Collective Soul's Ed Roland on His New Band the Sweet Tea Project: "Different Instrumentation, Different People, Different Attitudes"

Next year, Atlanta-based rock band Collective Soul celebrates its 20th anniversary. Ahead of that milestone, which will surely be marked by a very active 2014, the band members are taking a little breather in order to focus on other projects, spend some time at home, and "enjoy some of the other things in life," says front man Ed Roland.

For him, that meant founding a good-time Americana band with old friends. Sweet Tea Project is profoundly different than Collective Soul. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, Roland sounds just as natural when backed by banjo, Dobro, and ukulele as he does fronting the powerhouse rock outfit.

In order to break the new band in properly, Roland and his cohorts played weekly gigs at a couple of small Georgia clubs. They also entered and won a contest by coming up with the best cover of the ESPN's NBA theme music. Now that they've cut their teeth the old fashioned way (in the old days, all the pickers were on ESPN), they're ready for the road.

Their first run of shows will bring them to the Bamboo Room in Lake Worth this weekend. New Times spoke with Roland about his new endeavor, and how he relates to terrifying teenagers.

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New Times: Has playing residencies done for the band what you had hoped?

Ed Roland: It really has. I'm glad we did it. We had so many songs to work with, we wanted to make sure we had the right ones. So now we've found which ones work best.

This project is quite different from Collective Soul.

Different instrumentation, different people, different attitudes, different personalities.

How did it start?

It started by me just reconnecting with old friends. We just started jamming out songs.

Have you been looking to do something like this for a while?

No. Collective Soul has been so busy. Even when I first had the idea to do this, I still had a lot of commitments with Collective Soul. Now, we had planned to take this year off, to work on our various projects and just to be home.

Why take this time now?

2014 will be the 20th anniversary of Collective Soul, and we know we're going to be gone that year. So, this [break] gives us the opportunity to enjoy other things in life.

Is there any conflict between wishing for this band to do well and knowing that in the near future you'll be going back to work with Collective Soul?

I don't think so. Right now it doesn't feel that way. And if it does do something... I can kind of pick and choose what we're going to do.

I know that you love the Traveling Willburys. This band is somehow similar in feel to that one. How do you explain that?

It's called camaraderieship. You get in there, and everybody is having a good time. There's no pressure because if this does succeed, great, if it doesn't, well, we had fun.

Fun seems to lead to good tunes.

I think sometimes when you're having that much fun, the quality stands out. And people love it. They really do. All ages.

Has that ever surprised you?

We got in front of teenagers and I was scared to death thinking 'Oh God, we're about to get crucified.' And then they just get into it.

It would be fair to expect that teenagers want to hear some Collective Soul-style rock.

You never know. I mean, you just see teenagers sometimes and it's like 'uh-oh.' (laughs) I'm not a teenager anymore. I don't pretend that I can relate to them. I can't, and they know that I can't.

Nice that it has been working out well with the cool kids, though.

I think that good music does relate to them. And, teenagers like to have a good time, so if they see a good time on stage, trust me, they'll have a good time.

It seems very natural for you to be playing this music which is so different than what you are known for. Are people surprised by this?

I think they are. The record comes out in six weeks, so we'll see. I think more than anything right now, they are curious. (laughs)

Have fans been supportive?

They've been supportive so far. I think that the attitude that we have translates.

Do you expect that your Collective Soul fame will help this band a lot and/or that preconceptions will be an obstacle?

To be honest, I've thought about that, and I don't know what to expect. I'm sure I'll get acceptance and rejections. I'm prepared to go through it all.

The line you may best be known for is "Woooooooah, heaven let your light shine down." In the opening song on the new EP, you repeat the line "Devil n' darlins are all I need." What's that all about?

That's life in general. You wake up and some days you follow that temptation and some days you don't. Devils and darlins. Eighteen years growing up a southern baptist preacher's son, you kinda use those words. Easy to see, easy to say.

Ed Roland & The Sweet Tea Project. 9p.m. Saturday, March 2 at Bamboo Room, 25 South J St., Lake Worth. Tickets cost $28. Call 561-585-2583 or click here.

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Bamboo Room

25 S. J St.
Lake Worth, FL 33460


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