Ed Roland, Leader Of Platinum Rock Band Collective Soul, Discusses Their New Album, Here To Eternity, And Their Hit Songs

Collective Soul with Ed Roland
Collective Soul (Ed Roland, center)
(photo credit: Ed Clower)

For three decades, Ed Roland has the lead singer & songwriter of popular rock band Collective Soul, which had multi-platinum success in the 1990s. Impressively, four of their albums have been certified platinum, with a fifth album going gold. In addition, the band has had several pop & rock hit songs, including “Shine,” “December” and “The World I Know.”

Collective Soul is known for their Southern-tinged, guitar rock sound, which often features catchy hooks and guitar riffs, and distinctive songwriting. The band has been together for 30 years, since launching their career in 1994. Besides Ed Roland, Collective Soul’s lineup consists of guitarist Dean Roland (Ed’s brother), bassist Will Turpin, drummer Johnny Rabb, and lead guitarist Jesse Triplett.

Currently, the band remains in fine form. They recently released a 20-song double album called Here To Eternity (on their label, Fuzze-Flex Records). They recorded this album with a large spurt of creativity in Palm Springs, California, in a studio located at Elvis Presley’s former home there. All of the songs were written and produced by Ed Roland.

One highlight on the band’s new album is the single, “Mother’s Love.” It’s an excellent, uptempo rock song that is reminiscent of the band’s early hits, particularly “Shine.” “Mother’s Love” starts off with an infectious guitar riff, which leads into a big-sounding chorus with harmonies by the group. Other song highlights are “ Let It Flow,” “Not The Same,” “Keep It On Track” and “Hey Man.”

In addition to releasing their new album, Collective Soul has launched a major concert tour. The band has joined their longtime friends Hootie & The Blowfish and Edwin McCain on a special tour called the Summer Camp With Trucks Tour. The tour will have shows across North America, and play large venues such as Fenway Park in Boston, Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and Honda Center in Anaheim, CA.

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Ed Roland of Collective Soul. He discusses the making of their new album, and how he wrote the band’s classic hits. But before we get started, here’s a rundown of the band’s most popular albums and songs.

Here’s the video of Collective Soul’s single, “Mother’s Love.”

Starting in 1994, Collective Soul released five best-selling albums in a row. Their debut album called Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid contained the hit “Shine” and was certified double platinum. Their follow-up 1995 album, Collective Soul, included the hits “December” and “The World I Know” and went triple platinum. They subsequently released the albums Disciplined Breakdown (1997) and Dosage (1999) which went platinum, and Blender (2000) which went gold.

Then in the early 2000s, the band decided to release their albums independently, including Youth (2004), Afterwords (2007), Collective Soul (2009), See What You Started by Continuing (2015), Blood (2019), Vibrating (2022), and Here To Eternity (2024).

Here’s our interview with Ed Roland of Collective Soul:

DK: You’re from the city of Stockbridge, Georgia. How did you get started with music and writing songs?

Ed Roland: My dad was a minister of music; he was operatic trained, and he was supposed to go to Italy to sing opera. And then he and God had a talk and he became a minister. So we were in Rome, Georgia and he then went to a seminary out in Dallas and then to Stockbridge. So I just grew up in the church. I would sing in every choir that would let me sing.

DK: I read that Collective Soul’s first album, Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, started out as a demo recording that you made. Is that true?

Roland: That’s true, and it’s still a demo. Early on, I was trying to get a music publishing deal. So it was a collection of demos I made over a five year period from 1987 to 1992. And I started sending songs out, and I made a collection of songs that I thought showcased different styles of songwriting. I’d send it to anyone and everyone (laughs). So this album was actually made in a basement on an 8-track recording.

DK: I’ve always liked your hit song, “Shine.” Can you tell the story behind writing this song?

Here’s the audio of Collective Soul’s song, “Keep It On Track.”

Roland: I was writing a lot of what I would call droning, and doing melodies over a drone. And I’d come home one night with my brother, Dean. He was in the living room playing the guitar, [and at the time] I didn’t know he played guitar. So I was showing him some different ideas I had, and I wrote the song right there. This was in 1988, and I had so many songs like that. I never knew “Shine” would be the one, but nobody can predict what a hit song is.

