Although Will Turpin has stayed pretty busy playing bass in multi-platinum rock band Collective Soul since the band’s inception in the early 1990s, he’s also found the time to write and record some solo tunes along the way. To help celebrate the forthcoming release of his debut full-length solo album Serengeti Drivers, we chatted with Turpin to find out what it’s like to write and record outside of Collective Soul, how relationships and emotional honesty impact his songwriting, what it felt like to make the album in his father’s recording studio with a bunch of his musician friends, and much more!
NoiseTrade: With all of the success that you’ve achieved as a member of Collective Soul, what exactly inspired the drive to record a full-length solo album and how does it feel to finally have it completed after starting the process a few years back?
Will Turpin: Ed Roland is a prolific writer, I like to say he can fart a great song. Sometimes I have a musical idea that can lend itself to Collective Soul’s style, but for the most part I feel like my tunes belong in a different sphere. It is satisfying to have my latest solo record complete. I feel like that’s a big deal to have finished! I have another crop of strong tunes already, so maybe the next solo release will be out on the heels of Serengeti Drivers.
NT: There are a lot of songs on Serengeti Drivers that feel deeply personal on the lyrical front, especially in terms of your relationships as a husband (“All On You” and “Fallen Castle”), a parent (“Make It Home”), a son (“Those Days”), and a friend (“So Long”). Do you find it easy or difficult to be that open and honest in your lyrics and are there any other songwriters that you admire you write like that?
Turpin: It is extremely difficult to open yourself up and know that everyone will see what’s inside. I try to stay honest and believe that if I’m honest then that’s all I should be concerned about. I attempt to write the lyrics so they don’t appear to be specific to me but it’s impossible on some songs. When I feel honesty in other artist’s writings, I gravitate towards that. Paul McCartney, Sting, U2, those are some of my favorites.
NT: How does Serengeti Drivers evolve your sound from your 2011 debut EP The Lighthouse and what sonic surprises are in store for your longtime fans?
Turpin: There is more time put in on Serengeti Drivers compared to The Lighthouse. Sonically, I feel like there are so many styles on this record. My musical tastes are all over the place. I’m sure fans will be surprised upon first listening but I think the record has a familiar flow as well. It’s all me and that’s what will come through. Also, when talking sonics, I think it’s important to mention that four different mixers contributed their expertise. I picked songs that I felt like worked for each mixer’s style. In order of appearance: Brian Moncarz, Jonathan Crone, Shawn Groves and Jonathan Beckner. Sonically, I think they all nailed it.
NT: You recorded Serengeti Drivers at Real 2 Reel, which is not only your father’s studio, but also where a significant portion of Collective Soul’s multi-platinum debut album Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid was recorded in 1992. What was it like returning to the space having both the familial connection and the professional connection hanging in the air?
Turpin: Thats my “home” studio, so there’s so much history there. My father raised a family on a recording studio, which is no small feat. Without Real to Reel, I don’t think you would have a Collective Soul as we know it. Ed honed his songwriting there and all of the original band members got our first taste of recording there. I was recording drum tracks at 14 for songwriter demos there. I am really comfortable there and most importantly the clock doesn’t distract you when you have the keys to the place.
NT: You had a variety of musicians helping out on Serengeti Drivers, many of which are friends and band mates of yours – including Collective Soul’s first two drummers (Shane Evans and Ryan Hoyle) and their current one (Johnny Rabb). How does recording with friends and longtime band mates color the recording process and are there any drawbacks you have to watch out for?
Turpin: I wish I could take time to talk about all of the musicians on this record. Enlisting players that I knew was the idea from the beginning, since the recurring Serengeti dream I was having lead me in that direction. Their is an unspoken language when you are working with musicians that understand each other. I use that as a plus and it seems to get it done. Honestly, I am lucky to know all of the folks on Serengeti Drivers and they inspire creativity from me as well. The player that appears the most on this record is Jason Hoard. He is so versatile with stringed instruments. He played acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, and banjo. If I can sing an idea, he can nail it and he brings his own ideas too. Some of his melodies even became themes in these tunes. I really enjoyed working with him.
NT: To end things on a fun note, being that you’re in one of the few popular bands from the 1990s that has continually stayed active both in recording and touring, who are a couple ‘90s bands who are no longer active that you would love to see a new album or tour from?
Turpin: Good question! Unfortunately, we have lost too many great artist of late, so I won’t consider those bands since it’s assumed they left too early. I think R.E.M. need to record another record. Growing up in Georgia, we loved them. Another that comes to mind is Oasis. We got to play some stadiums in South America with them and of course there was a drinking contest between the Southern boys and the Brits. They need to make up and record another record.