Collective Soul has weathered many industry shifts and challenges since its 1993 hit “Shine” catapulted to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Billboard Music Award for top rock song. From the start, the band — known for crafting beautiful songs with a hard-rock edge and contagious choruses reminiscent of Cheap Trick, The Cars and The Smithereens — was incorrectly associated with grunge, simply because “Shine” arrived during the genre’s mainstream peak. It was an affiliation that vocalist-guitarist E Roland did his best to dismantle.
“We weren’t from Seattle,” he says. “We’re from Atlanta, Georgia. And when people would ask me about my influences, I’d say Elton John. No grunge band was saying that, and I’d tell them, ‘We’re not grunge.’ To me, we’re a pop-rock band — and I’m not afraid to use the word ‘pop’ — but we’re a melodic rock band.”
The 25th anniversary of the band will be celebrated by releasing its 10th studio album, Blood (arriving June 21 on Fuzze-Flex Records/ADA), and pairing with fellow ’90s rock stalwarts Gin Blossoms for the Now’s the Time Tour, which will begin May 25 in Atlantic City, N.J.
The group has logged 11 albums on the Billboard 200, with two of them reaching the top 20 (1993 debut Hints Allegations & Things Left Unsaid and 1997’s Disciplined Breakdown); seven Hot 100 entries (with three reaching the top 20); and 19 Mainstream Rock hits (including seven No. 1s). It has sold 7.3 million traditional album copies and earned 276.1 million on-demand streams, according to Nielsen Music. The act’s accessible vibe also enabled it to tour with everyone from Metallica to The Cranberries. “We can fit anywhere, baby!” Roland says affably. “Just get us onstage. We’ll make it work.”
Interestingly, Collective Soul didn’t exist when “Shine” exploded, after Roland’s brother and band mate, rhythm guitarist Dean Roland, sent it to college station WRAS-Album 88 Atlanta. “They played ‘Shine,’ and it just blew up,” recalls Roland, who didn’t have a band because he had been seeking a publishing deal. “I asked Dean, who had a frat band with [bassist] Will [Turpin] and Shane Evans, and we just became Collective Soul.” The wake of the hit’s success was “a whirlwind. And at the time, I just wanted to be a songwriter — I wanted to be an artist, too, but I had just turned 30 and thought, ‘No one’s going to sign a 30-year-old to a major label.’”
Collective Soul remained on Atlantic Records until 2000, when technology started to radically change. “I remember when Napster first came out, and then when Metallica was fighting it, I flew up to New York to see what the label was doing about it,” says Roland. “When I asked, [a label employee] threw up his hands and said, ‘Oh, that’ll go away.’ And that’s when I knew. I walked out and got on the phone with my attorney and said, ‘Get me off this fuckin’ label.’ ”
Roland took the band independent so it could better control its career. His ability to spot future trends means he’s monitoring streaming — “It’s been three years since our last album [See What You Started by Continuing], so we’ll see what happens and where the exposure is and what tracks the most sales,” he says. And his willingness to take big risks likely contributed to Collective Soul — which also consists of Jesse Triplett (lead guitar) and Johnny Rabb (drums) — enduring long enough to achieve its 25th anniversary.
Blood, which contains buoyant rockers and elegiac ballads, is an exciting collection of songs that came from a productive creative period for Roland. It was originally intended to be a double album, but management vetoed the idea. “So, we have Blood, and now the only problem is what to call the second album,” says Roland. “We chose the title Blood because, as a band, we’re so close. I mean, Dean is my brother, but the rest of the band is like brothers. We all have similar musical tastes — Johnny and I are a little bit more new wave than everybody else, and we can sit around and listen to Tears for Fears all night — and hang out. It’s really just an analogy for family.”
Family also influenced a trio of songs that emerged from a darker place: “Them Blues” (which will be released June 7), “Observation of Thoughts” and “Over Me.” The first two directly correlate to Roland watching his wife and her sister emotionally struggle as the latter fought and eventually succumbed to breast cancer in 2018. “ ‘Over Me’ was me, selfishly, having to deal with everything, this and that, and ‘Who’s watching over me?’ ” he says. “And I was careful about writing these and showed them to my wife. She read the lyrics, and she was good with them. Music, at least for me, was my therapy.”
Although Blood single “Good Place to Start” likewise sprung from dealing with mortality, its focus is more positive. “I wrote it the week after Tom Petty passed. I adored him, loved his music, and for some reason, that hit me hard,” explains Roland. “I don’t think I realized how much of an influence he was to me and the band. So I decided to write a song, narrating the verse like in [Petty and The Heartbreakers’] ‘Here Comes My Girl’ and then have a chorus. There was a lot going on politically at the time and everybody was angry, and I just wanted to write something where, you know, everybody’s had a bad pass at some point, but as long as you’re learning from mistakes, you’ll continuously get better.”
Billboard is exclusively premiering “Good Place to Start” today. Listen below:
Petty (along with Wilco) additionally inspired Blood’s first single, “Right As Rain.” Roland originally presented the track to his other band, roots-rockers The Sweet Tea Project, but that outfit thought the tune better fit Collective Soul. He brought it to the band while his friend Peter Stroud (guitarist for such artists as Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan) was visiting Roland’s house, and Stroud contributed some slide work. “We had actually been listening to Wilco and liked the guitar tones, so we started playing to get those tones, and going back to Tom Petty, that was kind of the influence — the song ‘Jammin’ Me.’ I have no problem saying that I borrowed the riff.”
For information about Collective Soul’s tour dates, click here.