Collective Soul’s Will Turpin Talks Music, Bootleg Recordings and Family

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Collective Soul With their new album “Vibrating” already recorded and waiting for a February 2022 release, fans can get caught up with their favourite Georgia-based rockers as they currently tour the US, post COVID Phase 3.

After 30 years and countless hits, the band has comfortably found a niche for themselves as a unit that makes nostalgic music with a cutting edge vibe, giving them the ability to have a recognizable sound with the option of twisting things up just enough to make it exciting.

Bassist Will Turpin sat down and talked music, bootleg recordings and family.

Last time I spoke with you, it was 1995. The second album just came out. A lot has happened since then. But one thing that definitely hasn’t changed is the core of this band has always been Ed, Dean and yourself. What makes this relationship so strong and powerful?
It probably goes back a few generations. My grandfather knew their father and both families were in that county for a long time. I think their father knew my great grandfather, he was Postmaster General of Henry County. My grandfather was superintendent of schools, and then their father was the Minister at the big Southern Baptist Church. I just think growing up together and having that bond, my entire memory I’ve known who Ed and Dean Roland were, and they’ve been my brothers for now, the last 27 years.

Do you think that you’d still be friends, even if there wasn’t a band?
Yeah, we’re definitely good friends. The band is our hub, it always has been and that’s what brought us together. So I can’t imagine not being in there. We have fun hanging out together at casual events.

Collective Soul - Collective Soul albumSince I mentioned 1995, that was the time of the Collective Soul album, What do you remember about that album? It was a big album.
I remember,  it was self titled, because of how the first record was put together. I remember us being really excited about people wanting to hear what we could do, if we actually got to record an album. Atlantic Records just kind of put their stamp on the independent release, because “Shine” was so big.  In our heads, we were at one point, we were thinking, we’re gonna re-record the whole first record. And then things are moving so fast, it wasn’t a smart idea, which was great. Because I love the way it sounds so different, you can tell people the story.

Part of its success is why it sounded so different. But, I remember just being proud to be able to go record, to record the criteria at Miami, we had a blast down there. I remember that the end the big induction into ‘Oh, here’s how major record label pays for you to record a record’, and luckily for us, I also remember that they didn’t, because of how the first record happened, and it sold, a million platinum and a half in the States.

The label wasn’t too much in our business. So they let us record the second record pretty much exactly how we wanted to record it,  no one was telling us what to do. So looking back on it, I think that was kind of important too, because that could have been really interesting having somebody in there all of a sudden trying to tell us what to do, because we all had the same vision, we all thought the same way. We grew up in the same small town.

We knew what we wanted. Man, I tell people back then, it was laser focused on how quickly we could get on the same page. And go for our goal, and go for the ending or whatever, finish this or finish that, or make this, do this. I just remember being proud of being able to make a record that we thought would be our band, our first band record, and that was right.

You mentioned that you at one point thought about re-recording that first album. What was bugging you guys back then about that album?
That’s what I’m saying. It’s not like we thought it. It was just for a brief moment, because we thought about it as a demo. It was a collection too and some were recorded as a band. You can’t tell the difference if the ones a record. But I mean, there’s even a drum machine on “Shine” so I think it’s not like we thought about it.

We thought, hey, here’s our game plan. It’s more like we were just assuming that would be the best way to go. And then things were just moving so fast. It was like nah, let’s just leave it like it is and record another record as soon as we can.

We were back in the studio less than a year. We were in Miami, we toured, we played over 200 shows and 94 on the first record. And by the end of that year, we had gotten “Gel” on a soundtrack and recorded it while we were on the road. By December, the end of that 94 year, we’re in the studio recording what we thought would be the quintessential first band record for Collective Soul. We knew “Gel” would be on it. Also, we had recorded “Gel” jail while on tour so we could get it on that soundtrack.

