Interview: Dean Roland


Collective Soul’s first single, “Shine”, introduced the world to their heavy but melodic post-grunge sound. No one hit wonder, they followed-up with a self-titled album which included “December” and “The World I Know”. Fast-forwarding twenty years with other hit songs along the way, 2015 brought their 9th album See What You Started By Continuing.

This interview with Collective Soul rhythm guitarist Dean Roland was for a preview article for for Collective Soul’s concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 7/16/16. It was done by phone on 7/1/16. (Photo: Concord Music Group)

Jeff Moehlis: What can people look forward to at the upcoming concert?

Dean Roland: Five dudes onstage doing what they love to do, for starters. That’s always been our thing, taking pride in the fact that we love what we do and we try to do it the best that we can. Then the obvious songs that people know by Collective Soul – they’ll hear those. And we’ll play some new songs, too. It’s usually pretty upbeat and positive, spreading some good vibes.

JM: I understand that your fans can have a say in what the setlist is. Can you tell us how that works?

DR: We’re doing this tour with the Goo Goo Dolls, so our set is not as long as it normally would be if it was our own show. So we’re trying to figure out how to cram in 20 years of music into the whole thing, and still play the songs that people know, and play some new music. We just wanted to incorporate the fans into the setlist, leaving a slot or two open where people could just choose on any given night which song, kind of randomish, out of our catalog we’ll play.

JM: You have an album out that’s not quite a year old. Can you tell us a bit about that, and how you see it fitting in with the rest of the band’s catalog?

DR: It fits in nicely. We actually were playing many of the [new] songs live even before we released the record. They blend in great. Fortunately, our fan base really is open to what we do, which is such a great thing. We’ll play the songs that they’ve heard many, many times, but for us to play a new song is kind of a treat, to mix it up a little bit. It seems to be well received.

JM: What are your reflections on the self-titled Collective Soul album, the one that came out in ’95?

DR: I look back with good memories. I mean, there was some struggling going on back then, a little bit, just adjusting to having success at a young age, and trying to figure out a lot of things, how the business works and how to cope with a relative level of success, coming from a small town. But I look back at it in favor. I mean, it was fun. We were kind of innocent, a little naive to everything. There’s something cool about that, that I appreciate.

JM: You guys were on MTV quite a bit. Did you enjoy doing those videos?

DR: Yeah! It was just different. Everything was so different. Even simple stuff, like for us to go and play shows and people were there to hear your music. That was completely odd to us at that time. We were struggling, just playing small clubs before that, nothing was going on. And then you step into people coming to your shows, and doing these big-budget videos. Yeah, it was cool. It was interesting. You grow up pretty quickly when that happens.

JM: Any crazy stories that you’re willing to share from the early days of the band?

DR: [laughs] I mean, it’s probably not as crazy as you might think it would be. But I’m sure we’ve had our moments over the years. The stereotypical nonsense – whatever. Nothing that you haven’t heard before from another rock band.

JM: On your song “Perfect Day”, you had a notable guest artist – Elton John. How do you end up with Elton John singing on one of your songs?

DR: He was legitimately one of our major influences, especially Ed [Roland] as a songwriter. We’ve always been a huge fan of Elton. We’re from Atlanta, and Elton lives half his year in Atlanta. We just befriended him early, like mid-90’s into the late-90’s. He’s always just been good to us. He’s a really good friend. We just asked if he’d be willing to sing, and he said, “Of course!” His only condition was, “I’ll sing on it as long as you let me play piano.” We’re like, “Done deal.”

JM: That’s a nice bonus, right?

DR: Exactly.

JM: I think it’s safe to say that brothers in bands don’t always get along with each other. Do you have a secret for being in a band with your brother?

DR: Tolerance, patience [laughs]. You have to realize – we did anyway – that we have a common goal but choose different paths to get there a lot of times. You just respect one another. It doesn’t mean it’s easy. We’ve had some good and bad times. But it’s a cool thing to have somebody that you can trust unconditionally, in this industry or just in general in life. It’s a good thing.

And we also share in the love of music. At the end of the day, that’s just what it comes down to. We both love making music, and playing together. It’s pretty cool, but in saying that it hasn’t always been easy. But now it’s good, and I expect it to be for a long while.

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

DR: My main advice would be obviously to learn your craft, but learn your self. Think about what you’re wanting to express. If you’re a songwriter, if you’re a lyricist, think about what you’re saying, and be honest about it. Challenge yourself, but don’t settle and be trite and try to follow current trends or whatever. Because that shit changes with the wind. And try to surround yourself with people you trust, that are like-minded.

JM: What’s next for you guys? Do you have any new songs that you’re thinking about?

DR: Yeah, we’ve kept the momentum going creatively. We’re about halfway through recording the next record, that hopefully we’ll get out next year. That’s what we’re shooting for. That’s what’s next. We’ll do this tour, finish a record, go back out, and do it again [laughs]. Rinse and repeat.

JM: When you guys first got started, did you have any idea that you’d be doing it for as long as you have?

DR: No. I had hopes. My brother Ed and I would talk about it. Our goal, really, was to have a career, to have some longevity in this thing. To try to make music and play it to where it was relevant enough to continue on and have a lasting career. That’s always been the theme, but when I was that young I didn’t have the foresight. It was just fun. People were coming to our shows, and I was doing what I love.

JM: What are you doing for the 4th of July? Any big plans?

DR: [laughs] I don’t have any big plans. I leave the next morning, and I won’t be back home for a while. I’m just going to chill out in Venice Beach. I might just hang out at the beach for a little bit, and then get ready for my three month adventure.


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