.M. song “The One I Love”?
Ed Roland: They were a very influential band for us. For me, I was there when they first got discovered. I remember going to Athens to see them when they weren’t even signed. From Ray Charles to the Indigo Girls, we are so blessed to have so many artists come from Georgia and influence us. R.E.M. was an easy call.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Speaking of musical artists living in Georgia, did Elton John actually give you a grand piano?
Ed Roland: That is true. He lives here part-time, and he’s always been supportive of music in general. He’s a walking encyclopedia of music, and he was very kind to us in the beginning and still is to this day. We see each other maybe once a year, once every two years now because of the pandemic. But he knew that he was my musical hero growing up. He knew that. It’s great to meet your musical hero in your life and not only know they were great artists but that they were also great human beings. They give back to the communities. They give back to the world. Of course, you can see and hear Elton, but to get to know the man and see how he cares about human beings and life in general was very rewarding.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: And you’re enjoying the piano.
Ed Roland: I am. Every day that I’m home, I go in there. Every day.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Are you the oldest in the band, Ed?
Ed Roland: Oh, yeah, except for our manager. I like to say, “Charlie, you’re the oldest in the band.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: As the oldest, do you feel the responsibility and sometimes pressure to ensure everything keeps going in the right direction?
Ed Roland: No. I think the band is so well oiled at this point, which is a good way to put it, that everybody has their own responsibilities. Mine is to write the songs, sing the songs and be a frontman, and everybody supports everybody. I mean, if I was to play a song acoustically, which I can, you wouldn’t have that fairy dust that these guys put on it that becomes the song that you’re used to hearing. So everybody has their responsibilities, and nobody questions it. It truly is a weird dynamic for a rock band, especially for 27/28 years. We love what we do. We love each other, and we want to make the band the best it can be.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You treat each other like family, and that’s what makes it work?
Ed Roland: That’s our mantra of the band in general. It’s like family first. Of course, it’s a family outside of everybody’s personal relationships and children. That’s just how we were all raised. It’s about family, and we treat the band as a family. I hate to use the word “crew.” They are a family. We fight for each other and are there to hug each other. We’ll be there to punch each other in the face when it’s needed. So it’s a truly beautiful place to be in this life.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you feel like the band has hit its peak musically or that you’ve written the best song you can write?
Ed Roland: Oh, hell, no. No. No. No. Like the two records we just finished, I think they’re the best we’ve ever done. But I don’t think I’ve written the best song ever. If I had realized that, I’d quit. I mean, why keep doing it? I’m still searching for that song, and the band is searching for that song also.
We’re searching for that great performance live also, and we haven’t done it yet. We have good ones, but we haven’t found that magical one because if we did, we’d wipe our hands and go, “That’s it. We can’t do any better.” So why continue at that point? We just haven’t gotten it yet. We’re on our way though.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Have you written new solo music?
Ed Roland: I love New Wave. I grew up loving the Cars, so I did a couple of records, like New Wave stuff. One came out, but it wasn’t presented correctly because no one knew what was going on pandemically, but the band is called Alien Attitude. It’s all keyboard oriented, so it has no rock guitars or anything like that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You played a singer/guitarist in the TV movie One Terrific Guy that came out in 1986 and starred Mariette Hartley and Wayne Rogers. Was acting something that you seriously considered?
Ed Roland: Oh, heaven’s no. I just wanted to be a songwriter. That’s all. The good Lord put me on this planet to do that, so that’s all I’m going to do. It was simply a little part, and I did an Oscar-worthy presentation. So, we’ll just leave it at that (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What’s time off like for you?
Ed Roland: Today, I will go see my 12-year-old son play in his football playoff game. He’s into hockey, and we’re going to Nashville to see the Predators play the Tampa Bay Lightning. Football and hockey. It’s full-on boy sports over here at my house. We go to movies now. We used to go to movies all the time. I don’t know. We just enjoy spending time together, just normal things stuff. We shoot basketball, and we’re playing a lot of Horse right now.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How does he feel about dad being a rock star?
Ed Roland: I’ve never treated him other than, “I’m dad.” He comes out and says, “Eh, that’s my dad.” When I say, “Time to go to bed,” it means that it’s time to go to bed. The rock star is not part of my lifestyle in general, but it’s definitely not part of the attitude at home. I’m dad. I’m there to be the best parent I can be. He loves the candy on the bus, so I come back and say, “Dude, I told you not to eat all the candy bars and drink all the sodas.” That’s about as crazy as it gets.
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