Collective Soul recorded their latest album in Elvis's old house: on the night Lisa Marie died, the ceiling fell in

Collective Soul group portrait
(Image credit: Lee Clower)

Although they emerged during the grunge era, Atlanta’s Collective Soul have always been a hard band to pin down style-wise. Mixing big riffs and heart-on-sleeve vocals with sweet pop melodies, they’re probably the only band to have supported both Van Halen and The Cranberries. 

Huge in the States but still virtually unknown in Europe, they celebrate their 30th anniversary this year with a new album, Here To Eternity, that, as frontman Ed Roland explains, was touched by a ghostly (and regal) presence.


What has enabled the band to stay together for more than thirty tears? 

We all grew up together in the same town, same street even. We know when to hug each other and when to pop each other in the face and nobody takes offence. 

Why did the band never really break big in the UK? 

I wish I knew. It’s not for lack of trying or for not wanting it - I’d like everybody to love us. Isn’t that why you get on stage in the first place? It’s bad luck, I think. 

The new album was recorded in Elvis’s former house. How did you wangle that? 

Everybody knows about Graceland, but Elvis also owned a home in Palm Springs, and about ten years ago I met the guys who’d bought it. Nothing much had changed other than they took the furniture out. RCA [Records] had acoustically treated it and he’d recorded his last few records there. So I asked them: “Can we spend a month recording there?”’ Luckily they said yes. I came prepared with ten songs, we set the studio up, and in four days we had the record. 

Did you feel his presence? 

I slept in Elvis’s room, our engineer had Priscilla’s, and Lisa Marie’s was where we set the control room up. And while we were out there she died. The night she passed, the ceiling fell in her bedroom. There was, whatever you want to call it, spirits flowing! It wasn’t rotten or anything, it just fell in. That spooked us. We were like: “Maybe she’s not liking what we’re doing.”

Collective Soul - Mother's Love (Official Video) - YouTube Collective Soul - Mother's Love (Official Video) - YouTube
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On the album there’s a track titled Bob Dylan (Where Are You Today?). What’s the idea behind that? 

Over here in the States there’s a lot of division going on. Bob Dylan is one of my favourite songwriters, and he had this knack of bringing awareness to things without actually taking a side. I feel we need a little bit of that. We’re acting like a bunch of idiots right now. If we could just listen without judging immediately, then I think everyone would get along a lot better. 

Collective Soul played Woodstock in both 1994 and 1999. What are your memories from each one? 

The 1994 one was awesome. It was done in the right spirit, there were no egos. 1999 was this corporate event where everybody was trying to outdo each other. We did our gig and got out just in time, cos we knew what was going down. 

You’re doing a US tour with Hootie And The Blowfish this summer, but when are you coming to Europe?

We’ve been asking that for decades - we haven’t played there for at least twenty years. I bring it up all the time with the business people. Honestly, I’d play coffee shops. Maybe I need to start twisting their arm a little harder. 

Here To Eternity is out now via FuzzeFlex Records.

Will Simpson was Music Editor of the Big Issue South West in Bristol before relocating to Thailand to become Deputy Editor of English language books magazine New Arrivals. Since returning to the UK he's freelanced, writing about music for Classic Rock, IDJ, Metro and Guitarist, and environmental issues for Resource and The Spark. He also writes for contract publishing titles such as Teach, Thomson Air, Musician and Korg.