K-Camp: ‘Lottery (Renegade)’ And The Biggest Dance Craze Of 2020

K-Camp: ‘Lottery (Renegade)’ And The Biggest Dance Craze Of 2020

The 100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers limited series podcast gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. Each episode will focus on one writer: sometimes, they’ll just talk about one song, other times, they’ll talk about a number of hits.

New episodes will be released each Monday through November of 2020.   

100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers special podcast series is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast.

One of the biggest songs of the year has been K-Camp’s “Lottery (Renegade),” which also spawned one of the biggest dance crazes on TikTok. We spoke to K-Camp about the song and the dance. (Listen to the podcast, where he also looks back at some of his biggest hits throughout his entire career.)

Tell me about writing “Lottery” and the success of that song.

I wrote “Lottery” when I was on the “Switch” tour. We had a stop in New York. We had like three days off in New York and I wanted to book studio time. My dog Reazy [Renegade] was in New York already. He had a session at Warner. He told me to pull up. And every time me and Reazy get together, I don’t think we ever miss. We link so rarely, but we get together, we never miss.

It was just one of those days, he’s pulling up beats. The 808s came in and I was drawn to it, and the rest is history. “Lottery” came out, swept the whole TikTok world, I don’t think nobody has passed me yet.

When did you become aware that everybody on TikTok was dancing to your song?

I became aware when I seen it on my Twitter. I see dances all the time. Every time I drop a certain [kind of] record, the dance community always eat it up.

 

I’m used to it. I think it was the New York Times and it was a story about Jalaiah [Harmon, who created the “Lottery” dance] and giving her credit.

So I found out who she was and had my homie call her mama and we linked. I got her in the studio, had her dance in the studio and put it on Instagram. And she just took it to a whole other thing.

Some people might not want to be involved with a teenager helping to make their song a viral thing. But you gave her credit. You were up front: “Hey, this girl really helped the song out!”

Right. And I knew her people. It was it was small world because a good friend, who managed Playboi Carti a little, his best friend from college’s daughter was Jalaiah, who created the dance.

Were you on TikTok when this happened?

No. I got a TikTok, but I don’t be TikTokin’, I got money to make.

In this case it did [make money]. 

I guess it did in a way.

Is there a lot of pressure now: “OK, how are we going to pull this off or something like this again now?”

NoAs a creator, I don’t go in with [the attitude], “Oh we gotta do this s— again.” Or, “We got to recreate this moment.” Because another moment probably gonna come that is probably even bigger in that moment. We just create and whenever the stars align and everything match up, that’s what’s going on, I didn’t plan that for “Lottery” [to do those] numbers. I make music. I do the music thing for real.

Do you get tired of having to hear the song? It’s so ubiquitous. 

Oh yeah, for sure. I was telling my homie yesterday, Yes. I’m tired of when I get on the ‘gram and the first thing I hear [is that song]. I skip over it every time now. I can’t take it no more.

But it has been good to you. 

It has been good. A definite blessing.

K-Camp also spoke about “1Hunnid” “Lil Bit” and other hits. Check out the podcast above to hear the full interivew. 

Lindsay Rimes: Behind The Scenes On Kane Brown’s ‘Cool Again’

Lindsay Rimes: Behind The Scenes On Kane Brown’s ‘Cool Again’

The 100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers limited series podcast gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. Each episode will focus on one writer: sometimes, they’ll just talk about one song, other times, they’ll talk about a number of hits.

New episodes will be released each Monday through November of 2020.   

100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers special podcast series is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast.

There’s room for more than one Australian in Nashville: while Keith Urban is country’s biggest hitmaker from “Down Under,” songwriter Lindsay Rimes is making a big impact on the country charts as well. In this interview, he discusses hits that he’s co-written for Kane Brown, Lindsay Ell and Luke Bryan, among others. He also discusses working with Australian national treasure Kylie Minogue.

Let’s talk about writing “Cool Again.”

I got together with a couple of buddies, Matt McGinn and Josh Hoge. We were at a hotel in town here specifically to write for Kane. We were there for a couple of days. And the first day we got together, we were sitting in the room throwing ideas around; it was in December last year. So it was really cold and a bit depressing. And Matt threw out the idea of “Cool Again.” And we were started singing it. And we knew it was really hookey and we started singing it, pretty much how you hear it on the record now. But we had to dive in and figure out the story. We started throwing around the idea of  a past relationship, reminiscing about how it was when it was warm and in summertime and it basically went from there.

You were writing with Kane in mind. 

Well, Kane was in the room. He was there the whole time. He loved it. And then I started building the track for the rest of the day. I was messing around with the dobro and at the top and then chopping that up in the song. And I knew it was a really cool signature lick for the song. And so I really messed with that quite a bit to get it to sound really unique and special.

What does everybody contribute? Are you coming up with the chords, the melody, the lyrics? Is Kane telling you what he’s gone through, or thinking about somebody he used to date a few summers ago?

I personally like to start with a guitar; I’m a musician, so I can play guitar and piano and keys and and Matt and Josh are great writers. So we’re throwing around ideas and just making a lot of noise. I like to start off like that until we sort of shape the idea and the story for the song. And then I’ll jump in on the computer and start messing with the sound and the tempo and making a beat and stuff like that. But the chords are all pretty much formed while I’m on guitar with the guys; it just feels more organic that way. When you try and keep the song more open early on, I find that you don’t lock yourself in too much. Sometimes when I start a track too early, it sort of holds the song too tightly and it grows in a different way.

What about the lyrics? Obviously you want to write about something that somebody’s experienced, but you want it to be something that other people will relate to as well.

Totally. Like I said earlier, when we came up with the “Cool Again” hook, we knew it was really catchy and special. And so we started thinking, “Well, how can we make this story connect?” And, you know, reminiscing about a past love and how it was before… it just seemed like just seemed like the right way to go. And then we just started writing the story and telling the story and trying to make it as relatable as possible.

That’s the beauty of songwriting, you can take your brain to another place and you don’t have to write from personal experience all the time. You can just make up a story and and make it relatable.

Sure. This song sort of reminded me a little bit of a song that was sung by another great Australian, Olivia Newton-John, in the movie Grease, when they’re singing about summer nights and what happened over that summer. 

That’s an interesting parallel. I didn’t think about that, I guess it’s something to do with our Australian blood. Down under, we love the sun.

 

So you write the song and then Kane and the record label take it and run. What did you think when you heard the remix with Nelly on it?

I was pretty excited, actually. Early on, as the first version was coming out, Nelly and Kane were sort of talking. I think even when we were in the studio recording the first version of “Cool Again,” Kane mentioned that Nelly and him were talking and they’d like to collab and I was pretty excited. And then one day, Kane sent me a text with Nelly on the song, just a very rough version of him rapping and singing. It was very close to how you hear it now. I got pretty excited. A lot of us grew up on Nelly. And I know he’s a big fan of country music. I was pretty stoked, actually, with the final version. It doesn’t sound far off from that first text message that I got from Kane. It was a real buzz sitting in the studio listening to Nelly’s vocal, you know, coming through my speakers.

I’m sure you’ve seen the video as well. Kane is on the beach and he’s like looking through his binoculars and: here comes Nelly!

He’s got such a great energy. He comes in with his jet ski, that’s just how he rolls, you know?

 

Talk about the other song that you did with Kane on the new EP Mixtape.

That’s a song called “Didn’t Know What Love Was.” That song started in my studio. I think it was the second day [of a writing session]. At the end of the first day, I came home and I started messing with an idea in my studio just because I wanted to have a track just kind of ready to go for the next day.

So I just started messing around with the guitar line at the start of that song, that guitar line, which is kind of like a “Bennie and the Jets” [by Elton John] kind of thing. I didn’t think it was gonna be for Kane, but I just thought, “Why not?”

And I threw it out in the room the next day and everyone started just jamming on the groove and we knew it felt good. And, you know, I kind of was a bit surprised because it’s a little left of center, it’s a little quirky and interesting. But I knew that  we needed to write a more straightforward country chorus. So we started working on some more straightforward chorus. And so the verse vibe and the chorus vibe sort of blended together well, which was a bit of a challenge at first, because all we had was the verse guitars and the groove.

