Interview with Dean Roland
by: Mike Farley
Atlanta-based band Collective Soul had a huge following in the 90’s due to a
breakout single called “Shine.” After several albums with Atlantic Records, the
band is now part of the indie world, as their latest album,
Youth, was released on their own label
this past spring. Youth is considered by many to be a re-energizing project for
Collective Soul. Bullz-Eye.com spoke recently with guitarist Dean Roland on that
newfound energy, and about all things Collective Soul.
Bullz-Eye: So, the new album’s called Youth, and this is your
first independent venture since the early 90’s, right?
Dean Roland: Yeah, the first one was Hints, Allegations (and
Things Left Unsaid, their 1993 debut) we put together ….there was a song on
the radio from that, we caught major label attention and it kinda went from
there. So it was independent for a short time.
BE: So how is Youth doing so far?
DR: It’s great! With starting our own record label we’ve had a whole new
set of challenges going on, but it’s been rewarding. It’s been a good
experience. Learning experience, but it’s good. (laughs)
BE: Well, you guys get to keep most the money now, right? (laughs)
DR: (laughs) Yeah, right. Yeah. Definitely the money structure is pretty
drastically different then when we were at Atlantic Records.
BE: Were you guys dropped from Atlantic or was it your choice to get out
of the deal?
DR: It was our choice. Obviously they had to let us go. We had two more
records left on our contract. To some level it was amicable, but we negotiated
off. We gave them a Greatest Hits with two new songs. It was sorta like a “see
you later” on both sides. Everything was cool. “Thank you for seven great years.
It’s time for the next chapter.”
BE: Right on. On your bio you speak a lot about being energized now that
you’re back in action. So tell me a little bit about that.
DR: Well, the entire time with Atlantic was either spent on the road or
in the studio, so from the time I was 20 years old till like 28, I was on the
road. So we took a couple years off. Went through some personal stuff. A couple
of us got divorces, a couple guys had kids, one of the guys left the band. So
really it was this theme, of like, getting hit over the head. Like, just slow it
down, figure some stuff out and make some adjustments. And in that time off, we
really gave it that perspective of what we were doing and why we were doing
it—what is was like and why we started in the beginning. And that was sort of
where the title of Youth comes from.
BE: Feeling youthful again?
DR: Yeah, ya know… when we started playing as a band 12, 13, 14 years
BE: Now naturally, your past success is going to matter to radio
programmers and tour promoters. Has that been the case, or has it been difficult
without a major label?
DR: No. Basically, what we’ve done is, we have a major label set-up. We
went and outsourced all the parts that a major label has in-house. So we have
marketing, publicity, a radio promotions staff…all of it’s outsourced. Our
infrastructure is set up the same way, and we have an independent distribution
deal. And it’s set up just like a major label would be. So if the record sells
1, 2, 3 million, it’s no problem. Everything is in place to allow that to
BE: It looks like you’re getting a lot of radio play too.
DR: Yeah. The song’s doing really well.
BE: So who are your influences as a band and who are your influences
personally as a player?
DR: As a band, it falls under some of the 70’s rock. You have Zeppelin,
AC/DC, Elton John, Pink Floyd kinda stuff. That was part of our childhood. A lot
of the early 80’s sorta new wave stuff like INXS, U2, and The Police. We were
big fans of The Cars. It’s just a melding of pop culture music.
BE: Just all the good melodic stuff, right?
DR: Yeah, really. I mean we’ve never really defined ourselves as anything
other than just a rock band. But when you break it down, we’re guitar driven
with pop melodies on top of it.
BE: Definitely. So how do you guys feel about the new album?
DR: The thing that I like most about it is the tone and spirit of it.
It’s back to where we were in the beginning as far as this positive perspective
on things. After our second record, you can kind of look at the lyrics, and
things turned a little dark, but not dramatic. But I feel just because I was
there and know what was going on, I have that perspective on it.
BE: That was also probably during the ‘90s grunge era, too.
DR: Yeah, yeah. But we came out during the tail end of the grunge thing.
We had a song called “Shine.” The chorus is “Heaven let your light shine down,”
which is basically a prayer. And it came out at an odd time of grunge and this
heavy content of music going on, so it was a little bit of an odd time for us to
come out. In the beginning, I guess it was due to the timing, but we would get
put in a grunge category, or grunge lite or something. We never even saw it as
that. I totally dug a lot of that music, but I never saw this band falling in
BE: I agree! So what is your favorite city to play in?
DR: I think, just right now because it’s on the top of my mind and we
were there recently, probably Montreal is one of my favorite cities.
BE: OK. How about least favorite?
DR: Oh! That’s interesting. (laughs) I don’t know. I mean…huh?
BE: If you don’t have one, that’s OK.
DR: Honestly, I don’t think I do! I would hate to say it because it
probably wasn’t the place we were in as much as….
BE: A bad experience?
DR: Well I probably had a shitty day and I was mad at my ex-wife.
BE: (laughs) How about your favorite place to eat on the road?