The Collective Soul album was re-issued, and I’m a huge fan of re-issues. And I’m also a huge fan of Japanese additions, because they have bonus cuts. This one gave us the Japanese bonus track of  Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right”. What can you tell me about it?
Ed was just a great fan of Elvis’s performances, and we sat there and recorded it. Honestly, wasn’t a whole lot of fall behind it. It just became something that Japan wanted to release. You mentioned stuff that we recorded in the gem would be to go back in time and find all the ones that nobody’s heard. Especially on the earlier records, there are at least two to four songs on every record that nobody heard.

Do you think we’ll ever hear that stuff?
I think that’s a good idea for us to release it. I think people would really be interested to hear and it’s stuff that’s 20 something years old. There are songs people haven’t heard that we recorded that are from all the different areas. But definitely in the earlier days, we recorded more. Now we were pretty wide, at which ones to totally finish. And we don’t have as many that aren’t released. But back in the day, we would record so many and go so fast that there’s definitely some more from back in the day. But there’s some that we recorded three years ago that nobody’s heard.

That’s always awesome when you’re a fan of a band and there’s songs waiting and you know they’re there and then they finally come out.
It’s a bit like Prince’s vault that’s nobody’s heard. You know he’s got hundreds of those songs.

We could find 20 that would be close enough to being completed that we can make something, I guarantee we can find 20.

That’s a lot of songs to hide from the fans.
Yeah. You know, we just figured out which ones were the strong ones and those came on the record and then we get so busy. We just move on. We’re always on to the next thing, we’re thinking about that song that nobody heard.

Do you think they match up to the standards of those albums that they were recorded for or were they put aside because they just quite right for that album?
I think you’d like to hear them. I think maybe the answer will be both, I think you’ll hear some that maybe didn’t quite fit or maybe you’d hear some that just didn’t quite have the enthusiasm, didn’t quite have the magic. I don’t know.  I’d be interested to do it myself.  I know they’re there. I can’t remember half of the names right now.

Is there one song that sticks out? Maybe that you think really should have been on an album?
No, I think sometimes there are songs that I feel really should have been a single instead of the other ones. I’ve always felt like “Fuzzy” from the Rabbit record should have been a single that more people should have heard, it’s just too catchy and it never was released or focused on marketing or as a single.

Did anybody ever push for it to be a single or was it just never considered?
I remember thinking it and saying it but that was Roadrunner Records and they were heavy into helping make decisions on that stuff. So I was like, Well, whatever. Because I mean, I’ve been doing this so long I’ve been like, Oh, yeah, “Precious Declaration” should definitely be the opening single. But I’ve also been like, I remember when Ed was adamant that “December” was a single. And I’m like nah, “December” is not a single. You can think all you want, but it’s hard, you’re never gonna to know for sure. And then sometimes you just want to state your opinion and then not worry about putting the stake in the ground because you could be wrong.

It sounds like you knew about certain songs, like “Precious Declaration”.
Yeah, but I was wrong about “December”. I was like, Oh, I don’t know, man. I don’t think that should be a single, and it was rock song of the year.

I’m glad nobody listened.
Nobody listened to me on that one. Ed was adamant. He’s like, no, this is it. I’m like okay. Cool. All right.

Collective Soul band
Concert Photos of Collective Soul by Dan Savoie at Caesars Windsor in June 2019

You guys finally get to hit the road, this time with Styx – that’s a really great match. How well do you know those guys?
We do know them pretty well, and we know them even better now. But I’m glad you thought was a great match. I think it’s a really cool match too. The ticket sales were great. The crowds were amazing.

We worked up a really cool arrangement in December and Tommy Shaw comes out right in the middle and we do this extended solo thing and everything. So he played in our band for eight nights in a row. That’s how I frame it up.

Anyway, Tommy Shaw played in our band for eight nights. (Laughter) We get along great. We just went out there not wanting to fuck anything up and we didn’t fuck anything up and therefore we made better friendships and they trust us and want to tour with us even more. So I think we might have more dates in the future.

You guys have a Michigan date coming up in Grand Rapids later this month. Do you have any good Michigan memories?
Heck, yeah. I love Traverse City and The Cherry Festival. Detroit Rock City, especially back in the day, you knew, that we were going to deliver, the crowd was going to deliver, you knew there was going to be a serious rock show going on. But yeah, I mean, the memories, man. It’s hard. It’s hard to just dial them up. Sometimes you just have to start talking about things and you start remembering more.