So you mentioned when you were writing it, you didn’t necessarily think it was for Kane. When you write songs, do you sort of have someone’s voice in mind or you just say, “Here’s a good song, let’s see who wants it?” 

It varies, because a lot of the times you’re right in the room with buddies and you don’t have an artist in the room, so you’ll think, “Okay, let’s write for this person. I know they’re about to go in the studio.” But other times you just try and write the best song. Sometimes if you try and force a song in the direction for a particular artist, you might not do the song justice. So you’ve just got to play it by ear. And these decisions happen very quickly in the room. It’s not like we sit deliberating over it.

You know pretty quickly and instinctually whether a song’s feeling good for a particular artist or whether you’re just going to spend the day writing the best song you can.

Like you say, part of it is that there’s an obvious commercial aspect to it, in that you know X, Y and Z are on the studio. They we know they are looking for songs to finish the albums they’re working on. And then other times it’s just like, “There’s a song in my heart. I’m going to put it down and maybe somebody will want it.”

Totally. Exactly. And, you know, the more you do that, sometimes you realize some of the bigger artists, particularly the more successful artists who have had multiple hits, they want to try different things. So, sometimes you’ll write a song [and think] “This is perfect for this artist.” And you’ll pitch it and they’ll say, “I’ve done that. I want to try something different.”

So, you know, there’s something to be said for just sometimes writing a song and then pitching it. But, you know, if you tried to force it in a particular direction, it wouldn’t get cut by that artist.

Have you ever written a song and you specifically heard an artist’s voice in in your mind when you were writing it, and they didn’t want it, and somebody else cut the song and it worked perfectly? 

Actually, yeah. A few years ago, I wrote a song with two artists, Seth Ennis and Morgan Evans. Morgan is a good buddy of mine and a fellow Aussie and Seth’s another artist. And we wrote this song called “Hooked.” And for whatever reason, Morgan and Seth didn’t end up cutting the song. And I thought it would be perfect for them. And then then Dylan Scott ended up hearing the song. “Hooked” ended up becoming a pretty big hit for him.

I want to talk about one other Kane song: “Heaven” was a bonus track on his first album. 

He’d actually had his [2016 self-titled debut] record out, like you said. And he was writing for his bonus release, the deluxe version. And Sony Records put together a little writing camp, similar to the one that where we wrote “Cool Again.” We sat around and we split up into a couple of groups and I was in with Matt McGinn and Shy Carter. And Kane was upstairs with the other group writing a song. And it was just Matt and Shy and I; Matt had the opening line of the song for the chorus. I fell in love with that. I immediately knew we had to write it. And then so it all happened pretty quick. I started building a track and we we wrote the chorus and the first verse. Matt and I had to get back together in town two weeks later to write the second verse. And and at the time, we knew it was pretty special. But you never know because you think [it’s a bonus track on a deluxe version],  you don’t think that it’s gonna be a single. But the label loved it and decided to put it out as a single.

That must have been exciting; you hadn’t had many country hits at that point. 

Oh, absolutely. At that point I’d been in town three or four years. I’m pretty new, but I’d been coming for 10 years. We’re all chasing that number one song, and you never know where it’s going to come from. So to have that happen was it was magical. It’s a relief because we all want a hit. And then when that happens, it’s like a weight off your shoulders. And then it’s  a realization that it’s back to work. You know, keep cranking the songs.

Getting any song cut puts you in the game. A number one single is a really big deal in Nashville. But then, as you say, you’ve got to follow it up, and show that it wasn’t just a one off thing.

Exactly. And that’s a self-imposed insecurity, I think, for all songwriters. Like we have some success and we want to follow it up. And and this internal dialog that, “What if I’m a hoax? What if I can’t do it again?” You know, it’s largely not true, but I think you need that in order to strive to have another hit. But you never know where it’s going to come from. That’s why you just got to get in everyday and and write and just write. But that’s what makes it mysterious and exciting.

To hear the whole interview, where Lindsay talks about Luke Bryan’s “Little Less Broken,” Lindsay Ell’s “Want Me Back,” Chase Rice’s “Lonely If You Are” and working with Kylie Minogue. 

Chris Layton: Double Trouble’s Drummer Talks ‘Crossfire’

Chris Layton: Double Trouble’s Drummer Talks ‘Crossfire’

The 100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers limited series podcast gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. Each episode will focus on one writer: sometimes, they’ll just talk about one song, other times, they’ll talk about a number of hits.

New episodes will be released each Monday through November of 2020.   

100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers special podcast series is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast.

Chris Layton was the drummer of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, but he didn’t usually write songs for the band. Until their last album, that is: he was one of the co-writers on “Crossfire,” one of Stevie Ray’s last classics oof of In Step. He told us the story behind the song, and how the label asked if they could ditch the guitar solo to get it to top 40 radio.

So let’s talk about “Crossfire.” 

I was having a conversation with [co-writers] Bill Carter and Ruth Elsworth, who are really songwriters by trade. And we were talking about the idea of [Double Trouble keyboardist] Reese Wynans and [bassist] Tommy Shannon and myself and the two of them getting in our production studios and spending a week [together], and that we would work on all sorts of ideas and then we would see what we ended up with.”Crossfire” was one of a number of songs… we wrote nine songs. This was as we were a couple of months out from beginning the In Step record.  We just said, “Let’s do the business splits now and then whatever happens, happens, and we’ll all be writers, owners, if you will, of the properties when we’re done.”

So that being the agreement, we went into our space. And we just started working. “Crossfire” originated with the bassline that Tommy Shannon plays on the song. He and I, we developed a groove really based on that on his on his bass line. And we got together and kicked around things like chords, chord structure.  Bill Carter and Ruth Elsworth actually wrote the lyrics to the song.

 

The band had gone through a bunch of different difficulties with substance and whatnot and had come to a point where we had made a decision  to take a different tack in the way that we were going. In the direction in our music, our lives, everything else. And so we discussed the things that had, you know, tempted us, plagued us, inspired us, troubled us. The list goes on and on.

And they came back with lyrics that kind of expressed all of that in a simple way. And we took that and we developed that into what became the finished song as a demo. We took it into the studio and we changed it a little bit more.

I remember seeing Stevie Ray right before In Step came out. He popped up at a Living Colour concert with just his electric guitar. I think he played “Tightrope” and something else before Living Colour came on. It just seemed like he was sort of rejuvenated. I think there was an awareness with that ans that he had gotten through some substance stuff at that time. And I guess that was part of the energy of that record. 

Very much so. He was in Dallas. He had reconnected in a real significant way with one of his old oldest friends, Doyle Bramhall. That’s the father; not Doyle Bramhall II, who we were later in the Arc Angels with.

 

We were all like one big kind of extended family. But they had reconnected and they were sitting around talking about their experiences with life and with substance abuse and whatnot and they they spent long hours just sitting in Stevie’s living room with guitars. And they developed [those conversations] into songs. So when we got together, he said, “Hey, I’ve got these songs.” One of them was “Tightrope”… that was a groove that Tommy and I actually developed and said, “Here, take it up to Dallas if you want to see what you guys can do with it.” So those songs were kind of connected, but “Crossfire,” Stevie didn’t have any part of [writing].

And when we played it for him, we talked about the lyrics. He goes, “What is the song saying? ‘Save the strong, lose the weak?'” We said, “No, that’s in jest. The idea is that what we don’t want to do is just save the strong and lose the weak.” And he said, “Yeah, I get that.”

He took the song and he said, “I have to live with it for a minute. to see if I really connect with everything about it,” which is really a great thing about him. That’s why I can go back and listen to all the music that we recorded. And every bit of it is is really focused on intent and meaning. And there was really no other consideration to the music that we ever did.

But he did sit with it for about a week and he came back. He said, “I got it. Let’s let’s cut it. “And so we did.

