The guys in Collective Soul grew up and came together just outside of Atlanta. Ed Roland, the band's principal songwriter, had collected most of his musical experience in his high school band and church choir. He had tried for years tried to make it in the pop industry, but met with constant frustration and rejection. Just as he was ready to cash in his collective chips, he met with some good fortune. A college radio station in Atlanta had gotten its hands on Roland's demo tape and had begun spinning "Shine," with its radiant chorus and groaning guitars. The track tore up the charts, first regionally, then, seemingly out of nowhere, nationally. "Shine" made Roland and Collective Soul bigtime hitmakers and earned them a bigtime contract.
"Everything's been a step in the right direction so far," says Ed from the back of the tour bus, discussing the band's latest record, Dosage. We wanna see growth each time and I think we see a lot of it on this record."
Though the band saw its previous two releases, Collective Soul and Disciplined Breakdown, meet with warm commercial but cool critical reception, Dosage marks the first occasion Collective Soul's fiercest critics have embraced the band's music. "It feels good," Ed says, then smiles. "We'll enjoy being liked. It's something new for us."
Consider it retribution for Roland, the band's main songwriter. He's been a whipping boy, or rather, "poster boy," for the national trend of bland modern rock bands who drum up decent, melodic hooks. That bad rap should end with Dosage, which is the coolest, most accomplished Collective Soul album yet.
"To me, there's no such thing as uncool music. I mean, as far as I'm concerned the Backstreet Boys are cool. As long as someone's being honest about it, no matter how out of tune or out of time, that's cool."
Guitar.com: How do you fit in with your guitar-playing bandmates Ross Childress and Ed Roland?
Dean Roland: I fit myself in some little crevice somewhere. My role is all about discipline. As far as live goes, less is better. You got to give the song space, accent certain things, tie in with the rhythm section. I guess I'm a pure rhythm player right now. I don't have guitar heroes but if I did it'd probably be Malcolm Young [of AC/DC]. When you have someone like Ross in the band, I just focus on keeping tempos right; I challenge myself every night to try and get stuff just right. With "December" on the second album, for example, there's not much margin for error. The same with "Listen" on the third album and a song like "Where the River Flows."
Guitar.com: What's it like being a three-guitar band?
Dean: I was worried at first that it was a little much, but Radiohead made me feel better about that on OK Computer. I heard parts in our songs that needed the intertwining and layering of guitars. We wouldn't be able to pull it off live without three players. And besides, I think Ed wanted to put his guitar down once in a while and just sing.
Guitar.com: By the sound of it, you keep the reins pretty tight on the Collective Soul guitar sound. Do you ever want to let Ross cut loose?
Ed Roland: Ross played more controlled this time, with more tone, because he wanted to. He got the EBow out (http://www.ebow.com/). He plays more EBow solos than regular solos, which is kinda cool and he makes it work. He focuses on his solos and playing all around the song, doing little picking things, giving the song a third dimension.
Guitar.com: How about you, Ross? Do you feel like you're restricted within the band?
Ross: Maybe in that Ed attempts to fit a part to each song, making sure no one overplays. Live, I indulge on one song, a song that wasn't on the CD called "Hymn 24." They were lettin' me go off a bit; it was a loose thing for all of us; not to say I don't have fun with the other stuff.
Guitar.com: Can you tell me a little bit about your evolution as a player?
Ross: Uh, when I was nine years old I got a guitar for Christmas, took lessons, but my teacher told me I had to sing in order to play. She was under the idea that you had to sing while you were playing, relating the two. I would go home and cry. I didn't want to sing when I was nine! Today, I do some singing, but I'm not nine anymore. After that, I played in cover bands in high school. I played Top 40 stuff for the chicks and did all kinds of crazy stuff, too, like the Cult and AC/DC to INXS, a wide range of stuff, even disco. I still don't consider myself a real lead player.
Guitar.com: Has money changed your approach to recording?
Ed: Well, I have a couple of new racks, but one of these days my wife is gonna tell me, "Enough is enough!" What I really want is a mobile studio so we can start recording live on the road.
Guitar.com: If you were a critic, what would you say about your brother's playing, Ed?
Ed: Dean's an amazing guitarist and he covers a whole lotta ground. I sometimes catch myself onstage just standing there facing stage right watching him. He's probably the most underrated guitar player in my opinion. He can tie in everything. He can play a million miles an hour but he always enhances a song with his work, and he can play very melodically.
Guitar.com: Your turn, Dean.
Dean: Hanging with my brother Ed is really enlightening. I think he's one of the best songwriters of the ?90s. He's the bomb, watching him and seeing how he does things, it's a real learning experience for me.
Guitar.com: So for you, it's all about writing songs?
Ed: I've always wanted to be a songwriter. I never thought of myself as being onstage as a performer. The songs will be around longer than the band. I hope both are around forever. Of course, there's the ego coming out. I'd stay home all the time and sit in my room and write if I could.
Guitar.com: How did you end up being a frontman then?
Ed: There had to be something going on for me to put my guitar aside and stand up there and sing. I guess I really did want people to look at me. Here I am! The key is that you first have to become at ease with it, then once that happens you can be yourself. Then you can have fun onstage. I've always had fun onstage, it's just always been with a guitar before.