Follow the lighthouse: A spontaneous interview with Collective Soul bassist Will Turpin

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Circa January 15, 2015, Will Turpin lays down a groove-filled bass track for Collective Soul’s ninth studio album, “See What You Started by Continuing.” Image Credit: Will Turpin’s official Facebook

“When I play the bass, I translate it in my mind as a keyboard, which means it’s more melodic rather than technical.” Uncovering the well-spring of his seemingly spontaneous musical prowess proves rather easy for multi-hyphenate artist Will Turpin, best known as a founding member of gritty ’90s alternative rockers Collective Soul.

Following the 2009 release of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductees’ self-titled, return to form record [aka Rabbit], the group unanimously decided to abstain from any unified songwriting or recording and focus primarily on solo projects.

In Turpin’s case, that edict gave birth to fan favorite The Lighthouse [2011], a five-song, radio-ready pop EP clearly reflecting his extraordinary growth as an artist, ear for melody, lyricist, lead vocalist, producer, and musical dexterity on keyboards for the first time.

But this maturation should come as no surprise. Turpin always seemed predestined for a career in music, having spent innumerable childhood hours absorbing the good vibes in his father’s Real 2 Reel recording studio.

The EP’s anchors are undoubtedly “Sailor,” a cautionary message to Evans, then seriously battling substance abuse — he has conquered his addiction and now speaks to youth groups — and “My Star,” a bouncy, guitar-driven ode recalling his near lethal courtship with future wife Donna Dillard Turpin.

Inadvertently encapsulating his songwriting and recording motto, Turpin admits, “Good art is where you are at a certain moment in time in your life and that’s what you try and depict when you lay down the track.”

To promote the independent release, the intrinsically melodic singer formed Will Turpin and The Way with several childhood friends and performed concerts around their Atlanta home base. The Lighthouse [Live from Real 2 Reel Studios] EP offers a maximum dose of the rockers’ primeval power.

The reserved, approachable, contented father of three logged over 160 shows in eight countries supporting Collective Soul’s follow-up to Rabbit, 2015’s See What You Started by Continuing. Gearing up for an intense 2017, the quintet is expected to unleash its 10th long player in a record store near you.

In an all-encompassing interview debuting exclusively today, fascinating Turpin anecdotes you won’t want to miss include growing up obsessed with the Beatles, REM, INXS, and U2 in a small Southern town, the formation of Collective Soul, whether he knew he would be playing bass when he joined the band, recording 1993’s double platinum Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, how he congratulated Dolly Parton when she performed “Shine” on The Tonight Show, opening for a shockingly sober Aerosmith during the “Get A Grip” worldwide tour, the legitimacy of bootleg recordings, a profound tribute to John Lennon, and loads more.

The Complete Will Turpin Interview

What are your memories of growing up in Stockbridge?

Stockbridge is a small Southern town, about 20 miles from Atlanta. All the conveniences of a big city were really, really close. It’s probably five or six times larger than when we lived there — Atlanta’s been booming for awhile population wise.

My father owns a recording studio called Real 2 Reel in Jonesboro — eight miles from Stockbridge — which opened in 1976. Last time I put it on a flyer, my father’s partner, Steve Rawls, had to correct me. I’m 43 years old, and I still don’t know which name goes where [laughs]. But my dad raised a family on that little studio.

Kids played football in the fall, then baseball in the spring. Nice church folk — the Methodists, the Baptists. A pretty simple time back then, but as soon as we could drive, we went to Atlanta and took care of anything you can imagine.

I went to see rock shows like U2’s Joshua Tree tour, which was an amazing moment. INXS’s Kick tour also sticks out. Both were at the Omni, which is now Philips Arena. In our little town — as Paul Simon would say — that was “alternative” rock. My friends would say, ‘Whoa, dude, you’re listening to some crazy stuff!’ [laughs].

Who are some of your musical influences?

I always tell people the Beatles, since I probably listened to them the most in my life, especially Paul McCartney. I’m steeped in the classics — Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Elton John.

As for modern-day guys, Foo Fighters are killing it. I started listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers when people didn’t know what an Uplift Mofo Party Plan [1987] was. They’re still putting out great music. Manchester Orchestra is a pretty good Atlanta, Ga., band that I like.

How did you find the Beatles?

The first song I learned was “I’ve Just Seen a Face” from Rubber Soul. My dad was a musician in a country rock band in the days of Alabama and Pure Prairie League, and they did a version of the song.

My dad, who was my earliest musical influence, told me about the Beatles and actually saw them live at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium in August 1965. It was their one and only appearance ever in Atlanta. I basically grew up listening to them, Elton John, U2, R.E.M. and INXS.

What are your favorite albums by the Beatles?

That’s tough because they’re all so good but that period from Rubber Soul [1965] to Magical Mystery Tour [1967] is my favorite. To watch them take that first step from being experimental or ambitious with Rubber Soul and watch them progress on each rung of the ladder to Revolver to Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, and all within a three-year period.

You go from Rubber Soul to Revolver to Sgt. Pepper to Magical Mystery Tour — that’s just an amazing progression. I like The White Album as a whole but there are some tracks I feel were a little too experimental. It’s still a classic.

Abbey Road is a masterpiece and probably my favorite album, but that three-year period where they recorded those four records is truly amazing.

What are your favorite Beatles songs?

There’s so many — ”Let It Be”, “Yesterday,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Hey Jude” — you can’t underestimate the greatness of those songs or take them for granted. Those are epic. I’m finding I like a lot of George’s material, too. “Something” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” are cool.

Any admiration for their lesser-known, undiscovered gems?

Is there really such a term when it comes to the Beatles? [laughs]. I mean, all of their songs are so well known. It doesn’t matter if the song was a №1 hit or not, I think the public knows their entire music catalog equally.

But if you’re asking what are my favorite album tracks that were not singles, I’d have to go with “If I Needed Someone”, “A Day In the Life”, “Dear Prudence”, “The Fool On the Hill” and “For No One”, which my son Tristan sings very well. He just nails that song.

Sounds like you are more influenced by Paul McCartney rather than John Lennon.

I am and that’s probably because we’re both bass players. I am not ashamed to admit I want to play bass like McCartney. We both have the same approach to the bass, and that is, we approach it as an instrument rather than just laying down the track or keeping the rhythm section in line.

When I play the bass, I translate it in my mind as a keyboard, which means it’s more melodic rather than technical. I believe his style is the same approach.

Did you ever play a Hofner bass, the instrument McCartney used on a lot of the early Beatles tunes?

Yes, I have played the Hofner a few times but it felt too light to me, like I was playing the cello or violin. Now, the other bass McCartney uses is a Rickenbacker, which is totally kick ass. I used that on a song called “Understanding” on Collective Soul’s Rabbit [2009], and it sounded great.

But I usually play on a Stingray bass. I’ve also played on a Fender. Each instrument produces a certain sound.

As songwriters, do you feel Lennon and McCartney’s solo output suffered any after the break-up of the Beatles?

That’s a tough answer to give because when you look at it, they were both prolific writers and had amazing solo careers. I don’t like comparing or examining one era to another.

Good art is where you are at a certain moment in time in your life and that’s what you try and depict when you lay down the track. So it’s like comparing the Beatles in 1959 to 1969. It’s not a fair comparison because you’re not comparing apples to apples. Same when you compare Beatles with solo Beatles.

As solo artists Lennon and McCartney both got a little quirky at times — Lennon with Some Time in New York City [1972] and McCartney with Wild Life [1971] — but if I’m going to a desert island and had to take one artist, I’m taking the Beatles.

Collective Soul has a very similar approach to melody that the Beatles did. How much of an influence are they are on the entire group?

It’s just mainly Ed Roland and me that are the big Beatles fans in Collective Soul, but we all respect them immensely as artists and musicians. Everything sort of starts and stops with them. You can’t top the Beatles. All art forms mimic each other in one way or another but the Beatles are the start of the rock era.

Any chance Collective Soul might record a tribute album to the Beatles one day?

We actually performed “Revolution” every night on the “Disciplined Breakdown” tour in 1997. We also did an impromptu version of “Yellow Submarine” once in Naperville, Illinois, in 2005.

As to recording a full tribute album, that’s very doubtful but it’s not a bad idea. We’d just have to decide if we wanted to spend the time to do it. Personally, I’d love to do it because I cover them all the time.

Do you remember the day Lennon was murdered?

I was a nine-year-old kid at the time and vaguely remember that day. What I remember most was that my mother was very sad and my dad was speechless, almost crestfallen.

You have to remember what John Lennon and the Beatles meant to their generation and how one insane act took away such a talented person. His murder will never make sense and the pain of his loss is still felt.

I would have loved to have seen Lennon grow older and watch him progress both musically and culturally. He had great and innovative ideas on peace and love, and we sure do need a voice like his in today’s world.

What we can be thankful for is that we have his music to enjoy and savor. Lennon’s songs will live on forever and will be played by future generations to come.

What are your favorite Lennon songs?

“Jealous Guy,” “Imagine,” “Instant Karma,” “[Just Like] Starting Over” and “I’m Losing You.” They’re excellent songs and they show Lennon’s great musical range. Those tunes, especially the first three I mentioned, are right up there with anything the Beatles ever did.

Collective Soul recorded “Jealous Guy” for 1995’s Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon. Your version is outstanding. What do you recall about that session?

That was one of those assignments that just fell in our laps and was a very special moment in our career. I think we gave a great performance on that one. We nailed it…we really nailed it. I feel so good about that song.

I can look back decades later and say, ‘Did we or did we not get that one? I think we nailed it.’ Our performance of “Jealous Guy” is very special and I’m real happy with how it turned out. It’s just on.

For “Understanding” [Rabbit, 2009], you wrote a line that was very Lennonesque: “Dancing to the rhythm from the knowledge of a hard drive spin.”

Thank you for recognizing that. The way that song came about was very cool. Ed Roland told everyone to write on a sheet of paper a set of lyrics and he’d collect them the next day. So we did and he took lyrics from everyone and took his favorite bits and pieces and turned it into a song.

Lennon was a master at word play, and he often wrote lyrics that sounded really good but didn’t necessarily mean anything. The prime example is the song “Come Together” from Abbey Road. “Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease” sounds really good but it doesn’t really make sense.

The songs on your debut solo release, The Lighthouse EP, are personal in a similar way to Lennon’s. Do you find yourself emulating his strategy while writing a song?

Yes and no; both of our styles are very personal, but he was a lot more daring and willing to reveal more than I am. His songs are like a personal diary and laid bare for all to see whereas I try to mask mine a bit.

Yes, my songs are personal but I don’t want to be too specific with my songs. I am not at that point where I want to put it all out there on the line like John did.

Lennon virtually quit music for five years [19751980] to raise his son Sean. Could you ever see yourself abandoning your career to raise your kids?

Frankly, no, that would be difficult for me. I have three kids ages 16, 11 and 9 and I’ve always had to work while raising my kids. But you have to understand my situation was so much more different than John Lennon’s.

He had a very crazy, chaotic life and I could never possibly begin to understand the strain and pressure he must have felt. The Beatles had ATOMIC fame and no one can even imagine what that must have been like except for the four individuals in the band.

John probably needed to take that five-year break for his own sanity. I think he recognized that he got a second shot at fatherhood and decided to take it.

I’m lucky that there is a balance of friendship, music and family with Collective Soul. We all know and understand each other. We know when it’s time to make music and when it’s time to take a break.

When Lennon did emerge on 1980’s Double Fantasy, fatherhood had obviously changed him and his songs were lighter and more joyous. Can you see where fatherhood can do that to an artist?

Absolutely. When you become a father you definitely become a lot more inward. You change because you start trying to lead by example, and that means being a good role model and father. It’s like that old saying, “with age comes wisdom,” and hopefully if you’re doing something right, you become a better person.

Being a father does change your outlook and you hear it on Double Fantasy. His songs on that album reflect not only the joys of domesticity but the enormity of life. It’s just too bad Lennon’s ended when he was 40, as he really seemed to be enjoying life and celebrating fatherhood.

You and former Collective Soul lead guitarist Joel Kosche paid tribute to Lennon in October 2011 as musical mentors on the John Lennon Educational Bus when it swung through Georgia on a national tour. Tell us what that was like.

It was an extremely cool experience for everyone involved, especially me. It’s a non-profit mobile recording studio dedicated to providing students of all ages with free hands-on opportunities to make music and produce video projects.

The bus was loaded with state-of-the-art recording gear and Apple computers. It’s as high tech as it gets. The interesting thing is that Jonathan Beckner, who co-produced The Lighthouse, also helped in the design of the bus, so there was another big personal connection for me.

Basically Joel and I got to hang out and spend the day with students from SAE Institute Atlanta — a local trade school — creating songs with Avid Pro Tools along with a video.

That day made me realize that we as a society need to continue raising awareness to keep music and arts in our school system. I also came to realize that John Lennon’s hopes and dreams are still alive on that bus.

What do you teach young kids who want to make music their full-time career?

I teach them two things. The first is to try and play with people who are better than you. Lessons are wonderful, practicing alone is essential in your development, but nothing beats playing with great players.

The second thing I teach them is to keep a side job. Try to be a lawyer or doctor who plays rock on weekends. The industry has changed and evolved so much even when I first started out, and it just keeps getting harder and harder to break through or earn a living.

I would never discourage anyone not to go for their dreams but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. There’s nothing wrong with getting a college degree before venturing off into a career in entertainment.

Did you always want to be a musician?

I’ve always wanted be a musician. Same thing in high school — I was a member of our all-state band. I achieved some of the highest tympani scores while I was there. You would go in front of the judges, which made me learn to focus when it comes to performing live.

I rarely practiced. I knew I was practicing half or a third of what the other guys were. But what they wanted to hear was musicality — I might miss a technical thing now and then, but they heard musicality in everything I did. Every day I try to be musical in everything I do.

I was a performance major in college; I was on a full music scholarship to Florida State University as a percussionist. I continued playing piano in live bands along the way. I eventually got to play piano on many Collective Soul tracks.

Ultimately, I was thinking I might be a teacher also, not necessarily a high school teacher but somehow just teach music. I was teaching 27 private students during my fifth year of college when we got signed by Atlantic Records.

I had to call ’em up and say, “Hey, I just took another job with Atlantic, so I can’t be your private teacher anymore. Now I play bass in a rock band” [laughs]. That’s really how it started.

I was teaching percussion — tympani, marimba, classical instruments — playing piano, and playing percussion — hand drums, congas — live with anybody around town. I’ve always played music, and people have invited me out to play more music with them. And that’s what Collective Soul is about — friends that sounded best when they played together.

How did Collective Soul meet?

Obviously, we all went to high school in Stockbridge. That’s the place where Collective Soul met. We were all like-minded musician spirits. Ed Roland is six years my senior, and he was a head engineer at Real 2 Reel, also working on his solo stuff — i.e. Ed-E-Roland, Core Records, 1991

Original drummer Shane Evans, founding lead guitarist Ross Childress, and I were playing together in high school. Dean Roland was my brother’s best friend. It was a very small unit kind of thing. We had about 200 people in our graduating class, and the high school had about 800 kids.

We had plenty of friends, but we were the only ones in Southern Georgia listening to so-called alternative music like U2, INXS, and R.E.M. So music brought us together and made us successful.

Did you know you were going to be playing bass when you were asked to join Collective Soul?

That’s a good question. No, I did not [laughs]. That came about through necessity basically — they needed a bass player. It was my idea to play bass. I was like, “Man, I’ll play!” Nobody asked anybody; it was like a light bulb went off in my head. They were like, ‘Yeah, if you’ll play bass that’ll be perfect!’ The same thing happened with the Beatles and U2 — they sat down and talked about it.

Now I had been playing stringed instruments like acoustic guitar since I was about 13. So I understood a fret board. Music theory was something I was interested in, and it was very easy to understand. If I understood a fret board, I could relate it to a piano.

When I said I could play bass, I didn’t have any qualms at all in my mind about being able to play the notes in the song. I did have a little learning curve with actual bass technique.

When I go back and listen to bootlegs of us back in 1994 — I’d been playing bass less than a year — I thought, ‘Whoa, that wasn’t too bad.’ Chemistry, vibe, and being able to get on the same page in essence are way more important than technical skills or how fast you can play a guitar instrumental.

Did you play on Collective Soul’s first record, Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid [1993]?

It was a collection of songwriter demos. Most of them weren’t recorded as “a band.” Ed recorded the songs under the recognition that it was his songwriting demos, stuff like “Reach” and “Burning Bridges.” It was an odd time in Ed’s life, but the writing was exceptional.

But those songs did launch our whole career. I think Shane Evans was the drummer on every song except “Shine,” which utilized a drum machine. Shane had been playing with Ed for about four years at that point.

Ross Childress obviously played a lot of lead guitar. Joe Randolph, still a friend of mine, played some guitar. Joe isn’t in a band today.

Ed played the bass on the majority of the songs, maybe Joe on some. I only played bass on one tune — “Heaven’s Already Here” — and sang some backup vocals here and there. I was kinda in and out. When I joined the band, that record was not out yet, but the songs had already been recorded. I was, however, playing with them live.

Were there any memorable moments during Collective Soul’s 1994 tour with Aerosmith or subsequent 1995 jaunt with Van Halen that you could share?

I’ve got a few stories [laughs]. We were 23 or 24, just living the life. It was fun, but the friendships that were created are what really come to mind. I’m still close friends with Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony of Van Halen.

This may surprise you, but there were no wild times spent with Aerosmith because that was the Get a Grip tour, which was the first time ever that Aerosmith were all clean and sober at the same time. They simply couldn’t drink or they’d get tossed from the tour.

But those guys were very cool. Tom Hamilton and Brad Whitford were great to hang out with and very supportive of Collective Soul; Joe Perry was very busy but friendly when he had a chance to talk.

I didn’t see much of Steven Tyler at all. The interesting thing is that Steven’s daughter Liv did watch our shows in the front row almost every night. That was when she starred in the Aerosmith videos — “Cryin’” and “Crazy” — and was starting to make a name for herself in the movie industry. We’d talk backstage and I’ll admit it was a little intimidating, but she’s a real sweetheart.

Aerosmith were very gracious hosts and even though they were making a serious attempt at getting sober, they never stopped us from partaking in alcoholic beverages [laughs].

What did you think when Dolly Parton recorded a bluegrass version of “Shine” for her Little Sparrow album?

Man, that was a huge, huge honor. She won a Grammy in 2002 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance of the Year for “Shine.” I sent her a dozen roses when she performed it on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Ed Roland has penned virtually all of Collective Soul’s song arsenal. However, on the band’s 2009 Rabbit record, the group contributed “Understanding” and “You.”

Our influence is in a lot of Collective Soul songs that we don’t have writing credit for. My contribution on “Understanding” would have been lyrically — I contributed the line ‘Dancing to the rhythm from the knowledge of a hard drive spin’ — and on “You” it was musically. Both began in the studio.

“You” was originally a keyboard line — I was on Rhodes — but it turned into a guitar thing. Dean Roland had the first idea on acoustic guitar, and I was working off his idea. That’s how that song came about at the Lake House in Seneca, South Carolina.

Has Collective Soul thought about re-interpreting their classic songs in an acoustic setting?

We have done some acoustic stuff, and those opportunities are definitely something we’re going to explore. We still get along, and the roster of material that we’ve created — when I look back — is pretty amazing.

How does it feel to be a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame?

There’s something in the water down here. The list is crazy for the per capita of the nation. You’ve got classic R&B and soul singers like Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and James Brown. Then there are rock ’n’ rollers like the Lynyrd Skynyrd connection, the Allman Brothers Band, the B-52’s, R.E.M., and the Black Crowes.

I’m honored to be among those folks. I was 38 years old when I was elected into the hall in 2009–15 years down the line of my career with the band. Located in Macon, the museum sadly closed down two years later after ongoing financial struggles.

Our memorabilia is being properly stored. My original Gibson Les Paul bass, I call it the Les Paul bass, was originally there. I can’t remember the model number, maybe it’s an S5. Anyway, it’s a Les Paul body. It appears in the photograph from the inside booklet of Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid.

Some classic outfits and classic posters from past tours were also in there, along with guitar amp heads from the Dosage tour in 1999. There’s so much more stuff in the vaults that could be displayed. Our exhibit will find a new home.

What led you to release your first solo project, The Lighthouse EP?

I’ve been writing, documenting ideas and recording tunes seriously for about 13 years. Collective Soul’s been very busy since 2004, and it’s tough to be able to focus on my stuff. But we’re at that point in our careers where we can focus on other projects.

I didn’t present any of the songs to Collective Soul. I wrote every one, and Ed Roland was a co-writer on two — “Her Name” and “Sailor.” “60 Seconds” and “My Star” were written roughly around 2007, while the others are more recent.

I started with 14 tunes, but I decided to go ahead and release five on The Lighthouse. In today’s world, I don’t think the anticipation for an album is like it used to be. Part of the reason why these songs came out first is they were the first to be taken to completion. None of these were really hard to write, they came pretty easily. They were just meant to be.

I named the EP The Lighthouse as I was working on it, knowing it would be a five-song project. The overall imagery of what’s going on in my life, plus the honest lyrics in “Sailor,” led me to that title, too [Author’s Note: First announced in October 2012, Serengeti Drivers was scheduled to be Turpin’s premiere solo album but has since inexplicably sat in the vaults accumulating moss].

Who were the musicians on the record, and how long did it take to record and master?

I played acoustic guitar, what you might call “strumming parts,” and some of the picking. But the classical finger picking was all played by ex-Collective Soul lead guitarist Joel Kosche. Ryan Hoyle, ex-Collective Soul drummer, is on every track. He recorded his drums in his studio in Burbank, California. Peter Stroud — who has worked alongside Sheryl Crow and Don Henley — contributed guitar on “My Star.”

Overall, it took about eight months to record. I started all of them in my basement studio. I do all programming on drums there. I then did some mixing and overdubs at Real 2 Reel Studios in Jonesboro, Ga.

Was the EP your first work as a producer?

I coproduced the EP with Jonathan Beckner, who also engineered the record. I let him make some production calls for me. This wasn’t my first time producing some tracks — Michael Tolcher’s Certified Organic record came out really good in 2007. There was a song I did with Michael called “Voila.” It was used in a Hilton ad campaign and saw some airplay.

I started production back in the day, about 20 years ago. I grew up in my dad’s studio, working every day in the studio, so it seemed like a natural progression. Hopefully more of that will come since the EP has been released. People will know exactly where my head/ear is.

If the circumstances were optimal, I would consider producing more artists. One part of producing I don’t like is when I feel like a babysitter. I like working with experienced individuals, or at least individuals who are extremely good [laughs].

I haven’t had any “bad” production experiences, but there are definitely some things I wouldn’t go back and do again at this point in my life. It’s just a waste of time.

How important is the studio in terms of achieving the perfect sound?

What matters most is not the environment but your vibe. You can use microphones and outboard gear until you’re blue in the face. But if the artist isn’t into what they’re doing, it’s not gonna happen.

So I’m always a head space kinda guy as far as how I make music and sounds. With that in mind, the studio definitely matters because it’s not all knobs and circuits, it’s the vibe you get while you’re at the studio.

Now location of the studio can be awesome. Sometimes it’s very difficult at my house. I’ve got three kids. It would probably be advantageous to go away for a couple of weeks and record somewhere.

In addition, not all songs start in the studio — it just depends on which song, which record. The songs that Ed brings to us are almost complete tunes, which reminds me of a song like “Run.” We turned it into a Collective Soul tune, but Ed brought that song ready to go on acoustic. And there’s other songs that we give that Collective Soul touch that come out of our jams.

Beginning with “60 Seconds,” could you share the story behind each selection on The Lighthouse?

Most of the songs, except “My Star,” started on piano. “60 Seconds” is just about a quickie — random sex with an unknown partner [laughs].

  • “Sailor”

Some of the songs might have specific themes or ideas that I was thinking about, but in the end I’m gonna try to make the lyrics specific yet general enough for them to be used under a number of different circumstances.

Somebody can’t save you if you don’t want to be saved. If you don’t want to follow the light the lighthouse puts out, that’s your decision. But if you do, it can save you. “Sailor” is the reference to The Lighthouse, specifically the lyric ‘I can’t save the sailor from the storm.’ That line is about our former drummer Shane Evans.

  • “My Star”

That’s about me — but I’m not the star — my wife Donna is the star. Her grandfather got his shotgun out at 4 a.m. one morning. He didn’t know it was me leaving his property. He told me later, “I almost put one across your hood.” I could have been shot. So imagine the verses from the perspective of me stealing something I didn’t think I deserved.

The song started out on an acoustic riff. There’s 12-string guitar and electric guitars on “My Star,” courtesy of Peter Stroud. It’s hard to keep those guitars in tune, so I won’t have it onstage [laughs]. I’m a strummer, rhythm guitar guy, so that’s my focus — the feel and the rhythm.

Peter lives in Atlanta, and I’ve been friends with him for over a decade. I just sent the track to him over the Internet, and he added his parts in his home studio. Technology is exceptional these days, isn’t it?

  • “Her Name”

“Her Name” was always a Rhodes sound. It was written about that girl who really shines in a crowd and loves being around people. But there’s an undercurrent — when she’s not in the spotlight, she finds it difficult to deal with herself. She is depressed and in a bad place when she’s not the center of attention. It is a nice little jewel.

  • “Sanity”

“Sanity” is about having a crutch, whether it’s drugs or whatever it may be in your life that becomes an obstacle to going down the right path. It’s about not going down the wrong path, finding another way.

How did you meet Jason Fowler and Scott Davidson, the original members of Will Turpin and the Way?

They are both exceptional musicians from the same part of Atlanta where I was raised. I’ve known Scott since I was about 15. He went to a different high school, and he was a drummer. We were in both honor and all-state bands together. Actually, competing percussionists as far as “best in the state” type things with judges. That’s how far back I go with Scott. He sort of retired from being a professional musician in 2005. He’s a Berkeley grad, and he lives nearby.

Jason was in a band with my brother for a moment when I was about 20. He has been in various Atlanta bands, and he’s always been a musician [his latest album is the Christian rock-laced I Fall In]. We have played together many times through the years. Often just at my house, hanging out, playing songs, or writing together.

When I was talking to Jason about starting a band, he brought up Scott’s name. Jason remarked, “Man, he lives only five miles from here.” “Perfect.” So we got Scott out of retirement [Author’s Note: Davidson opted to resign from the band and venture into real estate full time. His last show was recorded on February 7, 2013, for the Stageit Internet taping of The Lighthouse [Live from Real 2 Reel Studios] six-song EP. Calvin Kelly plays percussion with the band some, while original Collective Soul drummer Shane Evans has sat in on a handful of live charity appearances].

I like the idea of a small, tight band. When we first began promoting The Lighthouse, we explored stripped down, acoustic versions of the tunes. I functioned à la Ray Manzarek of the Doors — using octaves on my left hand for almost everything that I played. It wasn’t necessarily difficult, but it would have sounded better and fuller if I had a bass player or I was playing bass instead of keyboards. That’s why I’m so happy that Mark Wilson officially joined us to handle bass duties.

Have you considered performing your songs at a Collective Soul gig?

I can envision performing my songs at some special events, but I don’t know about Collective Soul headlining. To me, it’s different musical styles, and it’s difficult for me to transform my songs. We could probably do “Her Name” pretty easily, but Dean Roland would have to switch to bass. He’s played bass before, though.

What is your stance regarding bootleg recordings?

My take is, ‘Hell yeah, I’m glad somebody took the time to record it!’ [laughs]. It seems a little ridiculous to me when artists have guys stationed at their shows to stop fans from recording. I don’t think anybody who delves into or buys a bootleg isn’t going to buy our CD. It’s just cool. It’s almost an honor that they took the time to bootleg you.

What is the perfect day to you?

Hanging out with my family at the park, throwing the ball, playing soccer, chillin’ with some fresh fruit and water, and having no worries in the world is what I’d call a perfect day. Disc golf is my new favorite hobby. I started playing it on tour in the ’90s. It’s like Frisbee golf. It’s pretty physical, yet a technical sport.

What is it like to be an independent solo artist in these technologically advanced times?

There really are no rules, especially in today’s world. I can stream something I recorded today on the Internet, and the fans can listen and pick their favorite[s]. It’s so spontaneous and that’s the world I kind of want to live in.

I want to constantly send different images and ideas. You never know what kind of idea can happen, even if it’s only releasing one song. You know, ‘Here’s what I came up with, and I recorded it.’ I love that possibility.

© Jeremy Roberts, 2011, 2017. All rights reserved. To touch base, email and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email:

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