When that record came out, the two songs you would hear on the radio most were “Crossfire” and “Tightrope.” And later on, I think “The House Is Rockin’.” I’ve heard stories of artists who don’t have to write all their own songs, but they want the singles to be the ones that they wrote. Were you surprised to see that “Crossfire” was one of the first singles from the album?

Stevie never treated songs that way. He usually didn’t care about money, which could be a little bit of an issue at times because, you know, we were while we were a band, we were also trying to run a business. We have to care about money because if we don’t care about it we’ll suffer for that. So there was not a conversation, “Well, I wrote this one, so that’s got to be the single.”  I always heard that as one as, that could be a single… and a really good one. And it did become that.

In fact, as it went up, the album oriented radio charts, it hung at number one for quite a while. Sony Music wanted to do an edit in order to cross it over into contemporary hit radio because they thought it could be like actual real national chart topper.

And that’s a funny story. They said, “It’s a great song. And it would really do everything that [a hit] needs to. But we’d have to get rid of the guitar solo because that that kind of stuff doesn’t really work on contemprary hits radio. And Stevie said, “Well, I thought we were a guitar band.” So anyway, it turned into a little bit of a heated discussion because they were really pushing for this.

He said, well, “Let me think about it.” And so after about six or seven weeks, right as the song started going back down the AOR charts, Stevie said, “Well, OK, I think we could do that.” They said, “Well, it’s actually too late now. We’ve lost the momentum anyway.”

The album did great anyway. And a lot of fans would have gotten upset by that edit. 

Yeah, well, that was kind of always his main consideration.To change that would be to change something fundamentally that really wasn’t us, you know. So that’s one of those things where you could say, “Well, yeah, but we could maybe make a lot more money. We could sell tons of records.” And it was like, “Yeah, but are we changing what we’re about?”

And that’s where he always had a really good head about him to say, “Well, I don’t want to change us fundamentally.”

So you guys co-wrote “Crossfire” on the last album, and he co-wrote songs with Doyle. Did you ever talk about writing together? 

After he got sober, clean and sober, he went to spend more time with his mother because she lived in Dallas. Doyle lives in Fort Worth, so they were just visiting [each other] and that kind of turned into songwriting as opposed to, “I’m going to go write with him and not with ya’ll.” Because we all had lived here [in Austin] and he bought a house in Dallas because he wanted to have a closer relationship with his mother. So it just kind of sprung up pretty naturally as opposed to being a planned idea.

I was there the night you guys got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It felt like there was a whole block of seats bought by people who came up from Texas just to see you guys. How did you feel about that night?

I had just come from Europe, I was in the middle of a tour in Europe. I’d been over there for almost a month already. So I just kind of landed and walked right into all of it. So there was that. But like you said, when we got there, we were like, “Is half the place from Austin?”

We never really endeavored for things like, “Well, what if we can get a Grammy?” I’m not saying that those things never crossed our mind. That would be a lie. But we never strived for any of that. We were never really any different than we were when we were playing 100 seat bars in Texas. We just had to learn how to do it in front of a lot of a lot more people on bigger stages.

So that night, it was surreal. That’s probably a cliche way to describe it, but it was surreal. I’ve written my acceptance speech [in my mind] several times since then. It was it was a lot of fun, it was very well put together.

They seemed to put so much care into your segment. And I thought they did such a great job. I mean, the whole thing was perfect and moving. 

Yeah, I did, too. I went back and looked at “Texas Flood” from the performance. It was really good. Jimmie [Vaughan] and John Mayer’s speech, I thought was just fabulous. I really thought it was really wonderful. And playing with Jimmie and Gary Clark Jr. and Doyle and everybody.

How does it feel for you to have a guy like John Mayer, or Johnny Lang or Kenny Wayne or Susan Tedeschi play your music… it must be pretty cool to see young people coming out and still being really into what you guys did.

You know what blows me away? None of this stuff ever even crossed my mind, you know? When you’re playing some little lounge somewhere and some funky part of town in your hometown, you’re like, “Will I be able to pay rent next month?” You don’t think about this kind of thing.

But you can lose sight of what you’re doing if you’re really struggling to get yourself together to pay the bills and make ends meet.

I interviewed John Mayer before he released [his breakthrough, 2001’s] Room For Squares, and he told me Stevie was his biggest influence, even though he wasn’t playing much electric guitar yet. I asked him about that and he said, “Wait until my next album.” 

I wondered about that, you know, about John Mayer hitting the scene and announcing himself like, “Hey, I’m going to be the next guitar dude.” The way he talked about Stevie. He was just awestruck with the what he could get out of a guitar, the way he could express himself. He said, “I have no idea how he was able to do that.”

So when people come up to me… they are a generation, two, even three generations younger, and they go, “Man, that guy was just…” I go, “Yeah, he was special.” And we were all fortunate. We were all fortunate together.

30 Roc: The Stories Behind ‘The Box,’ ‘Bartier Cardi’ and ‘King’s Dead’

30 Roc: The Stories Behind ‘The Box,’ ‘Bartier Cardi’ and ‘King’s Dead’

The 100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers limited series podcast gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. Each episode will focus on one writer: sometimes, they’ll just talk about one song, other times, they’ll talk about a number of hits.

New episodes will be released each Monday through November of 2020.   

100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers special podcast series is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast.

Over the summer, Rolling Stone said that Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” was the biggest song of the year, and “it isn’t even close.” The year isn’t over, but it’s certainly going to be one of the biggest. 30 Roc co-wrote and co-produced the song, and we spoke to him about it, as well as some of the other songs that he’s worked on, Cardi’ B’s “Bartier Cardi” and Black Panther soundtrack standout, “King’s Dead.”

Talk about the writing of Roddy Ricch’s “The Box.” 

When we made the beat we technically wanted to make this very easy for Roddy to be able to flow on it. Be able to ride the beat and have different pockets on it. So me and my co-producer [Dat Boi] Squeeze, we tried to keep it as open as possible.

What is the process between you and the people you collaborate with: does someone come up with a beat? Someone comes up with a melody line? Do you guys help with the lyrics? 

No, it’s more of me actually sitting down in the studio making the beat. Sometimes I have my producers with me sit down and we’re just run through different beats, different ideas, different melodies, you know, different drums. And we put them together. So we just sit there all night and we put them together. When we made “The Box,”  we were just really sitting there and just coming up with something like it was just us having fun in the studio, doing what we do every day: making music.

When do you know when it’s done? When do you send it off to Roddy, or Roddy’s people? 

I know when it’s done… I just have this thing where I just be like, “OK. No more! Let’s just leave it where it’s at!” I think everybody who’s around me now can kind of tell to when it’s done because I just get this look like, “That’s it!” Like, me and Squeeze looked at each other and said, “Tag it and bag it!” When one of us says that, it means, “No more s—!” Don’t put more s— in that, leave it where it’s at.

We actually e-mailed [a track to Roddy Ricch] before that, which turned out to be “Roll Dice,” which was on the album [2019’s Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial] too. And then we emailed “The Box” like a week later.

How many hours into it do you have to be when you get to that point where you’re like, “No more, we are done!” 

It normally don’t take us hours to make beats, really. It’s more like minutes [laughs]. I think the only time we ever took hours is something has a lot of sounds. Like something that was like fifteen, twenty-five sounds that can take like two months, depending on how great we want it to be.

But Roddy Ricch, “The Box,” didn’t take us a lot because it’s not that many sounds in it. It’s literally the brass – which is the horns — and then we put drums on top.

So once you send it off, the artist does their thing on top of it. Do you hear back from him? Were you in the studio at all when he started doing his stuff? 

No, I actually heard back from them, like, literally that same night. I want to say I woke up to a text message from his A&R rep, who was like, “Man, tuck that beat away. Don’t send that beat to nobody.”

My job was completed at the time because that’s all we was focused on doing, doing Roddy Ricch’s album, you know what I’m saying, getting on Roddy Ricch’s album. He told me to put the beat away, and s—, I tucked it away!

Obviously the hope is always that you’ll have a huge hit. But were you expecting it to do s well as it has done?

No. Honestly… we have this thing that we do every Friday, or whenever a new album comes out that we want to hear. We sit in the studio. We normally just meet up at the studio. We sit there. We go through the whole album. So that night, Roddy Ricch’s album was just coming out and we sat down, there was the intro and then it was “The Box.” And I was like, “OK, cool.” I don’t never get too excited because the people choose which song they like.

So, you know, we listened to “The Box.” Then we listened to “Roll Dice.” You know, everybody in the room that I was with was very excited over “The Box.” And I was kind of like, “Oh, cool,” you know?

But it was like, “I don’t know,” because the other song we did was kind of hard too. So we just waited. We waited. The next morning we woke up, we just started seeing everybody posting it on Instagram like, “Oh, this s— is it! This s— is hard, this s— is hard!”  I was like “OK, cool.” And from there, it just really went up. How can you not be excited?

Has the song changed your life?

Yeah, it changed my life in many different ways. You know, I’m doing more work with people that I always wanted to work with. Of course, financial is always a good part of it [laughs]. I’m really just back in the studio.

When when I produce songs, I really be acting like they don’t even come out. They don’t exist to me [after they’re released], because I’m ready to go back to work. “What’s next?” This song’s only gonna last for so long. I just go back to the studio.

You mentioned that you’re getting to work with people who you always wanted to work with. Can you say who, or is that still under wraps?

Still under wraps. Some songs will be dropped in the next couple months. You’ll definitely hear a lot [of them]. It’s a lot of artists that a lot of people wouldn’t think I’d be working with.

A lot of people think that there’s a Ciara sample [“Love Sex Magic”] on that song. 

Actually, it’s not a sample, it came out of a VST [a Virtual Studio Technology]. A lot of people go, “It’s still a sample.” It wouldn’t be in a VST if it was a sample. That’s a sound that they made for that VST.

So when you say VST, what is that?

VST is something that a lot of producers use. It’s a bank of just a lot of sounds. And this bank has a lot of orchestral harps, you know, brass and stuff like that. Strings. So that’s what that came out of. So that’s technically a bank.

I want to ask you about another song of yours. Talk about working with Cardi B on “Bartier Cardi.” 

Is was an interesting process because we actually molded that song for her, me, Cheeze [Beatz] and London [Jae]. We actually sat down and molded it. Me and Cheeze made the beat, London was in the back working. We had a whole process of like how we put songs together and stuff like that. And, you know, we just put it together. We all went out and did our own little like footwork to get the song to her. And it worked.

Can you elaborate on the footwork? How do you get a song to Cardi B when she’s exploding from her huge first single? 

We all had our connections. So, you know, we all kind of like used everybody that we knew that was around her: “Listen to this!” “This need to be the next single.” I got the phone call one day when I was going to go get some hookah supplies. Somebody called me like, “We need the track out, ASAP.” So I had to rush back to the house and bounce some files and send it over there.

I’m guessing that was well worth the interruption. 

Of course! I’m not trippin’! I still got my supplies.

That’s a lot more money to buy more supplies.

Yes, sir!

Do you ever bump into her at parties, occasions events, whatever? Do you get her feedback on the song?

No, actually, I’ve seen Cardi B like, once. I  just like to keep working and mind my business really. I go out and stuff like that, but I’m really in tune with just locking in and just staying focused. Doing what really matters.

Talk about “King’s Dead” from Black Panther. That movie and that soundtrack seemed to be a huge cultural moment. Did they ask you “Do you have anything lying around that you can give us?” Or did they say, “We want you to do something for Black Panther?” 

No, it was actually me and Mike Will [Made It]. Shout out to my bro Mike Will. We kind of put it together. He sent it off to Kendrick [Lamar]… or I wanna say he sent it to  Jay Rock first. And he called me back and he said, “Hey, bro, we got one. Like we got a crazy one.” And he wouldn’t tell me who it was for. And, next thing you know, the song came out. It did a lot, you know. And that was a big song for me; we won a Grammy for that. So, you know, that was kind of interesting.

The crazy thing is: I’ve still, to this day, only watched half of that movie [laughs]. I haven’t watched the whole movie. Maybe I’ll sit down today and actually do it. It was actually a very interesting moment for me. That was my first song with Kendrick. That was my second song with Future. That was kind of like a big moment for me.

Are you just not into Marvel movies? 

You know me [laughs]. I can’t watch those movies, I’m just not into that.

Have you been out in a situation whether it’s at a restaurant, at a store, where your song is playing on the loudspeaker or the P.A., someone’s digging it,  and they have no idea they’re standing next to one of the guys who made that song?

Like right now, in the neighborhood I live in, my neighbors are trying to figure out who I am. But I had a neighbor across the street the other day stop my mom, and say, “Oh, your son is 30 Roc! He’s amazing!”

Just talking to you for a few minutes, it seems like you’re a pretty low-key guy who doesn’t really crave the spotlight. But it must be pretty fun when someone recognizes you and asks you for a selfie.

It’s definitely pretty fun. I’m pretty low key because I’d rather have my bank account right than be out with all the cappers. I’d rather stay low key and stay doing what I’m doing to make sure that me and the team are straight.

So you’re not looking to make a 30 Roc [solo] album?

No, that’s eventually going to happen. I’m working different moves since all this happened. So, you know, I’m working a lot of different moves, I’ve been working on my artists. I have two artists, I’m working on my label, my brand. You’ll see more of the label this year coming up (2021) because this year is almost done. We’ve put in a lot of hard work behind closed doors.

The artists I’ve been working with, my artists, like a lot of people are not going to think that I would come out with these type of artists. And so it’ll be very interesting.

Marv Green: The Stories Behind ‘I Called Mama,’ ‘Creepin” and ‘It Just Comes Natural’

Marv Green: The Stories Behind ‘I Called Mama,’ ‘Creepin” and ‘It Just Comes Natural’

The 100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers limited series podcast gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. Each episode will focus on one writer: sometimes, they’ll just talk about one song, other times, they’ll talk about a number of hits.

New episodes will be released each Monday through November of 2020.   

100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers special podcast series is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast.

Tim McGraw never intended for “I Called Mama” to become a single when he heard the song at the beginning of 2020. But in March, the world changed, and the song took on a heavier meaning; it’ll likely be one of the country songs that we think about in the future, when we think about 2020. Marv Green is one of the co-writers of the song, and we spoke to him about it, as well as some other classics that he had a hand in writing.

Talk about writing “I Called Mama.” 

Well, that was something that [co-writer] Mr. Jimmy Yeary brought in. True story: he actually did get a call about a good friend who passed away, suddenly, out of nowhere, I believe the guy was in his late forties. And he walked in just saying, “You guys, I just feel like I really want to write about this today.”

Because this had happened, he just stopped for a minute and wanted to slow everything down. And one of the things he wanted to do was call his mom, which I completely relate to. And Lance [Miller, co-writer] did, too. And we were off to the races. Sometimes you write a chorus first. But this song we wrote, top to bottom, just as you hear it. It kind of wrote itself with us, you know.

We’ve had a good little vibe. And, you know, sometimes you get a little circle of friends and you get on a little roll. And somewhere the end of last year, somewhere around last fall, we started writing as a trio and we’ve really had some great luck.

And so, anyway, Jimmy Yeary came walking in my studio that day and said what had happened. “I Called Mama” was where his heart and his head was. We agreed it was just a nice way to talk about life.

 

I’m guessing you wrote this song before the pandemic. 

We did. Right before: we wrote this in February of this year, if I’m correct. This is one of those songs that didn’t live long as a demo. It never got to be a demo because we recorded it on an iPhone.

I’ve known Tim for a long time, but Lance knows him better. And Lance sent it straight to Tim, and Tim loved it.

I’d heard that Tim may not have intended it to be a single, but obviously, things changed.

I think he was quoted as saying, “I never, never planned for this song to be a single.” He really was proud and excited to put on his record. But there was no plan in his mind they would be a single.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from people about “I Called Mama?” 

Lots of texts and really sweet, nice messages from co-writers and friends. Just, you know, just saying, “Wow, I love that song.” And that’s the great thing about the community here. We’re all rooting for each other.

SoTim posts the song on social media. Do you look to see what people are saying about it? 

[Laughs] I try not to. But if you’re talking about Instagram or Facebook, Tim is on my friend [list] so it’s gonna pop up. And it’s hard not to look. And the good news is I haven’t seen any negative [comments], which is not always the case. Lots of sweet comments about people who get called their mom or wish they could call their mom.

Everyone has their own individual taste. But during this time, a song like that… I feel like you’d have to be a real troll to say, “You know, that song just isn’t good!” 

[Laughs] Yeah, I agree. You have to be in quite the mood to put that down. One radio personality said it’s “a hug and a nice bowl of chicken soup.”

And don’t we all need that right now?

Yes, absolutely.

 

Are you and Tim friends, or is more of a transactional thing, where you write songs and submit them, and he decides if he wants them? 

As much as I could know, Tim, I know him. He’s one of those artists that, if I see him in town or at an event or a party [we say hi]. I’ve actually got a quick anecdote about seeing him at a party at Christmas. But I’ll tell you that in a second. He’s one of those guys that always says, “Hey, Marv.” It could be across the room or whatever, but he’s just genuine and he has always been that guy that keeps in touch. It’s not like he reaches out frequently, but he always has left the door open, all the way back to [2000’s] “Let’s Make Love” and [2001 album] Set This Circus Down. We had some songs on that. And ever since then, he has always said, “Send me songs.” I’m very lucky to be someone that he reaches out and says, “Hey, hit me with anything that you have.”

I interviewed Lori McKenna a few years ago, she wrote “Humble and Kind.” She kind of said the same thing about him: that he is as normal of a guy as someone who’s a star on that level could be. 

Here’s two quick ones. So one was at some event. This is a true story. I was talking to Tim for like 30 seconds. And then he gets real close. He goes, “Marv, your zipper’s down.” [Laughs] I had forgotten to zip up my pants zipper. Thanks, Tim!

And then the other great one: so you know, I’m a songwriter, I’ve done fine, but I’m not the guy that has, like, a suit jacket for everything. I have a couple of nice jackets and suits for a few occasions, but I don’t have a bunch.

I was at a Christmas party last this past Christmas, And Tim and Faith were there. And so we’re talking for a minute and he’s looking at me and he looks again and he grabs my lapel and he goes, “Marv, this is your CMA [Awards] jacket and your BMI Awards jacket.” [Laughs]

I said, “Yep, you got me, Tim. I don’t have a bunch of suits.”

Talk about writing “Let’s Make Love” for Tim and Faith. 

So during that time, this would probably be around ’99, 2000, I was writing a bunch with some friends and co-writers, Aimee Mayo, Chris Lindsey — who I wrote the song “Amazed” with [for Lonestar] — and then Bill Lither. Bill had had success with Aimee with Tim. I called them all and I said, “For the month of March, let’s pretend we’re a band. Let’s just write with each other.” Because I was noticing back then, CDs from people like Jim Lauderdale and Kim Richey and those kind of writers, they were ending up on artist’s buses and they were getting cuts that way. I said, “Well, why don’t we just pretend we’re a group and write for a whole month? And at the end, we’re going to go in and record the 10 or 12 best songs that we got. We’ll print it, we’ll have a party, we’ll invite labels and artists to come and we’ll call it ‘the March Project.'” And so they loved it. We spent the whole month and we knew Tim and Faith were both doing projects and our main focus was writing for them.

And so we put “Let’s Make Love” on that project. And sure enough, when they heard it, they loved it and recorded it. And off that same project, we ended up getting three songs on the Tim McGraw solo record too.

Have you been in situations where people are listening to a song that you wrote, whether it’s at a wedding or at the supermarket or whatever, and they have no idea they’re standing next to the guy who wrote that song? 

Oh, yeah, all the time. And, you know, probably the strangest moments, you know, when you’re down in front of an artist [at a concert] and there’s, you know, 10,000 or 12,000 or 14,000 people singing your song and you’re standing there, going, “Hey, I wrote this! But nobody cares!” And that’s OK. I mean, it’s just one of those things. There’s a beauty in it: we can go anywhere and travel anywhere and no one knows who we are. We enjoy writing music for a living and doing what we love, but still being able to, you know, be unknown. There’s a beauty in that. But there are a couple of times, whether it’s “It Just Comes Natural” with George Strait or “Creepin'” with Eric Church, and you see the crowds going crazy. And [you wonder], “Eric, what does that feel like?” But again, there’s a beauty. I can go sit at any given restaurant and no one cares who I am.

 

Tell me about “Creepin’.”

We wrote that down at the Sony Fire Hall, which used to actually be a fire station back in the day. And Eric was a little late. Whenever I’ve written with him, I always have something ready. But he always comes in and knows what he wants to do that day. And I love that about him. And he started describing sittin’ on his screened-in porch watching this bee buzzing against the screened-in porch. And he started singing the very top of that, [singing] “I got my baby, no, no. I got a little buzz and my head is sore.”

And then he goes, “I’m thinking in my mind, all the chorus does is just go ‘Creepin’!'” I was like, “Man, I love this!” We just kind of hopped right in and took off. And the cool other thing about that song is, remember, we’re in there with two acoustic guitars and playing against each other. I’m singing a little harmony. We recorded it as is. And so when he left, I was thinking to myself, “Well, that’s a very Appalachian sort of backwoods kind of thing.” And that’s the last I heard of it.

And then they call and say, “Hey, we’re in the studio, cuttin’ ‘Creepin’!'”  And in my mind I’m going, “Well, I wonder what that’s going to be. Is it going to be just kind of this acoustic, backwoodsy kind of vibe?” And then when I heard the record, I was blown away what he and [producer] Jay Joyce did. I mean, what a record.

 

George Strait’s “It Just Comes Natural” is such an iconic tune. 

That’s during the time when [I was working with] another great producer, Tony Brown. I mean, talk about an open door. I used to love to go play songs for Tony. So it was crazy because I think that for that record, I think there were four songs that Tony loved. And he said, “Marv, I wouldn’t be surprised if you get three or four [songs] on this record.” And I was like, “OK.”

True” was my first number one and that was with George. And then I had an album cut with Terry McBride called “Always Never the Same.”

“It Just Comes Natural,” I wrote with Jim Collins, who is from Texas. And so I walk in and I’ve got [sings] “Sunshine, clouds, rain/Train whistle blows…” I had a verse about things that sort of happened naturally. And then I sang the chorus: [sings] “And I love you.”

And Jim said, “We can’t call this song, ‘I Love You.'” And I said, “Well, what about ‘It Just Comes Naturally?'”

And he looks at me and says, “No, “It Just Comes Natural.'” And I said, “No, that’s not grammatically correct. ‘It Just Comes Naturally.'”

He goes, “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t sing. ‘It Just Comes Natural’ sings better.” And I said, “All right, Mr. Texas.” And sure enough, he was right. And that totally resonated with George.

I know you’ve made your own records. You’ve recorded your own versions of some of the songs that you’ve written that other people have recorded. Do you have a new record of your own coming?

Well, the next thing I’m gonna do is new original songs. I have not recorded anything. I mean, I’ve got a couple things out there. But I haven’t made a recording I’m proud of and that, I feel like is “me.” So whatever I do next is gonna be all original, unrecorded. I’m just trying to find that happy place between all things acoustic and electric.

 

Ed Roland: From ‘Shine’ To The Next Collective Soul Album

Ed Roland: From ‘Shine’ To The Next Collective Soul Album

The 100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers limited series podcast gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. Each episode will focus on one writer: sometimes, they’ll just talk about one song, other times, they’ll talk about a number of hits.

New episodes will be released each Monday through November of 2020.   

100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers special podcast series is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast.

Ed Roland was one of the most ubiquitous songwriters on rock radio in the ’90s; but unlike some of his peers, he’s able to go to the supermarket without being recognized. And that’s the way he likes it. “If somebody’s singing my song, I’m standing there. and they don’t know who I am, I won,” as he says in this interview. And he’s been winning for a long time.

Let’s start with the Collective Soul song that probably most of us heard first: “Shine.” Talk about writing that, and the success of that song.

“Shine” was written… probably the riff was written in 1988. I was mucking around with a lot of songs at that time with that droning sound, putting melodies underneath them. And then it wasn’t till about ’92… my brother was at my parent’s house. I came home to say “Hey” to everybody. He was playing guitar and I didn’t even know he played guitar. So we’re kind of reconnecting. My brother Dean, who’s in bands, he’s 10 years younger than me. So I sit there, I just kind of showing off and all of a sudden the chorus came to me and I was like, “Okay, that sounds cool.” Recorded it and, you know, just made a demo in the basement. And that’s what you hear. That’s me on the drum machine. And that was our intro to the world of music. I was truly just trying to get a publishing deal. The whole [1994] Hints, Allegations [and Things Left Unsaid] record was just me in a basement doing different types of stylistic songs and just trying to showcase me as a songwriter, not necessarily going, “Hey, check this band out.” So that’s where it all started.

 

 

That’s something that people do more commonly in country music: become a songwriter, get a publishing deal, maybe get well-known in town, in Nashville. And then, you know, if they get some traction, they start making records. That’s a lot more unusual in rock. Am I right about that?

Very much so. Once again, I was 30 years old when we got signed, and that’s long in the tooth for rock and roll. So I’d already just kinda given up… I didn’t give up. I knew I wanted to write songs. I was still just trying to be in music in any way I could. And, you know, two weeks before we got signed, I had already signed up play on a cruise ship, play guitar. God knows what I was going to play. I was going down to rehearse and all of a sudden this everything just went “Kaboom!” And here we are.

I didn’t realize that you’d written it so many years before the song became so ubiquitous. You could not go anywhere in ’94 without hearing “Shine.” That was an era where rock music was less produced than the rock music of the ’80s, like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. Bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam and even Jane’s Addiction or the Red Hot Chili Peppers were different. It seemed like that was an era where Collective Soul could thrive maybe more than the ’80s would have been.

Well, once again, I was just trying anything. You know, it wasn’t that I wasn’t trying in the ’80s. Trust me, I was giving it my best. I don’t know what clicked with that song. Like I said, the Hints record, there are songs on there that are a little folky and on some of them showcased production as well as the songs. That song just clicked. And, you know, we didn’t even know that song would click. When we started getting traction on radio, we really didn’t know what the band was supposed to sound like. And then when “Shine” hit, we were like, “OK, I guess we’ll be a rock band” and we enjoyed that part of it. You know, we never considered ourselves “grunge.” We never consider ourselves anything other than just being a rock and roll band. We just knew we love melodies and we like loud guitars. And we had eight months on that first tour [before] we kind of found our place, and felt good as a band. Every day off we were in the studio making the next record, “The Blue Record,” [1995’s] Collective Soul.

I’m guessing that the first time you heard yourself on the radio, it was “Shine.”

Well, Album 88, which is where “Shine” got played, that’s a college station at Georgia State is one hundred thousand watts and that’s where you could hear, the Cure and R.E.M. before all those bands broke big and they had a “locals only” [show]. But it was the first time I ever heard me on a major commercial radio station was “Shine” for sure.

What went through your head the first time you heard it?

You know, just shock, to be honest with you because everything was moving so fast, you know? When Album 88 started playing it, you know, I’d been playing in bands 12 years prior to that. Nobody would show up to the shows. Maybe whoever we were dating at the time. And I took it to Album 88 and it got the most requests and they asked us to do a Christmas show in.’93. And it was sold out. It’s like a thousand people. We were like, “What is going on?” I mean, we only knew like six songs, really. So we just played “Shine” two or three times and people just loved it. And so it was very confusing and exciting times because we didn’t know if we had gotten ourselves into. We really didn’t have people nurturing us or guiding us… the song just was bigger than the band. It didn’t matter what the band name was. People just love this song.

I remember seeing you play the following year, at Woodstock ’94, to a huge audience and it was a big moment. 

I think that night, we only played two songs from Hints.I was writing songs in the back of the bus and at soundchecks. We were doing [new] songs, and I didn’t have lyrics to half the songs. I remember they taped that show that night and we played “Gel.” And that’s where I kind of came up with the lyrics, live on stage; we were kind of doing preproduction [for he album] in front of thousands of people every night, just trying to figure out the next record. We were playing catch up big time.

Right; “Gel” is the next song I want to talk about and one it’s one of the only ones that I want to talk about that that wasn’t a number one song on rock radio. “Gel” was a number two. Didn’t it debut on the Jerky Boys soundtrack? 

It did. So we thought we were gonna get dropped [from the record label, Atlantic Records]. So we went and immediately started recording. We were on tour in ’94 and they said, “Do you have a song that you like?” They called it a “bridge track.” And I didn’t really I didn’t know what that meant. I was like, “Well, we just recorded this so you can have this.” And I’ll never forget, our A&R guy was like, “Well, if this is a throwaway song, I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record!” And I was like, “Well, it’s coming, just give me a second. We’re going as fast as we can.”

And it’s funny, I’m so proud of that because growing up in Atlanta, I could still remember the civil rights movement and everything like that. And, you know, my whole vibe on that was just, “Let’s all come together, be human beings.” Which wouldn’t hurt in today’s world too I think it’s universal and I think it’s timeless lyrically.

 

And then it’s so funny that it comes out on the Jerky Boys soundtrack [laughs]!

Instead of “Everybody get together,” it’s kind of like “We hate everybody and we’re going to call you guys on the phone and punk you!”

That’s it!

That’s a great soundtrack but I remember thinking that that song felt a bit out of place. But back then you couldn’t just drop a new track the way you could now, it had to be on something (like a soundtrack or compilation), otherwise, how would it get into the world? 

How is it gonna be supported? Correct. Probably besides “Shine” that was the most important song we did because it did “bridge.” I mean, we had no expectations for it. We just thought it was gonna be on the soundtrack. And we were excited to be on the soundtrack. We just had no clue [how popular it would be]. And then we were like, “Oh, boy, we’d better make sure the rest of this records good. So, so far, so good!”

The “Blue Album” had a lot of big songs. Hints just had “Shine.” And so it’s like, “Are these guys real?” And when we heard “Gel,” I was like, “All right, these guys have got staying power.”

We were afraid we were going to get dropped because everybody thought we were a one-hit-wonder. And I can see where people thought that. I mean, once again, the song was bigger than the band. You know, and a lot of times that’s been our whole career. Our songs have been bigger than the band. I mean, you know, we’ll do shows and there’s bands, contemporaries of ours, that come and go, “Oh, my God, I didn’t know you did that song.” They just loved the songs. It was cool, but at the same time, it has its frustrating moments, if that makes sense.

I get it. I’ve been doing interviews for about 25 years, and there are some guys, or women, who walk into the room or walk into you wherever you might be. And everybody knows, “That’s Rod Stewart!” “That’s Beyonce!” or whoever. But I think there’s probably something nice about, “Yeah. I’ve done a lot of songs that you guys know, and I can go to the supermarket and maybe one person recognizes me.”

You know what? I love it. I mean, I hear my songs all the time. Back in the early days, it never bothered us. It never bothered me. You know, we’d be. I’ll never forget one of my favorite stories, I was in a store, buying some jeans or something, and some guy is just singing on top of his lungs, “The World I Know.” And I’m just standing there waiting for him to calm down to check me out so I can pay for my jeans.

But I write for people to like the songs, not to like me. I think I’m a likable person, but I didn’t do it to be in the spotlight and I don’t think anybody in the band is. I mean, we’re the most unnoticed, unnoticed band, I think ever, in rock and roll. People just don’t know. And that’s fine. My wife tells me all the time she goes shops at Home Depot or Trader Joe’s, and my songs are playing there all the time. I love that. Like, it’s a part of culture.

