ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 17, 1994
By Steve Newton
In today’s high-tech, high-finance music world–where flavour-of-the-month recording “artists” of questionable talent can essentially buy fame with expensive corporated-funded video clips–it’s nice to know that devoted, honest folks with simple, strong tunes can still get a shot at the big time.
Such is the case with singer/songwriter/guitarist Ed Roland. The Collective Soul leader from the small town of Stockbridge, Georgia, had been trying for 18 years to get a record deal, with no luck, when he knocked off a tune called “Shine” as a songwriter demo hoping to land a publishing deal.
He included that five-minute piece of pop perfection on an independently pressed disc, Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, and when he sent it to a college station in nearby Atlanta–under the phony band name Brothers and Broads–a spark was lit.
“I just sent it there to see what kind of reaction it could get,” drawls Roland on the line from Baton Rouge, Lousiana, “and ‘Shine’ became the station’s most requested song. Then from there it kinda took off. Quick.”
In short order, AOR (album-oriented rock) and college stations throughout the southeastern U.S. began playing the track, and Hints started selling out at local stores, rivaling major-label releases by multi-platinum acts. Sensing the band’s potential, a bigwig from Atlantic Records flew out to see the group live and signed Collective Soul on the spot. Notch one for the good guys.
“It still is a shock to us,” says Roland of the wildlife popularity of “Shine”. “We haven’t quite got out of the shock stage yet. I mean, I don’t even have to sing the song live if I don’t want to–the crowd wants to sing it. So it’s a great feeling. It’s cool.”
So what’s the big attraction of “Shine”, anyway? Is it the song’s casual, strumming-on-the-back-porch feel? It’s ear-catching change of pace? It’s wailing guitar solo? What the hell’s up with that tune?
“You know,” ponders Roland “I dont’ know. We talk about it a lot, the band, and we think maybe it’s psychological, ’cause it’s uplifting or something. It’s basically just asking for guidance, you know, whether it be from above, below, friends, relationships. We don’t know. If I knew I’d write every song like that.”
Roland is joined in Collective Soul by lead guitarist Ross Childress, bassist Will Turpin, drummer Shane Evans, and his 21-year-old brother Dean Roland. The Rolands grew up in a household that, according to Collective Soul’s Atlantic bio, discouraged the boys from listening to the radio.
“But just for a little while,” points out Roland. “My dad was a preacher, so at one point I guess they thought it wasn’t the right thing for a kid to listen to”
Judging by the colour photo that graces the inside of the Collective Soul CD–and pictures the band as a formidable four-guitar lineup (including bass)–you might think that Roland grew up emulating the guitar-army approach of southern rock groups like Lynryd Skynyrd or the Outlaws. And you might be wrong.
“Bein’ from Georgia you will hear Lynryd Skynyrd at some point in your life–Molly Hatchet, the southern rock bands–but I was mostly inspired by what I call Southern California rock, you know, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, Jackson Browne. I never even owned a southern-rock album, but I’m sure it inspired us in some way, ’cause we do have guitars comin’ at you from everywhere.”
(Southern-rock fans will be pleased to know the Hatters–a guitar-heavy, jam-happy group being touted as among the new breed of Allman Brothers-influenced acts–will open for Collective Soul at the Town Pump next Thursday, June 23.)
Although his group may not aspire to performing 10-minute versions of guitar-crazy tunes like “Free Bird”, Roland admits that he studied guitar at Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Misc. He just takes a different tack than your typically flashy, 10-notes-per-second Berklee grad.
“Tha’s not me,” says Roland with a modest, down-home chuckle. “I can do 10 notes a minute, though.”