DR: Any particular restaurant? Nobu is probably one of my favorite
restaurants on the planet.
BE: And where is that?
DR: Well there’s one in New York and one in L.A. It’s called Matsuhisa in
L.A. but it’s the same menu.
BE: Gotcha. And how about least favorite place to eat?
DR: Least favorite? Would be…(long pause)….humm. You get me on these
least favorites, man. I gotta think about it. I’ll come back to it. (laughs)
BE: No problem. I asked Rob Thomas that, and he said Applebees. I’m like
“Why?” and he said, “Cuz it sucks.” (laughs)
DR: Yeah, well he’s not wrong. (laughs) Yeah, totally.
BE: (laughs) What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever asked for on a rider?
DR: Craziest? Ours is relatively tame.
BE: Like about green M&M’s or anything like that?
DR: Well, I’m very specific about the bubble gum that I get.
BE: OK. That’s good.
DR: Extremely specific. It’s the Orbit’s Bubblemint, in the pink. It’s
the best gum on the planet. That’s pretty much a must. We won’t play the show if
we don’t have that.
BE: Excellent. What advice can you give an independent band that’s just
starting out, releasing their first album?
DR: I really think the industry’s so screwed now that you should take
advantage of the personal connections, whether it’s using the Internet as an
avenue or touring, I think those are the two keys. I mean obviously if you’re
fortunate enough to have radio success, you’re able to connect with the masses
quickly. But the touring and just the Internet are the two major ways to connect
personally with people. And that’s how you build long-term.
BE: The grassroots marketing and all that?
DR: Yeah. I think that’s so much more important now than ever in fact.
And people appreciate it. If you choose to have this as a career you have to
have a long-term perspective on it and not get too caught up in where you’re
going. Always remember there’s no other moment than now, so enjoy it.
BE: Right. Cool, that’s good advice. So what’s the songwriting process
like for Collective Soul?
DR: It’s sort of all over the board. It’s kinda like letting the
creativity happen whenever it comes. Ed (Roland, lead vocals) is the primary
songwriter, so a lot of times he’ll come in with a general idea. There’s been a
few times where he’ll come in with a complete idea of where he wants the song to
go from top to bottom, with the production and with the vibe. And other songs
will start with a drum groove and we just build it like a house. You lay the
foundation and start just stacking things until you get to the melodic-vocal
parts, the melodic-guitar parts and sit on top of all that. I hate to be so
general about it, but it really is a wide-open thing, and it has to be. If you
put it into too much of a confine, you start restricting something that just
can’t be restricted.
BE: Right, I know what you mean. I live in Nashville and am among the
whole songwriter community.
DR: Yeah. And there’s definite inspiration in that as well. But I feel
like sometimes you lose the nutrients in the music when that happens. It becomes
a little bit too processed as opposed that raw, connecting to that raw thing
that happens. And how do you reproduce it?
BE: Sure. So what do you guys like to do in your spare time?
DR: On the road? We try to stay active. A couple of us will try to find
the cool spots wherever we are, and go for a run, or check out…
BE: Check out the sights?
DR: Yeah, check out where we are and then two or three weeks into the
tour, maybe a month, we’re kinda like, “Ah, dude. Fuck this. I’m laying in the
bus, I’m not even gonna move.” Yeah, but you try and keep your mind active,
because you can get lazy out here, sort of sit around and do nothing. We’ll even
go to a YMCA or somewhere and just do some pick-up basketball, or those kinda
things as well.
BE: So what are you listening to right now?
DR: The new Stereophonics record is probably one of my favorite things.
BE: Ah, dude! I love that album.
DR: It’s so good. Um, I love the new Coldplay. That Aqualung is pretty
happening to me. There’s also this record I’ve been listening to when I just
totally want to vibe and chill out, a band called Fault Line.
BE: OK. I’ve heard of them.
DR: Yeah, it totally like lays the vibrations on a really, really soft
BE: Do you guys know Butch Walker at all?
DR: Yeah! Everybody in Atlanta knows him.
BE: Have you guys recorded with him at all, or played with him or
DR: Yeah, we actually like four or five years ago did a tour with the
Marvelous 3, and we became buddies with him back then. Actually, Ed was over his
house yesterday. We haven’t recorded with him, but he came and sang some back-up
vocals on the record before Youth, called Blender. And we actually
recorded some of the tracks on this record in his studio.
BE: Very cool. Do you guys have a second single picked out yet?
DR: Right now the song “Better Now” is on radio and is doing really well,
so we’re just moving with that. Probably in the next few weeks we’ll start
deciding. It’s either a song called “How Do You Love” or a song called “Under
BE: I like “Perfect To Stay” myself.
DR: Oh really?
DR: That’s cool.
BE: I got it in regular rotation in my iTunes.
DR: Oh cool. That’s very cool.
BE: That’s about all I have. Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
DR: No, I mean, we’re just excited to be back at it again. Taking a
little time off has been good for the head.
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