Earlier today a previous installment of an informative session with Collective Soul bassist/keyboardist Will Turpin appeared in this column. Titled “What Matters Most Is Your Vibe: A Really No Rules Conversation With Will Turpin,” the songwriter spilled the beans about writing for Collective Soul’s Rabbit album in addition to touring with a sober Aerosmith during their worldwide “Get A Grip” tour in 1994.
In the latest chapter below, Turpin explains the stories behind the songs that appear on his first solo project entitled The Lighthouse. The anchor of the EP is undoubted “Sailor,” and it was actually written about a former member of the band.
The musician is also playing a few select dates around Atlanta with his new trio, Will and the Way. Turns out, the guys have known each other for nearly 20 years. It is interesting to discover whether Turpin wishes to continue exploring the three-piece format, especially since he’s having to play the bass lines via his keyboard.
Towards the end of the interview, the singer mulls the idea of releasing the other songs that weren’t finished in time for The Lighthouse. With the demise of record companies and the splurge of MP3 streaming, hopefully the wait won’t be too long. The conversation begins now…
The Will Turpin Interview, Part Three
Beginning with “60 Seconds,” could you share the story behind each selection on The Lighthouse?
Most of the songs, except “My Star,” started on piano. “60 Seconds” is just about a quickie, aka random sex with an unknown partner [laughs].
Some of the songs might have specific themes or ideas that I was thinking about, but in the end I’m gonna try to make the lyrics specific yet general enough for them to be used under a number of different circumstances.
Somebody can’t save you if you don’t want to be saved. If you don’t want to follow the light the lighthouse puts out, that’s your decision. But if you do, it can save you. “Sailor” is the reference to The Lighthouse, the lyric “I can’t save the sailor from the storm.” That line, by the way, is about our former drummer Shane Evans.
That’s about me – but I’m not the star, Donna (my wife) is the star. Her grandfather got his shotgun out at 4 a.m. one morning. He didn’t know it was me leaving his property. He told me later, “I almost put one across your hood.” I could have been shot. So imagine the verses from the perspective of me stealing something I didn’t think I deserved.
The song started out on an acoustic riff. There’s 12-string guitar and electric guitars on “My Star,” courtesy of Peter Stroud. It’s hard to keep those guitars in tune, so I won’t have it onstage (laughs). I’m a strummer, rhythm guitar guy, so that’s my focus – the feel and the rhythm.
Peter lives in Atlanta, and I’ve been friends with him for over a decade. I just sentthe track to him over the Internet, and he added his parts in his home studio. Technology is exceptional these days, isn’t it?
“Her Name” was always a Rhodes sound. It was written about that girl who really shines in a crowd and loves being around people. But there’s an undercurrent – when she’s not in the spotlight, she finds it difficult to deal with herself. She is depressed and in a bad place when she’s not the center of attention. It is a nice little jewel.
“Sanity” is about having a crutch, whether it’s drugs or whatever it may be in your life that becomes an obstacle to going down the right path. It’s about not going down the wrong path, finding another way.
How did you meet Jason Fowler and Scott Davidson, who are part of your new group Will Turpin and the Way?
They’re from the same part of Atlanta where I was raised. I’ve known Scott since I was about 15. He went to a different high school, and he was a drummer. We were in honor bands, all-state bands together. Actually, competing percussionists as far as “best in the state” type things with judges. That’s how far back I go with Scott.
Scott sort of retired from being a professional musician about six years ago. He’s a Berkeley grad, and he lives nearby. Jason was in a band with my brother for a moment when I was about 20. He has been in various Atlanta bands, and he’s always been a musician.
When I was talking to Jason about starting a band, he brought up Scott’s name. Jason remarked, “Man, he lives only five miles from here.” I went, “Perfect”. So we got Scott out of retirement.
They are both exceptional musicians. It would be good for us to get away and try to record some stuff together. Obviously, we’ve formed a band now to promote the record. We’re running as a three-piece now, doing stripped-down, acoustic versions of the tunes.
Do you want to keep exploring the trio format?
I do want to continue exploring that option, but ultimately it’s a four-piece minimum thing. I’m casually keeping my ear to the ground for a fourth utility person, somebody who can do everything I did pretty much on the EP – play acoustic, keyboards, bass. And that way, no matter what I play onstage, they can cover the other (laughs).