Detroit, that’s a real listening Rock & Roll crowd. I remember playing there for the first time with Aerosmith. At a popular amphitheatre I don’t even think is here anymore. I’m like oh, that’s why they call it Detroit. There’s actually a bootleg of Collective Soul out and  half of those songs, I think, if not all of them were from the Detroit performance opening up for Aerosmith. You can find it pretty easy.

Do you watch for those bootlegs – it can be a touchy subject to some?
We used to. Now, it’s not the same. You don’t get to go into these mom and pop, cool music stores and look for bootleg. No artists of the past to go along. Nobody really does anymore. But I’ve documented them and I love them. And especially in the early days. I was glad somebody documented that for me.

Speaking of documenting that stuff. Did you guys, record any of the early shows that are just kind of stashed around?
In Audio? No, not a lot of them. We were young and we’re playing through analog gear. It was very hard to record your stuff back then. Took a lot of planning. We were lucky to get to the next town. Our crew set up our stuff and everything be working for the live show.

The bootlegs were a good thing back then for retaining those memories.
Yeah, they absolutely are man. There’s three or four that are pretty good from 94 and 95. But there’s one from Chicago. “Sweet Home Chicago”, I think it was called. I think they were trying to do a reference on the southern boys.

collective soul - half and half album-minThe band’s last release was last year’s Record Store Day offering “Half & Half”.  I love the record store offerings because they’re very different. Tell me about that one.
They had some cool songs we wanted to record. And then we thought we’d do some cool covers, which we don’t do a lot of especially recording. So, we had a lot of fun recording the Neil Young tune. Then we’ve been out playing REM, “One I Love”, we’ve been out playing it in 2019 with a Gin Blossoms, Robin would come on stage and sing “One I Love” with us every night. We recorded our version of that as well. It was like, we didn’t have time to record a record.

So we’re like, hey, let’s put this together. And  it’s just cool to be part of Record Store Day, and we enjoy that we like putting some marketing and some energy towards something fun for people. You know, keep that vibe around a little bit?

We talked a little bit about live stuff. I saw the 1995 tour. I was part of the promotions crew for your 2000 stop in Regina, Saskatchewan, and I caught the tour for “Blood” in Windsor in 2019. So I have seen the progression of you guys. You seem like you’re in a really perfect space now – somewhere between nostalgia and cutting edge. Do you think that’s a good assessment?
It sounds killer to me. For a matter of fact I’m going to have to remember that quote and quote you from here on out. Because Yeah, we are nostalgic in love, and still love playing “Shine”. Our new stuff at 50 years old. I mean,  I don’t really wear rose colored glasses. We’re still crushing it on how we’re creating and how we’re performing. So, hopefully the stars keep aligning and will be able to keep doing it. We don’t over think the set or our vibe. We just really enjoy playing music together. And I think that’s a big deal, too. It just really comes across. And yeah, I love that quote, cross between nostalgia and cutting edge.

I find the sound is really honest. It’s you guys not trying too hard, but trying enough that it’s a great sounding album.
Yeah, but like I said, it all boils down to emotion at some point. So we’ve got a great way we approach going in there and record, it’s not a technical approach. It’s kind of like, you can’t break the rules until you know them all and we understand all the technical rules, but we’re not thinking about a single technical rule when we’re recording a song, we’re trying to create something new.

We focus on the things with a nice hook, we focus on the vibe and the core so we can tell what Ed’s saying and somehow it’s just when it feels right we know it’s right and you can’t put it down in a manual and tell somebody how to do, it’s a feeling that we’re real comfortable with now. Yeah, like you said that the incarnation of the band at this moment, me and Johnny Rabb are extremely tight, definitely on the same page when we hit something right we know how to replicate it, we know it’s right. Jesse on the guitar man, he’s a great guy, great creator, keeps his ears open again.

Your ears are your best weapon, not what you put out it’s what you take in and then use that to put into the output. We do love our lineup and we all get along a whole hell of a lot now too. That goes into play when it comes into the live scene. Like I said, we view it as a celebration of life, man,  when we play live for the audience and for us. This is it and this is what we all live for,  the memories and the music.

