It has been just short of a quarter of a century since Collective Soul’s innovative rock pierced the airwaves with breakthrough single “Shine”. It’s a single that lived up to its name and lit the way for countless others, including “The World I Know”.
“The songs in the catalogue are all catchy and hits.” Band drummer, Johnny Rabb explained when we sat down to talk, “That’s the fascinating part about the band. They have that undeniable sound. A lot of people kind of forget how many hits have happened.”
Currently Collective Soul is wrapping up co-headlining the Rock & Roll Express tour that canvassed the nation this summer with 3 Doors Down and Soul Asylum. As the guys gear up to celebrate their 25th anniversary, they gave us behind the scenes access to the tour, what happens in the bus after a show, their plans for releasing some new music and much more!
The Feature Story: In terms of speaking for the band as a whole as you near your 25th anniversary, how have you seen touring and the music industry change over the last few decades, if at all?
Johnny Rabb/Collective Soul: I’d say that the tour has always been consistent and we’ve always appreciated having the fans come out and support what the band is doing. We’ve been doing music for the past 25 years, me with the guys for seven. The difference of streaming music, compared to like albums and stuff, it’s been obvious we’ve gone through that transition in the last ten years, but we embrace all technology. We still love vinyl, we still love cd’s and music and stuff like that. The fan base is very important and getting new fans. Playing live really gives us a chance to engage with our very loyal fans, but at the same time gain new fans through playing with 3 Doors Down and Soul Asylum through a lot of this tour. The tours are very important to us. It gives a chance to reconnect with everyone and tell them audibly how we’re doing, what’s going on. It’s great!
TFS: What was the catalyst behind getting what most consider three of the greatest rock/soul bands on the road together this summer? Did the idea originate with management discussions or between the bands?
CS: It was a culmination of both. Obviously management, booking agents and promoters, things like that all bring the show to the masses. But at the same time, of course, we all get along so well, we were like, ‘Oh that would be a great fit’! It is definitely the brainchild of, sometimes its the band, but a lot of times it’s a combination of both. You’ve got booking agents getting in there and making the decisions for the tour and what would work for everybody.
TFS: For the band, what kind of planning or preparation goes into the tour set and selection of songs, staging, etc.?
CS: That definitely is all band. Ed will be the primary one that brings the setlist to us. We might change a couple of things from night to night, but we’re staying pretty consistent. On this tour we end up getting a little over an hour, and 3 Doors Down an hour and 15 for their set. We try to hit it with the hits but also play some new songs that are not even released. It’s usually Ed that does it, but we’re just so used to playing the songs that once we get in the swing of things, it’s a lot of fun to take each show at a time and not for granted. Like tonight’s show, is a new show and we always know that this crowd is coming to see us for the first time, even if we’ve been on the road for awhile.
TFS: With so many hits, does the set list vary from city to city, based on what you are feeling that night?
CS: It’s not always what is to be expected. I’ve heard bands ask, ‘Can you play this?’ And it’s another hit that Ed has had and the guys have had. And I’m sitting here going, ‘Man he has such a vast variety of hit songs.’ I mean when I look down from the drums, realizing where we are at on the set list, there’s not a moment in the show when I’m going, ‘Oh, I don’t know…’ The songs in the catalogue are all catchy and hits. That’s the fascinating part about the band. They have that undeniable sound. A lot of people kind of forget how many hits have happened. So we try to stick to that and some of the new ones, as I was saying.
TFS: Throughout the years touring and hundreds of shows played, what is one of your all time favorite venues to play, or memories of being on the road?
CS: We’ve had the opportunity to go overseas before I was involved, doing many things like military shows and different things to support. Also benefits for cancer and fighting cancer. We always like to help out in those areas and avenues. We just did a ‘Stand For Heroes’ (I hope I’m not getting that wrong) cancer thing in San Francisco recently. It was really fun to support that cause. Within our own families we’ve got a lot of people that have battled those situations with cancer and it hits very close to home. On a personal level, we’ve gotten to play a lot of places like Red Rocks to the Fillmore in San Francisco. There’s no favorite, it’s just a blast. We grew up in Michigan and playing there is still a blast. Everywhere where the fans get into it, we really enjoy it. We get to see many different countries and states and provinces. It’s fun!
TFS: Currently, what song is one of the band’s favorite to play/perform?
CS: I really enjoy ‘Precious’ and ‘December’. It’s funny when I just go down the list of hits, everyone of them has got something for me as a drummer and player. It’s not just about drums for me, it’s about the song, where the melody is. Before I was even in the band, I thought that there was so many catchy songs that these guys had done, so it’s always a joy recreating those. We play ‘The World I Know’ toward the end of the set and that always brings back great memories for me growing up in Nashville at that time. Then our new songs are a blast too because we haven’t played them before. We’ve just been in the studio, and now we’re getting to play some of those songs live.
TFS: What do you find are the challenges of being on the road?
CS: I personally think, the one thing we don’t have a problem with is getting along. Everyone gets along in band really well, like brothers, second family, we have a great situation and set up here. Personally, people might not know this, but it’s the schedules. For me, myself, just being body tired. Even if you get to sleep, our clocks are different from my home schedule with my family – way different. So that can be a challenge because you are changing it up a lot. You might have one day that you’re up and at ‘em really early, or you might be able to take a rest during the day. So you’re body clock gets a little bit like, ‘where am I at right now?’ We visit great cities, great venues, great people, but at the same time you’re still traveling, so anybody that does travel on the road knows the ups and downs of your body getting worn out a little bit.
TFS: Again, spanning the career of years you’ve been on the road touring, what have you found to be a survival item or must have while on the road?
CS: I think that it’s not even a tangible thing, it’s like camaraderie and keeping it light and fun. It is like a family on the road. Whether we are on planes, or buses, or cars, or onstage, or back stage; we just enjoy each other’s company. We keep it fun and funny and once we get onstage, we still have fun while trying to do the best that we can at the show. I think it’s a matter of everybody’s personalities and moods, don’t get dark and stay happy. It’s pretty easy to do that, at least for me out here.
TFS: Coming into 2019 and gearing up for the 25th anniversary, are there any plans in the works for new music/touring to celebrate the anniversary?
CS: We’ve been excited that next year marks the 25th anniversary! I’m excited for the situation we are in and to be a part of it! The things the guys have done in the past, I’ve been doing for seven years. So imagine double that and times a little bit more. I’m proud that we’ve got 19 songs recorded over the last year and a half. So we’ve got the possibility of a double album, or that much material to be able to be released in 2019. That’s the rumored plan. We’re looking forward to that.
It’s been so fun, the whole process! We recorded a live album. The focus is Collective Soul of course. That’s going to be some really fun material to release. I’m really proud of what we’ve done in the past year and a half. It’s hard to believe we’ve got 19 recordings. So we’ll see what happens.
TFS: What do you do as a band after a show to unwind?
CS: We have a great show! When it’s time to wind down, everybody’s got their music they like to play on the bus. Everyone takes turns djing. It’s everything from late 70’s, even early 70’s, all the way up through today. We love 80’s music! Everything from The Cars, Yello, we’ve got Petty to The Stones. They all laugh at the techno stuff I listen to, like old kraftwerk, to everybody you can imagine, Tears for Fears. There’s no real bad stuff. The other day we had an old, like hair metal thing we were enjoying. We just love music, period! If you could be on the bus and check out the djing, it’s a good time, it’s fun! The playlists are very vast. Everyone brings something to the table with their playlist, for sure.