Twenty years after exploding onto the rock charts in the post-grunge early-90s, Collective Soul frontman Ed Roland still hears from fans who credit his songs for changing their lives.
“It happens all the time,” said Roland. Whenever gratitude is expressed for his inspirational tunes, Shine, The World I Know, Better Now, or You, he reacts by thanking his fans right back.
“I’m humbled by their listening and appreciation of my music. . . If a song I wrote changed their life — they also changed my life,” said the Georgia-based singer and keyboardist, who’s thankful he has a music career.
“It’s the only thing I know how to do.”
Roland’s sole goal when he start out performing in Atlanta’s underground music scene in the mid-1980s was to make a livelihood from playing his own songs.
After facing early rejection from record labels, he got his first inkling that maybe his tunes were good enough when a Florida radio station began playing Shine from a 1993 demo album he’d made.
It became the station’s most requested song — even though there wasn’t even a Collective Soul at the time. The demo disc had been made by assorted musicians Roland recruited to record some of his tunes in his basement.
After getting mounting requests to perform Shine live, Roland hastily formed a band with guitarists Dean Roland (his brother) and Ross Childress, drummer Shane Evans, and bassist Will Turpin. And it became the original Collective Soul lineup.
The group that plays a sold-out concert on Wednesday, April 9, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre, was signed to Atlantic Records and began a musical journey that’s so far lasted two decades.
Collective Soul has produced seven No. 1 radio hits over that time — including December, Where the River Flows, Heavy, Precious Declaration and Listen — and eight albums that sold more than 10 million copies around the world.
Although there have been some personnel changes along the way (the band’s line up now consists of the Roland brothers, Turpin, guitarist Jesse Triplett and drummer Johnny Rabb) the group’s ninth album, See What You Started By Continuing, is expected out this summer.
Roland believes Collective Soul comes full circle with the release, which both reaches back to the band’s roots and builds on what been established. Fans can look forward to “more rock and roll music,” said Roland — albeit, with reflective lyrics that examine interior landscapes and relationships.
“I’m not a great storyteller writer,” the 50-year-old admitted. “I’ve only written a few ballads.” His songs are generally based on his own observations and experiences.
The son of a Baptist minister has always maintained that his group is not Christian, but that his own belief system has undoubtedly influenced his songwriting. Since your formative years are part of who you are, he said, you can’t help them creeping into your music.
The writing muse strikes him any time of day, but “never when I’m sleeping — I like my sleep too much,” said the chuckling musician, who turns his brain off at night.
Songs on the upcoming release reflect his life as a married father of two sons. Roland’s oldest boy, now 15, inspired Am I Getting Through, a song about having “correct communication.” Roland believes it’s important to ensure that his teenager is listening.
“I’m always saying, ‘Are you hearing what I’m saying?’ ‘Am I making myself clear’?”
Another new song, Comes Back To You, is about having someone very special “who’s the cornerstone of your life.” Roland skirts a question about whether the song was written for his spouse by saying “It could be about a wife” — or anyone else that you love and is central to your existence.
Looking back at the last two decades, he gets a strange feeling of the years passing by in a blur, and yet so many things happening. “Just like in anybody’s life, It’s been a pretty long time . . .”
One significant factor is his formation of a second band, Ed Roland and the Sweet Tea Project, with other musicians. This more country-flavoured group allows the singer a nice musical change of pace, including more relaxed performances “with less jumping around than Collective Soul concerts.”
Since the next Sweet Tea album comes out in 2015, Roland feels he can alternate working and touring with both bands.
This year, the focus is on Collective Soul. Before taking last year off from touring, Roland said, “we were busy for 19 years . . . (but) I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”