Catching up with Collective Soul’s Ed Roland: his 360 guitars, Elton John piano and Billy Joel rejection

Watch out, bar bands. That dude who paid you $100 to sing for 15 minutes might be Roland.

Collective Soul takes its name seriously. It is not a fractious crew, relatively speaking. The Atlanta-based band over three decades has generated a coterie of pop-rock classics, performed thousands of times and retains three original members.

The current five-member line up has been together for nearly nine years, with the most recent addition Jesse Triplett as lead guitarist in early 2014.

“This is the lineup that will be forever,” said Ed Roland, lead singer in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We just enjoy each other’s company. Every night, we’re like little kids. We hop out and hug each other. We have fun onstage. We love what we do.”

And 2022, the first year since 2019 that could be construed as “normal’ for most touring bands, Collective Soul released its 11th studio album “Vibrating” and performed 61 times, including twice in metro Atlanta, once at the Tabernacle in July and once at Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain with Switchfoot in September.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Breakthrough hit Shine” being by far the band’s most popular song on Spotify: “I’m so appreciative that ‘Shine’ has allowed me to continue to write. As a songwriter, I’d still put it in my top 20. We never get tired playing it. When I go to Publix and the cashier hands me change, they don’t get clapped for it. I have a job where I get claps every night.”

On the band’s past two albums: “You get older. You get wiser. I’d say our two most recent albums ‘Vibrating’ and ‘Blood’ are the best work we’ve ever done.”

On playing the big hits at every concert: “You gotta play what got you here. Those get bigger applause as they should. I’m fine with that.”

Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

On joining Hootiefest in April 2023 with Hootie & The Blowfish in Cancun, Mexico: “We came from the same label at the same time. Mark Bryan, the band’s guitarist, and I had a band once, the Sweet Tea Project. He played mandolin. Darius [Rucker] had Jesse [Triplett] for awhile. It’s an inbred Southern thing. We’ve worked with the other bands, too. [Everclear and Gin Blossoms.] We’re all at that certain part of our lives. We’re all at peace.”

Elvis Presley EP plans: “We became friends with someone who owns Elvis Presley’s old home in Palm Springs, Florida. We plan to record there. We are looking to do a four-song EP of Elvis songs for Record Store Day. We will do ‘Bossa Nova Baby,’ ‘All Shook Up,’ ‘Kentucky Rain’ and ‘Burning Love’.”

Roland being Roland: “My wife gets on me all the time. We’ll be taking a long weekend vacation and we see a bar band. I’ll give them $100 to play for 15 minutes. I don’t tell them who I am. I play my songs and they think, ‘Wait a second. You sound like the real guy!’ Then they realize it’s me.”

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Not dying his hair but not cutting it short: “I’m now gray haired. But I also wear it long. Not many people pushing 60 do that. So is that Einstein or that guy from Collective Soul?”

His guitar obsession: “I own 360 guitars. I have four storage spaces for guitars. If I see it and like it, I buy it. I have played every single one of them. Eddie Van Halen gave me his guitar. We toured with Van Halen. Eddie and I became pals... Kids will come over and I’ll give them a guitar. It’s a joy to share them.”

His guitar liaison is Andy Babiuk: “Andy lives in Rochester [New York]. He has a retail shop called Fab Gear. I go to shop and buy the band guitars. I pick guitars based on how they speak to me. It feels. It resonates. It vibrates to me. We’re all made of vibrations. That’s what we do as living breathing whatevers.”

His Elton John piano: “He used to spend a lot of time in Atlanta. One time, we got together and had dinner. He knew how much I respected him and he respected me. He was a mentor. We’d give each other gifts. One time he got me a grand piano. I was shocked. He said, ‘You gotta take it. I only want you to promise me you’ll write songs on it.’ I’m like, ‘Done!’ I write a lot on it. Getting a piano from a pop hero you grew up with. What else is there?”

The Billy Joel pitch: By 2002, Billy Joel hadn’t recorded new pop music in 20 years so John set it up for Roland to meet him because Roland wanted to produce an album with him. “I told Billy I wanted to make ‘Glass Houses Part 2.’ I told him the rawness of it meant a lot to me as a kid. I would love to be part of it. Billy shut me down. ‘Nope,’ he said. ‘Nice meeting you.’” [Joel 30 years hence has still not produced a new pop album.]

His fourth quarter of 2022: “I take time off for family. That’s my mantra. Family first. We have survived being that way.”

How he’s kept it going: “I maintained focus. I’ve kept it going. I never got swept away by the big record deal, the big house, the fast cars. For me, it’s, ‘Let’s make another record!’ That’s what I love to do. My wife would tell me I’m nuts, but that’s what I do. I struggled so long before this band worked out. I’m so appreciative. I want to grasp every second and moment.”

Retirement? What’s That? “My wife asked me if I will ever retire. Well, what’s retirement? You travel the world and meet interesting people and have a hobby or two. I think I started doing this at age 14. I’ve always been in my retirement years.”