From the classic rock era, you know, a guy like Rod Stewart, or Elton John, although they don’t want to be bothered, they want everyone to know it’s them. Whereas Paul Rogers from Bad Company and Free or Steve Winwood, those guys don’t really care if you noticed them and would probably prefer that you don’t. And I think it’s easier to have a life like that. 

I’ve been around some of those artists you mentioned, and I’ve seen what it’s like with them. To me, if somebody’s singing my song, I’m standing there. and they don’t know who I am, I won. Because I wrote the song for people to enjoy. Not to recognize me. And if they do recognize me, it’s flattering. And course, the ego, you know, gets pumped up a little bit. But that’s not why I do it or why the band does it. So we won the game when people are singing our songs and don’t even know it’s us when we’re right there [standing next to them].

I’ve been interviewing a lot of country songwriters who don’t make their own records or if they do, it’s in a small indie label. And ditto for hip-hop, a lot of the songwriters are not famous. They’re trying to be famous, but they haven’t gotten there yet. But in rock, most of these guys are pretty well known. But I do think you probably a better quality of life if you could take your kid to their baseball game and not everyone there asking for a selfie or an autograph.

Yeah. I get to be a daddy. That’s only happened a couple of times and I’ve had to go talk to some people and say, “Look, I am my son’s father. I am dad. I’m not what you read or see or hear.”

 

December” always reminded me of later era Cars song. I know you have a new project that’s inspired by the Cars.

December” was the last song I wrote on the second album, the self-titled record. And it’s the only song that we as a band ever disagreed upon because I wrote it early in the morning. I always get to the studio early, make sure everything’s set up for the guys because I produce and I want to make sure we don’t waste any time get things done. But I wrote that song when they got in there. I played it for months, the four chords over and over. That was kind of the concept. But then to bring in different melodies. So by the end of the song, there were four different melodies going on and sitting down and playing that over and over for four minutes for the guys. They were like, “This is the most boring s— I’ve ever heard in my life. We’re not doing this!”

I said, “You have to trust me on this. Just trust me. Like there’s gonna be a bass melody that’s gonna overlap with the vocal melody of background melody and then a guitar and then orchestration.” And they are like, “Whatever.” And thank God I talked them into it.

But the Cars, I love the Cars. And, you know, we’re in the coronavirus. I got stuck because we had two weeks before we were gonna rehearse and start a tour this year. And that was the first two weeks of the whole coronavirus where everybody was told to kind of quarantine. But I’d already gone down to Florida. And so I was sitting there with our engineer/producer Shawn Grove, and Cheney [Brannon], who used to be our drummer, but he was kind of assisting on this new recording gear that we had bought. And we’re going to learn to use. And, you know, the first week we sat there and I was like, “All right, we learned this program. Now what do we do?” And we just decided to start a band called The Living Room. And the reason was, we knew we couldn’t do anything as Collective Soul, we know were gonna be here a couple weeks and we were in a living room. It’s a very small home. And I said, the only band I ever joined the fan club, was the Cars. And they were like, “Oh, well, let’s do that.” And I was like, “Let’s do that. Let’s have fun.”

So the Cars have always been a big influence. I mean, Elliott Easton’s, you know, top two, three, favorite guitarists for me. I love solos that are melodic. He does that. And of course, I love Ben [Orr]’s vocals. I love Greg Hawkes’ keyboard playing I think I get a lot of my riffs on guitar, just from listening to what he does on keyboards, to be honest with you. So: a very big influence on me and the rest of the guys in the band.

I was too young to see them in concert, but I got to see them when they reunited a couple of years ago in New York City. 

I didn’t see that tour, but I got to see them like three times back in the day. I mean, I would sneak backstage and meet them and, you know, they don’t remember any of that. But, you know, that was they were that big of an influence to me.

Your influences always seemed to be diverse. 

I grew up with FM Radio. My favorite artist is Elton John. I mean, that’s the reason I want to be a songwriter. I got his greatest hits, put the needle on the record and decided, “Wow, I want to be a songwriter like Elton, and [Elton’s lyricist/songwriter partner] Bernie Taupin.” Not necessarily a singer or someone at the front of a band or anything. I just want to write songs and and I just loved the pop melodies that they created. And, you know, I go back to Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra, of course the Beatles. I was a late bloomer in music because my father was a minister. Such grew up mostly in gospel hymnal music, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Little Richard. Things like that. Their generation of music, which I love. But then when I found my own, which would have been Elton and then, the Beatles and ELO. And from there it took off, you know, with The Clash and Sex Pistols and things like that, the Cure.

 

I remember hearing that you wrote “The World I Know” while thinking about Times Square.

This was 1994. We had a day off In New York. And I met this girl, and I flew her out, playing Mr. Rock Star or whatever. And I wanted to impress her. And so I had the music [for the song]. And I told her, I said, I want to walk around for about an hour. And literally I just walked around in Times Square, which in 1994 is not like Times Square was two years ago. Times Square’s even different now. But you know what I mean. It was still dirty. For lack of a better term, not nasty, but just dirty. You know, you saw the yin and yang of society. I mean, there’d be somebody living in cardboard box and then someone pulls up in a stretch limo, and gets out with their fur coats. I literally just walked for an hour in Times Square. And then when I came back, I was like “This is the world. I know. You know, you have good, bad. And, you know, we’ll we’re gonna get through this.”

 

 “Precious Declaration” was another number one. 

We were in a lawsuit and we had just settled. We had gotten an involvement with a manager in a production company when Atlantic was involved with us. So we settled and that was just my way of saying, “What’s yours is yours, what’s mine is mine.” So it was just that precious declaration when I had my freedom back and my right to make my own music and to own my own music.

I can’t forget to ask about “Where The River Flows.” 

It was funny, we were on tour. Our first tour was with Aerosmith. And Joe Perry had this tunable guitar, you would press a button and it would immediately tune the guitar, whether it’s open or drop D or crazy tunings all over. So he hooked me up and I bought one and I got it and I just pressed a button on it. And I don’t even know what tuning it went to. And I remember I was in Houston, Texas, in the hotel room, and I just wrote “Where the River Flows.” And I don’t know why. That was just luck of the draw. Just pick the guitar up and let it flow.

Was it surprising to you that you were knocking out number one after number one after number one during that era? 

I guess it was. But we were so busy. And then when we weren’t busy, once again, we were kind of muddled in a lawsuit. And then, you know, we went home. We had no money. I had to borrow money from my parents. And I lived in a cabin, on a cow farm where I made “Precious Declaration,” the whole record in a kitchen, in a 10 by 10 room.

And I thought I was just demoing the songs just to get them to the guys. But when everything was over, I just felt like it was honest and pure. And I just wanted it to be, you know, real. It’s as if we tried to re-record those songs, it just wouldn’t have the same vibe to me. So that’s kind of where all that came from. Then everything got better. But we were going 90 miles an hour. We really, really were. From going on tour with Van Halen, making a record. You know, I didn’t own a TV. I didn’t even own an apartment. I didn’t have a car.

We were gone all the time, so we really didn’t know, to be honest with you, until years later, really what we had accomplished We knew we were doing well.

I don’t want to say we were flippant about it, but we were finding our groove and we just wanted to keep proving ourselves. We’re like, “OK, that did good. Now let’s go make another record and let’s show ’em what we got this time.”

I’ve heard some stories like that from bands who start to get really big, and there’s a perception, maybe it’s a reasonable perception: they’re gonna have some money now. And it’s like, “Actually, it’s all tied up in lawsuits.” 

Yeah. Oh, yeah. I think that’s pretty much the norm for every rock band back in the day anyway. But everything works out fine. And once again, we got what we wanted. He got what he wanted. And here we are. [00:27:36][4.1]

Even Springsteen went through that at one point.

Yeah, he did.

He was barely paying his guys. They’re all living in one house together and the label’s screaming at him to put out a record. And he’s like in the middle of this lawsuit. And it’s like it’s hard to imagine Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band being like, “We’ve got to get some instant soup for dinner!”

It was that way [for us]: I was chopping wood because we had a wood-burning stove. That was our heat. And we cooked on that for five or six months. So I get up in the morning, go cut wood for the day, go record that night, fire the wood up, stay warm, cook food and start over the next day.

 

Tell me about “Listen.” That’s another number one.

I think that’s more of just, you know, to me. I feel like I’m an old soul hippie guy and I just, you know, listen, we can all get to be get along. It’s more in line with, like, gel lyrically to me or the meaning of it. You know. If you listen, you realize love is everywhere, you know, you just you don’t fight it, it’s there.

That’s another one that works well right now.

Twenty-five years later, here we are again.

 

So, “Heavy”: when I first heard it, I don’t know if he’s an influence, but it reminded me of Peter Murphy’s “Cuts You Up.”

I love Peter Murphy [sings] “Cuts you up, cuts you down.” I actually wrote that riff and I wanted to write a song that did not have the title in the lyrics, which I did on “December.” But the guys fought me. They were like, “You gotta put ‘December’ in there somewhere.” And I was like, “Well, ‘Trampled Under Foot’ is not in the lyrics of the Led Zeppelin song!” And they were like, “Just do it!” So I gave in on that one.

This one I didn’t want to [do that] This one, the lyrics were, “All your weight falls on me, it brings me down.” So what does that mean? It’s something heavy. I wasn’t talking about the riff. I just was talking about life was heavy at that moment.

And to me, that riff came the lyrics came pretty quick. And that was the beginning [of the end] of the first entity of Collective Soul. Everybody was fighting me, labels were fighting me and I was just like “God!” I gave it to the label and they’re like, “Eh, it sounds dated.”

I was just going, “Well, f— you it’s going out.” And they wouldn’t even do a video. It was number one for like fifteen, sixteen weeks on radio. They would not make a video for us, and this was when videos were still very important in the marketing of bands. We’re talking 1999 and they did not make a video on it. They told me they’d wait and see what it did on radio. So it went to number one, I said, “OK, it’s number one, go make a video.”

They said, “Eh, let’s see how much staying power it has.” So, the third week I call and I said “Can we make a video?” They say, “Eh,I think it’s run its course.”

So the fifth week I call again, “Can we make a video?” And they’re like, “No, it’s long past [time] now.” So either it was like the last week [at number one], it was the 15th, 16th week [at number one], I call, and I said, “I guess we’re not making a f—ing video on a song has been number one for almost four months!” They basically hung the phone up on me. So that was kind of their attitude about us in general.

Surely they must have been happy that you kept cranking out huge albums that…

I don’t think they were ever happy with us, to be honest with you. It wasn’t like they ever came and saw us play. Actually, none of them did, outside of New York. At the time, I met more presidents from other labels who were out supporting the groups that were supporting us. We were just naive. And we didn’t have somebody in there [at the label] pushing for us, like most major artists do. You know, we were just naive and just loved what we were doing and didn’t stop. You know, we should have corrected some things along the way, but… Well, you know, we didn’t. And here we are.

It seems to have worked out for you. Do the things that bothered you back then still bother you now?

No.

I guess that comes with age. 

It comes also with… owning it and being in charge yourself. They were kind of in charge. Whether you think they are or not: they are. And with that, you know, they spent years of networking to get certain people to help you. So you understand that, too. But there did come a point where I was like, “Enough of this.” I would always have this conversation with them: “Ya’ll are not out on the road with us. We see our fans, we see our people. We of all people know where we need to focus and where we need to not focus.” Because we’re out there flying the airplane, for lack of a better term. And they just never would [listen to us]. They just went about their own method: “rock band 101” marketing plans, or just not even giving us any marketing. Just throwing it out there.

That’s really interesting because if you listened to rock radio during that time, you were ubiquitous. And the rest of the stuff probably doesn’t matter if you’re getting played on the radio. 

But I think that’s part of the whole marketing thing then. Then there are other ways to market it to so you sell more CDs. It is a business.

 

I want to ask about one more song that was not a number one, it was an album track. “In A Moment,” from the first album, reminded me of Bowie. I don’t know if he was one of your influences. 

Bowie’s a big influence and [late Bowie guitarist] Mick Ronson is one of my biggest guitar heroes of all time. But yeah, that 12-string [guitar] strumming. Just laying it down. But yes, that’s that’s a good pick up on that one, good job there. Any time we’re in the studio, even now, like we recorded the new record last week, two weeks ago, I look at Dean, my brother, who’s in the band. He’s the modern day Mick Ronson. And I’ll just go, “Hey, dude, give me some ‘Mick’ over there.” You know, those big sustaining notes. So but the whole acoustic thing was basically Bowie. I mean, he did a lot of that stuff, that 12-string thing.

So you were mentioning just now you finished the record, you know, is there anything you want to say about when do you think it’ll come out? 

We did an EP for Record Store Day [Half And Half], we covered R.E.M. “The One I Love” and Neil Young’s “Opera Star.” And then two originals [“Let Her Out” and “Back Again”] and then our studio album was supposed to come out in June. It’s called Vibrating. So we’re waiting on to, you know, coordinate that with a tour. So we got together about two weeks ago and made another record because we missed each other. And like I said, it’s funny to be in a rock and roll band. We really like each other, we like hanging out with each other and like making music. So we have two and a half records basically in the can now.

So we’ll see what happens. And then I had to have The Living Room.

Back in the day that could have been a problem, but today, does it matter if you release it as two albums in close proximity or ten EPs in close proximity? 

I don’t know. You know, because originally Vibrating was supposed to… [2019’s] Blood was supposed to be a double album. So we split it up into two records. So Blood was the side two and four, I believe this one side one and three. But, you know,”Ythey were like, “You don’t do double albums anymore. You’re kind of lost in the decades, here, buddy.” And I was like, “I get it.”

But, you know, at the same time, you know, we’re flowing as a band and it’s so easy for me to write songs and present them to them. I hate to use the word, but we’re gelling together as a band right now, better than we ever have. And I love that. It’s just enjoyable. We record as a band in the room together. Johnny [RAbb] sets his drums up. We horseshoe around him. And one, two, three, four. Here we go.

So I’m a huge Neil fan, but I have to confess. I had to look up what album “Opera Star” was on , I figured, Trans or Re*act*or

Re*act*or. At that time I think I was just started playing guitar and that album came out. And if you listen to Re*act*or… or to me, it’s if you want to consider “grunge,” or whatever that is, this is the first “grunge” record. I think it’s one of the best records. He just didn’t give a s—. He was just playing some crazy, great guitar work, you know, and just being Neil. I just love that record. And “Opera Star” was pretty easy for us to learn. When I showed it to the guys, they didn’t know about it. And they were like, “Holy s—, where’s this song been?” It’s just a great riff.

R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” was the song that introduced a lot of people to them, it was a bit more guitar-heavy. 

And, you know, being Georgia boys and them being Georgia boys, we felt we want to give a little nod to them too because they meant a lot to us growing up. They’re hometown heroes. And the beautiful thing about that song is, there are only two lines in the lyric. So if I ever forget those, the guys in the band are gonna put me in a home somewhere.

And so what’s gonna happen with The Living Room?

We got accepted for Record Store Day the day after Thanksgiving. Sure. So I don’t know. You know, with the coronavirus it’s just so weird right now. But I wouldn’t mind playing out with it. It’s just a fun record. I’m so proud of it.

Given that you’re a Neil Young fan, you’ve surely seen Neil shows where he goes out, plays what he wants. He does not care what anybody in the audience is expecting. You know, if people go to see Ed Roland, they probably want to hear some Collective Soul songs. Would you take it out and say, “I’m not doing that this time? This is a different thing?” 

No, I’d have no problem with that. I’d incorporate [Collective Souls songs] in that vein. No, I’d make it new wave like he did. Like Neil did Trans, he re-recorded [the Buffalo Springfield classic] “Mr. Soul.” When he did that I was like, “That’s kind of cool.” He just gave it a different twist. I mean, if you don’t like it, go back [and listen] to the original.

And if you don’t like it, Collective Soul will be back next year. 

Oh, yeah. You’ll see us soon enough!

 

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