DK: You’ve played with your brother Dean in Collective Soul for a long time. What’s it like to be playing with your brother all these years?

Roland: It’s been great. We’re a very tight unit, very family-oriented, and we spend a lot of time together. We all grew up in the same neighborhood and have the same values, the same structure of family. So it’s made it possible to sustain for 30 years.

DK: Your second album, Collective Soul, was an even bigger success with the hits “December” and “The World I Know.” Can you talk about writing those songs?

Roland: With “The World I Know,” I went on a walk in New York City…it was the first time I really spent time there. I went for a walk and watched the city and its movement, and I thought about the ebb and flow, the ying and yang of whatever life brings you. Then I went back to the hotel room and wrote it.

With “December,” I wrote it because I was listening to (the band) XTC at the time, and they had this one progression, one riff through the whole song. And they kept developing melodies on top of it and I thought that was challenging. So that’s what “December” was like. I liked the chord progression of “December,” and I didn’t’ want to change it. I wanted to bring in different melodies. So at the very end you had four or five melodies going on at the same time.

DK: In the ‘90s you had several platinum albums on Atlantic Records. But eventually you went independent with your own label. Can you talk about the band’s transition to becoming independent, and the staying power your band has had?

Here’s the audio of Collective Soul’s song, “Let It Flow.”

Roland: Yeah, we were the first band to go independent. Towards the end of the time we were at Atlantic, Metallica was going through that ordeal with Napster. So I asked Atlantic, “What’s your strategy with digital downloads and transferring music?” And they were like, “Ah, it will go away.” So I left the building and called my attorney and said, “I want off this label.’

The cool thing is that we’d already established a brand. So I just wanted independence. I felt [the major labels weren’t] looking out to the future. And I wanted to.

DK: You’ve just released the band’s new album Here To Eternity, which has 20 songs on it. Can you talk about the making of this album?

Roland: We recorded it at Elvis Presley’s estate in Palm Springs, so that was interesting and cool. With us being from the South, we were all big fans of Elvis. So that was inspiring, and everybody was fired up. We had just gotten off a tour so everybody was in shape, ready to record. It started off with 10 or 12 songs…I wasn’t thinking about doing 20 songs. But we were in such a flow I was like, “Let’s keep going.”

DK: After 30 years of being in the band, do you feel that you’re still prolific as a songwriter?

Roland: 100%. We now have three more records in the can. So yeah, we’re in a groove.

DK: I like your new single “Mother’s Love,” which is very catchy and has a cool guitar riff. What inspired you to write this song?

Roland: I don’t know what the inspiration was for the music, but when I played the riff, I kept singing “Mother’s Love.” Like I said, we’re very family-oriented and I wanted to give an ode and honor to my mom, who’s always been supportive. All the moms in the band are very supportive. They never question what we do or how we do it. They’re just there to support. So it felt right to write this song.

Here’s the video of Collective Soul’s classic hit, “Shine.”

DK: On your new album, there’s a song called “Bob Dylan (Where Are You Today)” that sounds like it was recorded live. Can you talk about this song?

Roland: Yeah it was recorded live at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. You know with all the craziness that goes on politically and with the pandemic, I just wanted to pay tribute to Bob Dylan. He didn’t take sides; he just made you aware of what was going on. So that’s want I wanted to project, and with him being one of my favorite songwriters, it made perfect sense to me. Bob Dylan’s the ultimate…he puts it out there for you to understand what’s going on, and then you choose which side you want to go with.

DK: Since you left Atlantic Records to become an independent band, you’ve released several albums. Of your independent albums, do you have a favorite that fans should check out?

Roland: The newest one (Here To Eternity) is always going to be your favorite because that’s the best you can do at the time. But if I had to pick one, I would go with Youth (from 2004). I think that album showcased where we wanted to go as a band, and it helped sustain us as a band, because it was our first independent record.

DK: You’ve recently launched a major tour with Hootie and The Blowfish and Edwin McCain. How’s your new tour going?

Roland: We’ve been on tour with them for a month now. We all grew up in the Southeast. We all got on the same label at the same time, so we’ve known each other for more than 30 years. It’s just fun—it’s called the Summer Camp With Trucks Tour. It’s like going to camp…you’re seeing your buddies and having a good time.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima