National Projects


Band: Collective Soul
Title: Collective Soul
Year: 1995
Label: Atlantic
Genre: Alternative Pop

Notes: Collective Soul had the biggest charting radio since “Stairway to Heaven” with their first single “Shine.” They were getting calls to do songs for movie soundtracks while they were working on their second album. They had just finished “Gel” for the Jerky Boys Movie before going on tour with Aerosmith in ’94. While on the road, they got a call to do another song for a film and had four days off around the Reno show so they recorded “To Where the Water Flows” when they were here. Many have said that the song is written about the Truckee River which flows thru Reno. Sadly, that’s not true. Ed Roland had the song most done before setting foot in town.

The song was produced by Matt Serletic, who’s gone on to do Matchbox 20 and Courtney Love. It was the first session with Pro Tools I got to see. Back then, Pro Tools did do very many internal voices so my boss Bjorn and Matt were doing crazy things like syncing multiple Pro Tools systems together. It was also the first time we had used a 2” 16-track head stack on the Studer tape machine, compared to the usual 24. The extra real estate did have an amazing sound and booty!

What floored me was that they cut the drums with Shane and they were great! Then they took the tracks into Pro Tools, took one bar of the verse groove and copied it for the whole verse, and then did the same in the chorus. The fills were the only things they kept from the original performance. Shane came in and said, “Hey if you’re not happy with the part, I’d have no problem playing it again.” Matt told him it was no problem and that became the utterly perfect drum track. That has become commonplace in the modern day dehumanization and over-Pro Tooling of recorded material. I had no idea what I had seen the beginning of.

When drums were done, it was show night. I got to drive the guys to the show from the studio in my van. Amazingly enough, “Shine” came on the radio while we were driving to Lawlor. I asked Ed Roland how that felt. He said, “It’s weird since that was basically the demo that got released. We had always thought we would have a chance to redo it if we got signed, but they released it as is!”

The show was cool and the sound was surprising good for Lawlor. After their set, I went back stage to collect them for the ride back to the studio. Before they were ready to go, I was pushed to a corner by security as Aerosmith was making their way to the stage. I was five feet from them. If it were ten years prior, I would have been having kittens right then! They took the stage at a deafening volume and I took the guys back to the studio for bass overdubs.

Next morning, we started guitars and Ed was experimenting with a drop tuning so low that he couldn’t keep the strings in tune unless he held it absolutely perfect no matter how often they tech intonated the guitar. When it was on it was great! The engineer, Greg Archilla, showed me a micing technique for the guitar with a 57 and a 421 on the cabinet and an 87 as a room mic. It was great; heavy, but with a good space. They wanted to add a third accent guitar part so we all ended up over-distorting the channel to get a Nine Inch Nails sound that was most unprecedented for Collective Soul, but perfect.

After the many layers of guitars, we started the vocals in our little pseudo booth of baffles. He used our U67 with the Steven Paul mod. It was very interesting to watch Ed and Matt working off of each other. They were dreaming up very cool parts as they went. They are a great team. It took quite a while, but it was fascinating to watch.

On the last day, the engineer, Greg, bought a pair of KRK 7000B near field monitors from Starsound Audio to do the rough mix. We couldn’t believe how good they sounded for the price. The mix he put together was tough! I thought it was killer. When I heard the final mix from Bob Clearmountain, I was very disappointed. I still have the rough and love it to this day. Good job, Greg.

The last night, we had dinner up at the landing of the studio at a huge table. I think it may have been the final gig for our long time chef, Karen. Karen’s specialties were Cheesecakes. She had 25 or so. That night, she brought a caramel and chocolate cheesecake that just put us away! I said as I took my last bite, “Ah, practice random acts of decadence!” I was smiling from ear to ear. The whole table went quiet. I just looked across the table to Ed who was clearly trying to process what I had just said. They’re all from the South and just didn’t catch my train of thought very often.

I tried to explain the relevance of the joke and he simply grinned and said with the most charming southern accent, “Sometimes you just say the strangest things, Tom.” I kept my mouth shut after that.

Well, the movie never came out so the song just ended up on their next record. At the time of the release, they discovered some ugliness with their former management and had just switched to a new company. Unfortunately, they had no opportunity to see the artwork before it went to press so I didn’t get credit. I was very mad, seeing how we got along so well.

Six months later, they did a headline tour of their own and played the Pioneer Theater here. I got to go to sound check. Ed saw me and came up to me at the sound desk and GROVELLED! He knew immediately what had happened and spent five minutes apologizing. That night at the show, he dedicated “To Where the River Flows” to me! (He more than made up for the lack of credit on the album.) After the show, two friends and I went backstage and Ed and the guys were just great with them. Very cool. He had just found out that day that the record had gone platinum and promised me a plaque for missing the credit.

A year and a half went by and no plaque. But they did a new album. My friend India and I went to see them at the Crest Theater in Sacramento. When Ed saw me in the crowd, he cracked a smile that nearly split his face in half! Before counting off the first encore he stopped the band, came over to me in the crowd, shook my hand, went back and announced to the crowd, “My friend 2TALTOM is here from Reno! He worked on our last album and didn’t get credit so this song is for him.” I couldn’t believe it.

I hung back stage again after that show. I thanked them for the props and inquired about the plaque. Suffice it to say, I never got one from them. But I have to say that all of those guys are just sweethearts who know how to make the people around them feel good. Some years later, I got my own plaque and I’m fine with that. That album sold over 3 million. If you get a chance to see them, do so. They’re great.