CS_Blood_Cover-minWith “Blood” now two years old, is there a new album on the horizon?
Yeah, I was wanting to release it this summer, but it’s gonna be February next year, the record’s called “Vibrating”.

Cool. So in between touring, recording and being a father, you also released a solo album a couple of years back yourself. What did you learn from that experience?
I love the whole thing, it’s kind of an overall concept. I learned that being able to create outside of Collective Soul is good for all of us, and it makes us stronger when we come back together. It was also awesome just to be able to create with a totally different vibe. Mark Wilson, a dear friend, and exceptional bass player, played bass on half the track and I didn’t play bass, so it’s just good to have these songs that come from a little bit of a different place.

I start most of the songs on piano and/or Wurlitzer or something like that. It’s just good to flap your wings a little bit outside of the Collective Soul thing. And then when you come back to the Collective Soul circle, you feel stronger, and I think it makes the band stronger.

Will there be more solo albums from you?
Yeah, I’m working on it right now. Matter of fact, on the way to the studio today, running through my head is how I’m going to organize, going about doing it. But I’ve already have the bulk of the songs written, like eight strong tunes. So trying to figure out my plan of attack on how to get it done the best, and the most efficiently. But yeah, there’ll be at my studio, Real 2 Reel Studios down here.

I mentioned that you were a father earlier, how does being a parent and family man balance with being in such a recognizable band?
Probably affects them more than it affects me. I know we all have a good relationship, and they’re older now. I feel like I’m now officially middle age. My kids are 23, 18 and 15. It’s always been my life. My father was in a band, and he owned a recording studio. So not only is it my life, it’s what I grew up with as a child as well. Sometimes it’s all about perspective. So for me, I don’t understand why my relationship has to be any different than anybody else’s on a father side, other than the fact that they get to do some cool things in the music industry and they get to see some cool shows and meet some musical geniuses every now and then.

When they were young. It was tough and like I said, I think that questions even maybe more for them. But it was tough. when they were younger, I would fly home all the time. I would literally fly home for less than 24 hours sometimes. Living in Atlanta, gave us that option a little bit because of the huge hub and huge airline Delta. So we always had a lot of options to come.

Me and Ed, we’d be at hotel lobby at 4:30 in the morning, catching up, 7:30 flight out of Detroit, so we could go hang with our kids for 24 hours. And then we’d be back at the airport the next day going straight to a show. So that’s a little different. And they went for weeks without seeing me every now and then. But we had a couple barriers. Once it was two weeks, management had at least given me two days off. After I started having children in 97. I mean two days off every two weeks isn’t a lot either (Laughter). We were still working and we’re going to do a little over 50 shows this year coming out of the pandemic and next year, we’re super excited with a new record and the tour is going to be awesome. We hope to get more dates with Styx’s,  even though right now we’re touring. The next phase of shows is with Better Than Ezra and Tonic who, speaking of relationships, we’ve known them now 27 years, both of those bands, and we’re all dear friends, so I’m excited to see them again and share the stage.

I wanted to ask one little question about your family, because you and the Roland boys go back. Does that relationship continue with your kids and the Roland family?
They know each other but now we don’t. I think it’s hard to kind of replicate small town Stockbridge and living so close to each other, the Baptist Church and the studio. If I tell you it was a third of a mile radius between all those things, our homes and the studio and the church. That’s over. All those things were within four blocks of each other, and it was a small town so it’s different. They know each other. They’ve grown up with each other. But we don’t live near each other. That relationship would be almost impossible to replicate and this is kind of part of life, you know, and how lucky we were to be in that small town in Georgia and we all had very nice, supportive families. That was another big, big deal. Our parents supported it.

That’s the magic of the relationship that you had with them. That’s what makes Collective Soul,  Collective Soul.
It’s definitely part of it, man. For sure.

Check out CollectiveSoul.com for more music and upcoming tour dates.

Photo: Lee Clower
Photo: Dan Savoie
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