Bassist Will Turpin delves into what has changed and what remains the same throughout three amazing decades for Collective Soul
After achieving swift fame through the global success of “Shine”, the members of Collective Soul have now continued to rock stages around the world for over 20 years. The band continues to play upwards of 100 live shows per year, and yet has never released a live album – that is until now.
Collective Soul – Live was crafted from a collection of over 160 live shows recorded over the past two years, following after the release of their ninth studio album See What You Started by Continuing in October 2015. The entire band, with the help of engineer/mixer and ‘sixth man’ Shawn Grove, then picked the best performances from that extensive set of touring to create this new live album.
ARTISTdirect’s Christopher Friedmann caught up with Collective Soul co-founder and bassist Will Turpin to discuss the band’s first live record, the changes that he has seen in the past 20 years plus, and his biggest musical memories – the ones that still resonate after all this time.
Christopher Friedmann: We are talking because you are about to release your first-ever proper live album, Collective Soul – Live. Just to start how is the mood in camp?
Will Turpin: 20-something years later, we’re excited about the live release. We should probably even continue to do more of those because we love playing live so much. Just like always, even 23 years later, we are already thinking about the new release and the next thing. So yeah, the mood in camp is really all about the studio release early next year…
CF: Now you said 23, but I thought this year marks the band’s 25th anniversary…
WT: … Yeah, I mean we really count ‘94 as the kinda career-starting year. I was the last one to join the band. I joined at the end of ‘93… Collective Soul was playing shows with four of the five guys in ‘92, but we got signed to Atlantic Records in early ‘94, so that’s what we kind of consider as being on the map or whatever…
CF: What is different now from when you released Collective Soul back in 1995?
WT: Well, we’ve got kids and our schedules a little different. In 1994 and ‘95, we were recording songs and playing over 200 live shows in both of those years. It was like 215, and the second year it was like 222 shows, so we went from the end of ‘93 doing some charity shows and having the small college station in Atlanta playing something off of an independent label, a little song called “Shine”… to by the end of ‘94 we’re signed to Atlantic Records, were opening up for Aerosmith.
We take two months during the holiday season, go to Miami, record the second record, which is self-titled, by the time we are finish up that record, Sammy Hagar is literally calling us in the studio asking us when we’re done and can we open up for Van Halen, and that’s spring ‘95.
There’s not going to be anything like that again and now me and Ed are fathers and we still have an extreme passion, and we feel like there is something magical when we get together and play, but we do about 100 shows a year, and we focus on family and other things, our side projects musically as well.
CF: I know you guys released a live album with the Atlanta Youth Orchestra back in 2016, but this is your ‘first’ proper live album: Why did 2017 seem like the right time to put one out?
WT: We’ve got stuff recorded that goes way back, it’s just I think, especially back in the day, every release was so strategic and thought out… so take the early days – there are some bootlegs that I’m proud of that are out there. But take out the early days because Atlantic Records wanted new music. I think part of us was just we don’t want to invest the time all these years, and then finally we were just like, “know what, let’s definitely do a live record…”
We hear too often how good we are live, and we do festivals with other bands, and every time we play live we seem to stick out amongst the comments. So we figured if we take so much pride in it and we’re so confident about what we do, we might as well release something for the fans. So we finally got off of our laziness and our perfectionist side and just went ahead and released something. No edits, no overdubs, that’s it.
CF: The album was created by choosing from recordings of over 160 shows: What was the process like and how did you choose what to include?
WT: Shawn Grove is kind of like… really we met Shawn in 1998 with the recording of Dosage, but definitely the last 15 years or so, Shawn is kind of like our ‘sixth man’. So he engineers, co-produces, mixes a lot of our stuff from the last 10 years for sure, but Sean kind of sifted through it, we didn’t listen to all that stuff.
The first step was Shawn saying, “Hey, which shows do you guys really remember kicking ass at?” so we kind of started there. How much of those 160 he listened to, I’m not sure, but we’ve got so many live shows documented, so he was choosing from like a 12 to 15 month period where those two summers involved plenty of shows we recorded before we started mixing the record. It was mainly trusting Shawn because Shawn knows, he has been to enough shows and he’s kind of like our sixth guy.
CF: As a band that has been around over two decades, it seems reasonable to say that you have some understanding of longevity: What do you think makes a band or a song stand the test of time?
WT: I’ve got my opinions, and I love having this conversation. I studied at college on performance scholarships, and then I became a music theory major, and to me, it’s kind of like the last unknown. It’s the last magic, how frequencies can hit people’s ears and mix with melody and harmony and lyrics, and change the way people feel, change the way they act. It can definitely heal you.
If I had the answer to that, I think I would be making a lot more money than I do right now… [Laughs] But, it’s just that beautiful combination that sparks one’s soul and it’s hard to quantify, but it is kind of the last form of magic. Between melody and lyrics, you can move a lot.
CF: Talking about melody and lyrics, can you take us through a bit of the band’s songwriting process, and where your inspiration comes from?
WT: Most of it, especially lyric-wise, is Ed’s inspiration. Sometimes we know what he is thinking about from the moment he starts singing it, whether something he’s experiences or the band has experienced, or just something that is going on in the world today, period. A lot of that lyrically is all Ed, but for me, the inspiration comes from trying to craft a beautiful song. We’ve always talked about the quality of a song and what makes a song, and that’s what I focus on.
CF: Throughout your career, we can imagine that you’ve had a fair share of interesting experiences: Is there one moment that stands out, a grounding experience or moment of perspective that reminds you why you do all of this?
WT: As far as the big question of why we do all this, I think for me that’s kind of like a combination of years and experience, and then you kind of understand again how powerful music is in the world. But definitely there’s some single moments that stick out: Whether it’s just being shocked by 350,000 people at Woodstock, and King’s X happens to be playing too, bands before us, and that would have been my favorite current band of the moment, from the early 90s/late 80s, me and Shane’s – the original Collective Soul drummer. W
We were meeting King’s X backstage, they were going on stage, and I’m watching them side stage in front of 350,000 people and this real feeling of like, “Oh my God, look at that!” And then mixed with, “Dang. I’ve gotta follow King’s X,” and there I am, 23 years old.
I always look back at that, the videos and photos and stuff, and I’m glad we took it seriously, and I’m glad we were influenced by some of the right people who became good friends. Same thing with the Van Halen guys, those were some of the most meaningful things in my life thus far as far as the career and friendships with these guys who are literally legends. That’s something that always means a lot, and I think about. I think about how cool they are. I try to live my life that way, down to earth and happy to be doing this.