Now I’m operating à la Ray Manzarek of The Doors – I’m using octaves on my left hand for almost everything I do. It’s not necessarily difficult, but it would sound better and fuller if I had a bass player or I was playing bass instead of keyboards. I like the idea of a small, tight band. Four is good for me, four that can make some noise.
How was your debut solo gig?
It was pretty comfortable, another day at the office. Jason and I have played together many times through the years. Often just at my house, hanging out, playing songs, writing songs together. We go way back.
And Scott’s a drummer, so as long as he keeps time, I’m good with it (laughs). But he’s good, just a great musician. We get better every time we get together, and we do some fun covers.
Do you plan to do some solo dates in the near future? If not, will you perform your songs at a Collective Soul gig?
Collective Soul is currently on a three-month out schedule. We can definitely manipulate CS’s schedule, since there are no big tours planned at the moment. I’m definitely looking into doing some more solo dates. I’m thinking of doing a little Southeast run in late January or February.
I can envision performing my songs at some special events, but I don’t know about Collective Soul headlining. To me, it’s different musical styles, and it’s difficult for me to transform my songs. We could probably do “Her Name” pretty easily, but Dean Roland would have to switch to bass. He’s played bass before, though.
Are you going to release those other nine songs from The Lighthouse sessions?
I want to release them on a faster time frame (keep releasing five or six at a time). But if I can produce and complete those songs quick enough, I will release an entire CD. It’s just tough to say, really.
It is totally feasible for me to release a solo album, but like I said, instead of taking twice the amount of time to finish it, I want to use half the time and then release more stuff. But if The Lighthouse idea is done at five songs, then I’ll go ahead and release it and work on more tunes.
There really are no rules, especially in today’s world. I can stream something I recorded today on the Internet, and the fans can listen and pick their favorite(s). It’s so spontaneous and that’s the world I kind of want to live in.
I want to constantly send different images and ideas. You never know what kind of idea can happen, if it’s only releasing one song. You know, here’s what I came up with, and I recorded it. I love that possibility.
DON’T GO ANYWHERE! PART FOUR of the Will Turpin interview, “The Beatles’ Epic Influence on the Collective Soul Bassist”, is up next. Turpin is a huge fan of The Beatles. After taking part in the amazing John Lennon Educational Tour Bus stop in Atlanta with Collective Soul guitarist Joel Kosche, Turpin spoke about his ongoing fascination with The Beatles, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney…
The Complete Will Turpin / Collective Soul Interview
- Part One: “Now I Play Bass in a Rock Band! The Lowdown with…”
- Two: “What Matters Most Is Your Vibe: A Really No Rules Conversation…”
- Three: “Some Songs Are Just Meant To Be: The Lighthouse Sessions with…”
- Four: “The Beatles’ Epic Influence on Collective Soul Bassist Will Turpin”
- Five: “Turpin Remembers John Lennon on the 31st Anniversary of His Death”
Twitter: Follow Jeremy for new article updates @RetroInterviews
Further Reading: Former Beatle George Harrison followed up his critically-acclaimed 1970 solo debut, All Things Must Pass, with a record that aimed for less lofty aspirations. While yet another number one album, Living in the Material World contained one song that remains largely undiscovered by the general record buying public. To read about “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long”, definitely the most Beatlesque and commercial track that deserved to be a hit single, visit the following article: “Rediscovering A Superb Love Song…”
Further Reading No. 2: An esteemed member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s sophomore induction class, “Garden Party” singer Rick Nelson was on the verge of a mini comeback when his plane tragically caught on fire en route to a New Year’s Eve gig on December 31, 1985. A rockabilly-themed album was in the final recording stages, and Nelson had found a new record label [Curb]. Unfortunately, the project was promptly placed in the dustbin whilst various figureheads argued over rights, whether the singer’s vocals were satisfactory, and if the project deserved to see the light of day. Wrangling beyond the so-called myths revolving around the project, an in-depth feature [“True Love Ways: A Glimpse Inside the Tangled Web of Rick Nelson’s Final Album”] sheds light on the ill-fated Curb sessions nearly 30 years later.
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