Following the release of their ninth full-length album, 2015’s See What You Started by Counting, Collective Soul made the conscious decision to record more than 160 of their shows over the course of the next two years. The result is the band’s new album, the aptly titled, Collective Soul: Live (December 8, Suretone Records.)
Collective Soul rose to fame in 1993 with Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, a collection of frontman Ed Roland’s demos bolstered by the monster hit, "Shine." Since then, the multi-platinum band have amassed an arsenal of #1 hits and album sales, while simultaneously helping to define rock with their guitar-driven attitude.
Guitar World recently spoke with Roland and the band's guitarist, Jesse Triplett, about Collective Soul’s new live album, music, gear and more in this exclusive new interview.
What made the band decide to record a live album?
Ed Roland: Jesse joined the band about five years ago and our drummer, Johnny Rabb, joined right before that. After 24 years, I feel this is without a doubt the best line-up we’ve ever had and I've always said that once we caught the groove, we needed to get it down. So when we started to tour after our last album, [See What You Started by Continuing], we recorded every show.
How did you determine which live versions to include?
Roland: Of course, every night you want to do the best that you can, but some nights were better than others. Afterwards, we all came back and whittled it down to our producer/engineer/mixer, Shawn Grove. We gave him the weeks we thought were good and let him pick and choose. The only thing we made clear was that we wanted no overdubs. We just wanted what it was that night.
Jesse Triplett: Shawn came out and saw us at a few different spots during the tour. I remember during the first part he'd say to us, “You guys sound good” and by the end was like, "You guys are on fire!" There were so many shows that I sometimes forgot we were recording for a live album.
Is there any set of extra nerves knowing that you’re recording a live show and there’s no going back?
Roland: Jesse and I both like to move around on stage, so when we first started talking about recording we were concerned about how far we should take the showmanship and how much we should reel it back and make sure we we're playing correctly. Jesse mentioned about forgetting that we were being recorded and I think that really helped with the mindset of doing the show without thinking.
Triplett: If you start thinking about it, it gets weird. It's better to just get out there and play instead of trying to be technically sound.
Roland: Being a front man, you also have to play with a crowd and know how to entertain and bring them in and take them out. I never wanted to be withdrawn from that by having to think about singing something perfectly. It was more about letting it flow, catching the groove and forgetting about it.
You have a new track on the live album, “Right As Rain." What can you tell me about it?
Roland: When we started to tour last year we already had songs for the new studio record. So, we decided to throw some of them into the show to see what kind of response we would get. In a way, it’s almost like pre-production. For some songs, you don't know how well they'll translate to the studio, but we were fortunate to have played “Right As Rain” enough so that when we got to the studio it was easy. “Right As Rain” is a fun song to play live.
I want to ask you about a few more tracks, starting with “Shine." Can you tell me how that song came about?
Roland: I was a struggling musician just beginning my career. I was in a basement making a batch of demos just trying to get a publishing deal. There was no band at the time. It was just me with a drum machine. When I look back lyrically, I’ll never forget what my dad told me. He said, "You wrote a prayer." At the time, I remember telling him that I always believed in the separation of rock and roll and church. But now, I look back and realize it truly was a prayer. I was 28 years old, and had no idea what was going to happen in my career. It was kind of like me reaching out to the higher power.
At the time, did you know how special it was going to be?
Roland: No. We had no idea. I remember my brother was going to Georgia Tech at the time and they had a very influential radio station. He took it there and I thought they were going to play a song called “Goodnight, Good Guy," but instead the DJs started playing “Shine” and it literally took off overnight.
What can you tell me about the song, “December”?
Roland: I used to always show up to the studio early when we were making the second record and wrote that song one day. It was just a simple, four-chord progression. As a songwriter, it's great to have a bunch of chords in a song, but I wanted to challenge myself with the same riff over and over, while creating melodies that would come back at the end and overlap each other.
The Beatles and Cheap Trick did that a lot and I was always fascinated with it. It's the only song we ever disagreed on as a band. I remember when I first played it for the guys in the studio they said, “This is shit. We don't want to play it!” [laughs]. But I was adamant about it and put my foot down, and it all worked out.
What’s your current setup like?
Triplett: I'm a Gibson guy as far as guitars go. I have a '96 Les Paul Custom my dad bought for me as a kid. I'm also running a couple of Goodsell combo amps. They’re made by Richard Goodsell’s company that’s based out of Atlanta.
Roland: I have a 12-string Breedlove that I use. It’s from a company in Oregon that makes spectacular acoustic instruments. In the studio, we'll do a lot of stuff with Nashville tuning and split it a bit. You can't necessarily do that live because it takes two people, so the 12-string comes in handy.
What else can you tell me about Collective Soul's next studio album?
Roland: I grew up in the Seventies and Eighties and look at music as being two sides: Side A and Side B. For this one, Side A is the rock side and Side B is the more orchestrated material. It’s not that we've never done string arrangements before. We've just never done them as a group. Being fans of early Elton John and Paul Buckmaster string arrangements and Beach Boys, Beatles and Jeff Lynne (ELO), it's fun to do something different. It's called “Blood” and should be out next spring.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.