If it's true that the music business runs in cycles, then Georgia-based Collective Soul are proof. The band was formed 12 years ago by vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist/songwriter/producer Ed Roland and his brother/guitarist, Dean Roland. Their first major-label album, Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid, was a re-release of their independent 1993 debut. And now, 19 chart singles, seven Number One hits and millions of album sales later, Collective Soul is once again an independent band.
From left: Joel Kosche, Dean Roland, Ed Roland, Will Turpin and Shane Evans
The Roland brothers, percussionist Shane Evans, guitarist Joel Kosche and bassist/percussionist Will Turpin have released their latest CD, Youth, on their own El Music Group label. In April, they also put out an eight-song acoustic set, From the Ground Up, and coming in the fall will be a two-CD live set called Home With the Atlanta Youth Symphony and a box set featuring the live CDs and accompanying DVD of the April 23 and 24, 2005, performances with the Youth Symphony at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, plus a bonus Making of DVD.
The idea for From the Ground Up came somewhat spontaneously. “It was spur of the moment,” says Ed Roland. “We had a couple of days off from the road and wanted to demo new songs. We also had demos of songs that didn't make it on Youth. Joel and I were doing a lot of acoustical promotional work, but we had never experimented with acoustic music because we're not an acoustic band. So I called the guys in to try to capture the spirit again — no more than two takes on a song — and it was that simple. The album was done in two days. We went in and there it is. There's no orchestra or big drums, but it's not much different from something like ‘How Do You Love’ [from Youth], although it took more than two days to record that song because we kept it so open for the strings.
“The Youth Symphony project came because I've known them for 10 years — the Atlanta Symphony has done a lot of tracks for us; I've incorporated a lot of orchestration into our records over the years. The timing was right and to have the Youth Symphony do it made sense because of Youth. We called them and everybody was excited. Then we decided to take it one step further. Fans have been asking for a live record and a live DVD because Collective Soul in concert is so different from Collective Soul on record. Because Atlanta is our home, proceeds will go to local charities.”
Integral to capturing Collective Soul on disc are producer Dexter Green, who is also a guitarist and songwriting partner to Ed Roland, and engineer Shawn Grove. Both men worked on Youth; Green also helped arrange material for the symphony shows and is also producing the upcoming live CDs.
Producing Collective Soul, says Green, is surprisingly easy. “They have a lot of great equipment and great attitudes, and their ideas are a collective effort — no pun intended. We all get along so well. For the live record, I [worked] on the arrangements of 20 songs, 16 with a full orchestra. It's a huge challenge to produce. I'm working with several arrangers: Don Hart, David Davidson, Steve Maulden and John Paynter. It's an amazing team. To sync things up, Pierre Lamoureux is directing the footage for the DVD.”
Grove first worked with Collective Soul on their 1999 album, Dosage. “It was done at Tree Sound [in Norcross, Ga.],” he says, “and I was the staff engineer there for four years, starting in 1998. We started working on Youth in 2003.
“Ed's done five records where he pretty much produced them himself, and he has in his head what everything should sound like, so we try to make it happen for them. Ed went through a few writing spells for Youth, so it was done in two or three chunks: the first batch over a three- or four-month period, then another batch when Dexter came in. Mixing Youth took a little over a week. I did a song a day.”
Grove mixed at Tree Sound, Image Studio (Los Angeles) and Quad Studios (Nashville). When it comes to equipment, “I have to have [Universal Audio] 1176s,” he says. “Ed likes the Vac Rac compressors and EQs and that's mainly Ed's [domain]. I use an SSL G-Plus board, Neve EQs and a Neve 33609 compressor on drums, and some API stuff. Ed's vocal chain is the 1176, the Vac Rac and a Focusrite 215 EQ.
“[For drum miking,] I used either an AKG D112 or D25 mic, [Shure] 57s on the top and bottom snare, AKG 451s on the hi-hat and ride, 414s for the tom and [Neumann TLM] 103s for overheads.”
Green's requirements are “a lot of new Universal Audio pieces — 6176 [tube preamp] for guitars and vocals, with the channel setup, EQ and compressor. I'm a Logic user,” he says. “Ed and I wrote these songs at his house on my laptop running Logic. Guitar amps are Vox AC 30, Doctor Z amps, Carr amps, Buddha and, of course, Sugarfuzz amps [which Kosche designs and Roland has sworn by for years]. My mics are Royer 121s and a [Neumann] M149, and I used a 57 on ‘Under Heaven's Skies’ [on Youth].
For guitars, we use everything Paul Reed Smith makes — they just rock. [We also use] a Rickenbacker, Fender Telecaster, Les Paul, SG, Gibson 345, and we get a lot of use out of Line 6 [software]. We use a Boomerang Phrase Looper, Sherman Filterbank and some M Audio keyboard controllers. Robert Keeley makes custom stomp boxes, and we used a lot of his stuff for distortion and treble.
“Shawn is great because he's a musician and it's easy for us to communicate,” comments Roland. “He's been around us enough to know that the English language is not used much in the studio. We have a great working relationship. He's not afraid because he knows, he speaks his mind and he's a great sounding board. We have an open discussion rule, and when he speaks, we all listen.”
Despite Roland's expertise in the studio, he strongly believes in bringing in extra help for production. “I need someone there,” he says. “It helps me. I want to focus on singing and writing. We had several false starts on Youth. My job as producer on that record was to make sure everyone had fun. A lot of the songs were written in the studio while others were being recorded.
“Youth had so many variables. We would record for four days and be off for two weeks. It was all over the place. Dexter came in January  and we mixed half of it in April and half in July and August. There was a lot of downtime in-between. Dexter has helped me go in new directions without losing what people are used to hearing from Collective Soul over the last 10 years.”