Collective Soul's E Roland and Gin Blossoms' Jesse Valenzuela Talk About Their Tour That's Coming to MGM Northfield Park — Center Stage on June 11

click to enlarge Gin Blossoms - Sherwvn Lainez
Sherwvn Lainez
Gin Blossoms
This summer’s pairing of Collective Soul and the Gin Blossoms is one that has been a long time coming. Collective Soul vocalist E Roland notes in a phone interview that both bands have “wanted to do this for years, and it just so happens that it worked here.” The tour includes a June 11 stop at MGM Northfield Park — Center Stage.

Gin Blossoms guitarist Jesse Valenzuela is quick to agree with Roland’s assessment.

“You know, we never played too much with them back in the ‘90s during our big period," he says in a separate phone interview. "It was different worlds [at that time]. But since the 2000s, we’ve played with them, never for a whole tour, but maybe short tours and one-offs and stuff like that and it’s always been very enjoyable,” he says. “People seem to enjoy the combination and everybody in the two bands gets along so well. It’s just waiting for it to happen, and I’m glad that it finally did.”

click to enlarge Collective Soul - Lee Clower
Lee Clower
Collective Soul
Armed with an enviable arsenal of hit records, both groups remain active with songwriting and making new music. Last year, Gin Blossoms released Mixed Reality, their sixth studio album, and Valenzuela says that they’re already looking to record new songs, hopefully later this summer.

Collective Soul are about to release their 10th album, Blood, which will arrive on June 21. They’re already playing a hefty amount of songs from the forthcoming effort during the current tour, including “Right As Rain,” a track which feels destined to join the existing stack of fan favorites as a setlist staple for years to come. But as Roland told us, there’s also a deeper tone to the album.

“A lot of these songs are a little heavier to what we’re used to doing lyrically, just because I went through a lot with my sister-in-law passing from cancer,” he says. “You know, just watching my wife’s best friend, her sister, deal with this for five years in the past. The guys were very open. I present the songs to them and they’ll let me know yay or nay. It’s a democracy. One of the cool things about being in this band, hence the word 'blood,' I know my brother’s in the band, but we’re very, very close and they understood what I was going through and they went in and kicked its ass."

Roland and Valenzuela went on to discuss a variety of topics, including their mutual love of golf.

You both have had no shortage of new music happening recently.
We made a double record and the second one comes out next year. It’s just that the times have changed and our management talked us out of it. Rightfully so. I’m 10 years older than the rest of the guys in the band, so I grew up with The White Album and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Frampton Comes Alive. When I got signed, I was like, if I ever get a chance, I want to do a double album. It’s just one of those egotistical crazy things in your head. And we did, but by the time we did it, streaming is here now. Nobody even has a CD player anymore. We talked about that last night as a band. So the label, rightfully so, talked us out of it. So, Blood would be side two and side three of the double album.
Valenzuela: I released a [solo] record, I think it’s been two years ago now and I just cut four or five songs with Danny [Wilde, from the Rembrandts] and a really cool core band of guys in Los Angeles. Scott Hessel, the drummer from the Gin Blossoms, played drums for me, and I brought in Matt Downs, who is a really killer film composer and guitarist in L.A. Danny played bass, and we cut five songs. I think I’m going to release another record, maybe in the fall. But I don’t know, maybe it’s just an EP. I don’t know what it’s going to be. But it’s going to be free, because I just don’t see the advantage of charging for anything anymore. I just wrote a new song [for the Gin Blossoms] that I sent to the guys and we’re going to start piecing it together in dressing rooms. Hopefully, I’d like to record it when we have a little break in July. I’m hoping [we can] go to Phoenix and record it then.

E, psychologically, are the two albums split for you?
Yeah, they are split. When we started, we did a rock side and then we were going to do more Beatles-like [things, similar to past Collective Soul songs such as] “The World I Know,” “December,” orchestration-type [compositions]. Then, I found a groove and had more songs and we kind of found side two and side three in between there, which is what everybody is going to hear on [the first album] Blood.

Jesse, you’ve had this writing partnership with Danny Wilde that goes back a long way now and he’s written stuff with you on these last few Gin Blossoms albums. But you guys have done other stuff together as well, including the Prairie Wind record. Talk about how that chemistry and relationship developed, because you guys have such a great connection.
Valenzuela: We’ve written together for a long time for lots of different things. He’s just one of the guys that I love to write with. I live in Los Angeles and he lives [here too]. We invariably write [quite a bit together]. We haven’t had too much this year, because we’ve both been so busy with other things. He has a new Rembrandts record coming out. I have three or four songs on that record, which is really exciting. You know what happens is we just get together and write and he’s a really great record producer, so we’ll write, and then, we’ll have a couple of pieces of music going on at the same time and we’ll finish it and then in the process, we’ll just record it. And then these songs sit around, and sometimes, they just find a place, maybe the Gin Blossoms are looking for a song, and that’s how it happens. Other times, it will find its way into a TV show or a movie or whatever it might be. It’s as practical as that and it’s not truly magical, but it’s just sort of a journeyman’s work.

How has your songwriting process changed over the years?
[For me], I have this idea that I’ve been getting to for the last 10 years and it’s hard to do, which is to make things even simpler. So what has happened is that if I do think a song is done, I have to go back again and look at it and then invariably, I’ll remove something. Danny and I had this conversation because he’s producing some songs for me for a record, and he goes, "Would you put a harmony on it?" I said, no. "How about a second guitar part?" No. I want it to be really intimate and small. He totally digs it, and he gets it completely. But one night, he was just having fun and he took one of the songs we had just recorded and put all of the parts on it that he heard, which is easy to do when you have the background that we we all did — the Gin Blossoms, the Rembrandts, any of the guys that we all grew up with. That '90s sound was rife with a lot of [extra] parts and orchestrations. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s beautiful, but I just read this recently that hopefully if you have a nice song, it can just sort of hold up without all of the magic that extra parts can bring.
Roland: I think it’s the same thing as Jesse said. I present the songs either acoustic with me singing or on the piano with me singing. I think it should sound as good or better that way as it does with all of the guys around. We started this way — there was a point where everybody was kind of like, just send me the files, I’ll play my part. [With this new album], we sat the drums up and we [gathered] around Johnny [Rabb], our drummer and the amps are in the closets or outside, wherever they may be, and we play as a band. I go back to the Stones, the Beatles, Zeppelin, they played as a band. And that’s what we are, we’re a band.

When you look back at what you did with your early records, you’re capturing lightning in a bottle with those special moments. A lot of folks think that’s a particular moment in time, one that can’t be replicated. When you make that record that people love and take ownership of, that becomes their desert island disc. Is it possible to repeat that experience and capture that same magic again?
I don’t think you ever want to try to recapture that. I think you want to do better. That’s what we try to do. We try to do better. I think we have and that doesn’t come from ego, that comes from confidence and knowing that I’m surrounded by the best musicians on the planet that have the ability to communicate with me and go, “Ed, yeah, that lyric is a little dumb. Go back in there and work on that.” And I can do the same thing with them. That bass part isn’t working. That just comes with communication.
Valenzuela: I mean, you can’t capture magic. It just happens. Marc Maron had Paul McCartney on his show, and he’s interviewing Paul, and you know the cliche, invariably, whenever you ask an artist what they think of their new music, they always say this is the best music I’ve ever made. Or I’m writing the best songs of my career. And you’re in the business, so you know this first hand. They always say, “This is the best record I’ve ever made.” Marc Maron says to Paul McCartney, “Do you think you’re making the best music of your career?” And McCartney looks at Maron and says, “I was in the Beatles.” [Laughs] Can you imagine, Paul McCartney? The beauty of Paul McCartney, that magic that you talk about, which is for the Gin Blossoms, that one really spectacular moment we had with [New Miserable Experience]. If you’re in the Beatles, they did it for like 10 years or however long they were together. It’s like, can you imagine that? But I’ve never heard anyone answer that question so honestly. And arguably, you could definitely say he’s made some amazing music since the Beatles. Even with his new stuff, he’s always tuneful and beautiful and putting out great records. It’s just funny. And it is human nature that you always really want to believe in what you’re doing next and it goes to the idea of, well, I can’t wait to get up to try the next one.

Collective Soul is celebrating its 25th anniversary. “Shine” is the song that launched this whole rollercoaster ride in 1994. How do you look back on that time period and everything that was happening?
You know, it’s funny. There’s periods of time when we have downtime that I’ll reminisce about it. But my mom had pictures of us when she was cleaning her….whatever, my mom’s always cleaning! But she had pictures, and it was the original members, and it was a different bass player. Will was playing congas, and he really didn’t know if he wanted to be in the band. He was going to Georgia State and being a music major. I look back on it as absolute craziness! [Laughs] That’s the only way I can look at it! I mean, what in the hell just happened 25 years ago? And once again, it’s a celebration, because the first record [Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid] was a batch of demos made over five years, if that makes sense. So it’s a celebration of the band. I mean, we didn’t start until 25 years ago, to be honest with you. There was no band on that first record.

What are your memories of hearing each other’s music for the first time back in the day?
Those were big records, and they still sound terrific and I really respect them, because they get out there every night and they put on a really great show and they certainly represent all of their hits..
Roland: I remember the “Hey Jealousy” video for the first time. You know, they were doing toilet paper on trees. It was back when MTV played videos and you would see new bands that way. That’s my memory, which was a visual one. But then I loved the songs. I mean, what great songs. Great guys, great band, and we’re blessed to be on stage with them.

Are you both still avid golfers?
Yeah, I love it. The last time we were in town, I played at Firestone Golf Club, which wasn’t too far [from the venue]. That golf course is gorgeous. Throw it in the article for me, see if anybody wants to take an aging rocker golfing. I’ll get you tickets to the show and a couple of cocktails. Let’s go golfing.
Roland: That motherfucker! I’m going to get on [Roland's] ass. He didn’t take me [to Firestone]! God, almighty! You see, I’m the worst golfer, who has gotten to play the nicest courses in the world. That’s my gold medal. But I have not played Firestone, and he has? I’m going to get on his ass so much! You know, I’ve got children now. It takes away from my golf game. [Laughs] But I love golf. I love it.

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