A triple play of 90s power pop favorites featuring Collective Soul (“Shine,” “The World I Know,” “December”), Better Than Ezra (“Good,” “Desperately Wanting”) and Tonic (“If You Could Only See”).
Coming hot off a triumphant, yearlong celebration of their 25th anniversary in 2019, the very last thing Collective Soul plan on doing in 2020 is rest on their laurels. If anything, these five fiery Georgia-bred rockers are only just getting started with the next phase of a thriving career that has seen them move millions of records and wow multitudes of fans all across the globe.
Thanks to the warm reception of their acclaimed 2019 album release Blood, Collective Soul are quite galvanized to add as much fresh material into their live sets as they can. “I think Blood is the beginning of a lot of good music to come,” observes frontman and chief songwriter E Roland, adding that even more new tunes are already in the works. “We’re doing the best that we can do. Blood is an accumulation of all the different styles we’ve used over the years — but it’s still Collective Soul. I think it’s the best we’ve ever done. I know you should think that, but I really do think it’s the best. It’s a good, consistent record. We’re just so proud of it.”
Collective Soul absolutely have a right to be proud of their new music, given that a number of key Blood tracks all fit seamlessly into their always dynamic live sets. Indeed, the hardcharging positivity of “Right as Rain,” the deeply introspective “Observation of Thoughts,” the full-throttle insistence of “Over Me,” and the acoustified good vibes of “Porch Swing” all stand tall live alongside such indelibly durable hits like “Shine,” “December,” “The World I Know,” “Gel,” “AYTA,” and “Heavy.”
Such effortless setlist integration really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering how smoothly Collective Soul leapt into the national consciousness with the unbridled achievements of their multi-platinum 1993 debut Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, a career-making debut album that contains such mega-smash hits like the aforementioned “Shine” and “Breathe.” In one fell swoop, Hints Allegations cemented Collective Soul’s status as the jukebox heroes of a new generation.
The special sonic elixir that fuels Collective Soul’s continued success story is a straightforward one: a profound mixture of insightful songwriting and impeccable band chemistry. “So much of what we do is based on the camaraderie-ship of the band,” Roland acknowledges. “The five us continue to work together as a family, and I’ve never been at more ease — and never been more pleased — than going onstage with these guys night after night.”
All of these fine textural nuances add up to a sharply focused and most exciting Collective Soul 2020, with even more invigorating live sets coming, straight ahead. “We want to play the hits as we always do, but we also love sharing new music with our fans,” concludes Roland. His sacred promise to everyone who attends a Collective Soul show: “We’re going at it hard, everyone! We’re going hard.”
Heaven has clearly shined its light down on Collective Soul, now entering Year 26 with all cylinders firing, and no end in sight. Come on out and bask in their continual glow.
—Mike Mettler, official Soulographer
Better than Ezra
The best songs, records, and bands transport you back to the first moment you heard them each and every time they play.
Whether you caught a house party gig after Better Than Ezra formed in 1988 at Louisiana State University, heard “Good” on the radio once it hit #1 during 1995, became a fan following Taylor Swift’s famous cover of “Breathless” in 2010, or saw them headlining sheds in 2018, you most likely never forgot that initial introduction to the New Orleans quartet founded by Kevin Griffin [lead vocals, guitar, piano] and Tom Drummond [bass, backing vocals].
Those hummable melodies, unshakable guitar riffs, and confessional lyrics quietly cemented the group as an enduring force in rock music. How many acts can boast being the inspiration of a classic Saturday Night Live skit? Very few.
Speaking of incredible accomplishments, they occupy rarified air with spots on Billboard’s “100 Greatest Alternative Songs of All Time” and “100 Greatest Alternative Artists of All Time” as of 2018. Additionally, 2018 also marked 25 years since the arrival of the breakthrough album Deluxe. Maintaining a steady pace forward, the new single “GRATEFUL” garnered acclaim from Billboard who praised its “highly commercial, anthemic sheen that certainly pairs nicely with the approach of Deluxe.”
The story of Better Than Ezra began before the nineties explosion they remain so often associated with ever even happened. Griffin and Drummond comprised the core of the band at its onset as they hit the road and won over one fan at a time beginning in 1989. This fan base would go on to be known as “Ezralites” by the time the first pressing of Deluxe landed independently in 1993. As the audience dramatically grew, Elektra signed the boys in 1995 and officially released Deluxe. A fixture on radio and MTV, “Good” captured #1 on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks Chart and went multi-platinum. 1996’s Friction, Baby yielded definitive anthems such as “Desperately Wanting” and “King Of New Orleans.” A string of fan favorite albums followed, including How Does Your Garden Grow?  and Closer .
