Will Turpin is the bassist for Collective Soul, a veteran American rock band that will kick off the new Rock & Rock Express Tour on July 6 in Atlanta. Turpin joined me on a call to discuss his long career with Collective Soul and the release of his debut solo album, Serengeti Drivers. The new album comes out on June 8.
Which instruments do you play on your new album?
Most of our guitars are Jason Hoard and Jason Fowler. I went and worked at Jason Hoard’s studio a couple times. He’s a great multi-instrumentalist, plays anything that has strings. He played a lot of guitar, mandolin, and banjo. Jason Fowler also played a lot of electric guitar and so did Jesse Triplett of Collective Soul. Jesse plays about three of the solos on the record. I play acoustic guitar on at least four or five tunes stacked in there with someone else playing acoustic. I also play all the keyboards, some percussion, and drum set.
Any ideas as to why the album title came to you in a dream?
I probably need a dream analyzation or a psychologist to figure it out. I don’t think it had anything to do with anywhere I’d been. I was in a desert alone and I didn’t feel lost or like I was searching for anything. Then I would see friends in a car or I remember seeing the guys in the band in like a ’70s tour bus. People I knew, mainly musicians, were riding by, waving and having a good time in the desert on a dirt road.
I’d be like ‘Cool, there’s my buddies.’ But I wouldn’t need a ride or I wouldn’t be wondering why they didn’t stop. That’s the only piece of the dream that I really remember. I didn’t feel lost. I was just alone. It’s almost like I was searching for something but I didn’t need a ride or a car in the middle of the desert, which is odd. You’d think in the dream, I’d be like, ‘Hey, stop. Hey!’ It wasn’t the case.
Were there any insights about your release of The Lighthouse EP that helped you approach Serengeti Drivers?
Lighthouse was my first test, putting my feet in the water with solo material. I definitely evolved and learned. This one in general was a more involved process because of the way I approached the recording. I knew I had 12-13 songs and from the very beginning, I wanted the fidelity and production to be really strong and on par with other stuff I do.
How collaborative was the process in making the album with longtime friends?
Fowler co-wrote some tunes. When I think I have a good idea, if I sit down and play with him, he can barely tweak something and it’ll send me in a different direction. It’s not like we sit down and pen out all the lyrics. He’s more of a musical inspiration and he’s always onto something I didn’t think of. We have four different drummers on the record: our current Collective Soul drummer, the original Collective Soul drummer … Ryan Hoyle is on there with on a song called “Faith, Hope, Love.” His track is amazing! All of these guys are personal friends I’ve known for a very, very long time. Some of these guys I’ve known for over 20 years. It was important to me to pick those people that I had a communication and a rapport with. It helped the whole collaboration and concept of the record to get there quicker.
Is there a track you’d like to highlight for readers?
I like “Demons” a lot. I keep telling people about that one because “Demons” is the one song that’s not about something I’ve observed or an incident I went through. It’s just about my whole idea of life where you have to have a balance. There’s the light, there’s the dark, and those two presences will always be there. It’s kind of like when people say, “I gotta get rid of my demons.” I’m not trying to get rid of everything. I’ve always got a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other shoulder. I’m more happy enjoying both, if that makes sense. (laughs)
Do you ever perform Collective Soul tracks at your shows or your own work at Collective Soul shows?
With Collective Soul, [yes] if there’s a certain event where we have an opportunity to branch out and be laid-back with people. Sometimes at private events that we do, we’ll go off script and do different material. For the most part, Collective Soul gets on stage and we’ve got a rock show to take care of. It’s not scripted, but it’s gotta be a Collective Soul rock show. But there are opportunities, like at acoustic events or places we’ve played at for a long time and people are throwing requests at us. Those events are kind of few and far between. In June I’m not playing any Collective Soul, but I’ve certainly played Collective Soul tunes before when I’ve done shows as a solo artist. In the fall, when I get off the road with Rock & Roll Express, I will be looking to play more solo shows and see some other cities.
Are your sons into music as well?
They all play. Tristan is definitely interested. He’s a special guest with his two bandmates at Eddie’s Attic on June 6 in Atlanta. Jude and Luke both play instruments. Jude is more guitar. Luke plays piano and drums.
How do you feel about Rock the Cradle coming on its fifth year?
That project has gained a lot of steam. It was just a concept I had a long time ago to try to make [of] a themed Christmas show and a little bit of a theatrical musical. I’ve got different narration between songs to tell the story of the birth of Christ. We throw in those moments of New Testament and then we segue into different songs. I think if we didn’t do it, there’d be a lot of people upset. It’s an annual thing for people to bring their families. It’s good for all ages and we raise money for charity. It’s a really good feeling for everybody there.
Let’s move on to the Rock & Roll Express Tour. Have you toured with 3 Doors Down and Soul Asylum before?
We’ve only played one festival show with Soul Asylum years ago, and 3 Doors Down we have done mini-tours where we’re on the same festival circuit for a couple weeks. This is an official tour where we’ve got 50 shows in three months. We’ve played a lot of shows with 3 Doors Down, [who are] good friends, and it’s a good combination.
How do you plan your setlist?
We gauge fan feedback but we pretty much know nothing is coming out of left field as far as consensus goes. Everybody has their favorites and they can be anything. I don’t think Collective Soul is known for filler. There’s strong songs up and down every one of our records. We know where that order of popularity is. You could look at your iTunes and Spotify to see what people are playing.
As a longtime rock musician, how do you feel about how the music industry has evolved with the digital age we’re in?
On one hand, it’s easier, but because it’s so easy there’s a lot for people to navigate through. There’s a lot of clutter. I still think the cream rises to the top but that’s the really good stuff. If you compare to 40 years ago where a band would be afforded a couple records on a label to develop and grow with their sound, that concept is not really there anymore. I think artists are embracing the digital age more and it’s good for artists. That goes back to when it first started happening with Napster. I always said, “Cool your jets, this Internet thing is going to good for all musicians.” I think there’s still some royalty rates that could be higher, but for the most part, it’s working out for artists.
Any thoughts you’d like to share about Collective Soul’s 25th anniversary in 2019?
There’s all kinds of memories after 25 years. The Woodstock shows stick out. The tour with Van Halen when I was 23 years old for three months sticks out. It means the world to me that we played shows with Sammy Hagar in the fall. We still know Sammy and Michael Anthony and these guys that are absolute legends. Recording our catalog is what I’ve most proud of. When we started out, we wanted to be proud of our music. I think we did it.