2005’s Before The Robots represented another creative high. Its lead single “A Lifetime” peaked in the Top 15 of the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart as “Juicy” went on to famously soundtrack a Desperate Housewives campaign. Paper Empire followed in 2009 and then the band released their latest album in 2014, All Together Now. Produced by Tony Hoffer [M83, Beck,] it spawned the hit “Crazy Lucky,” which notched 10 million-plus streams.
At the same time, their touring presence burgeoned year after year as Better Than Ezra continue to sell out amphitheaters and arenas worldwide. A force of nature on stage, the group consistently deliver on tour as countless fans sing along to every word nightly. Their gigs further uphold a growing legend.
Outside of Better Than Ezra, Griffin established himself as a sought-after hitmaking songwriter, having songs recorded by the likes of Taylor Swift and Train. He also penned #1 hits for Howie Day and Sugarland in addition to writing with The Struts and Moon Taxi. In 2015, Griffin co-founded the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, which counts Justin Timberlake among others as partners.
Along the way, they launched the Better Than Ezra Foundation (www.BTEFoundation.org) in order to support their hometown. Chaired by Drummond, its charity endeavors span coastal restoration projects, after school programs for underprivileged kids, and more. Since 2008, it has raised over $1.7 million for causes throughout greater New Orleans.
Celebrating 25 years of Deluxe in 2018, the guys reissued the record on double vinyl. Detailing the release, Forbes summed up the group’s influence beyond the nineties scene it helped define.
The outlet wrote, “So many of that decade’s most influential, like supernovas, burned up fast… New Orleans alternative rock trio Better Than Ezra defied those odds.”
In the end, you’ll never forget the songs on Deluxe or any other release from their discography—and that’s better than anything.
Music always undoubtedly brings us closer together. The connection forged runs as deep as any family bond does. Similarly, the story of Tonic revolves around the longstanding, close brotherhood shared among members Emerson Hart [vocals, guitar], Jeff Russo [lead guitar], and Dan Lavery [bass]. Since 1996, the GRAMMY® Award-nominated multi-platinum trio has consistently delivered anthemic and undeniable rock fashioned from eloquent song craft, lyrical honesty, and unshakable melodies. Along the way, they translated true experiences and real memories into a storied catalog that resounds as loudly today as it did over two decades ago.
“Sometimes, I’ll see somebody in the crowd who’s not more than twenty-years-old,” says Emerson. “This person will be singing a thought I had in 1995 right back to me: every word and every note. Realizing the power of that was a big moment for me. If there are people in the crowd and we’re playing together, that’s the magic of it. We still love it. There’s an understanding this is bigger than us.”
The songs continue to endure. To date, the band has landed six Top 10 singles, sold 4 million-plus records, and garnered a pair of GRAMMY® Award nominations. As the story goes, Emerson and Jeff linked up together in Los Angeles as Tonic during 1994, with Dan joining the group in 1996. Inspired after catching U2’s Joshua Tree Tour in his native New Jersey, Emerson went to L.A., where he and Jeff launched the group. Their full-length debut, Lemon Parade, not only went platinum, but it also yielded the“ #1 Most-Played Rock Song of 1997” in the form of the lead single “If You Could Only See.” The band’s follow-up single,“You Wanted More,” served as the lead-off from the platinum Original Soundtrack Album for American Pie and the second full-length, Sugar.
In between a marathon of touring, they released Head On Straight 2002. The single “Take Me As I Am” received a GRAMMY® Award nomination in the category of “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” as the album vied for “Best Rock Album”—only to lose to Bruce Springsteen, “which is still a huge honor being from Jersey,” laughs Dan.
After a five-year hiatus, the three-piece returned to the charts on the heels of Tonic in 2010, landing in the Top 50 of the Billboard Top Rock Albums Chart and Top 25 of the Billboard Top Independent Albums Chart. Following a successful Pledge Music campaign, they re-recorded the seminal Lemon Parade acoustically for 2016’s Lemon Parade Revisited.
“The idea was, ‘How do we do something new?,” continues Jeff. “We wanted to take it back to the origins of the tracks. So, we sat in a room with acoustic guitars and played. It was a gratifying moment. At the same time, it made us realize that we really enjoy making rock. We love the thrill of playing. It’s come full circle recently, and it’s affected what we’re creating now.”
Outside of Tonic, each musician made a pronounced musical impact of his own. As a sought-after composer for film, television, and video games, Jeff wrote the score for HBO’s critically acclaimed The Night Of in addition to composing for Legion, Counterpart, Star Trek: Discovery, and more. He garnered the 2017 Primetime Emmy® Award in the category of “Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special” for Fargo. Dan played bass in the multiplatinum pop rock outfit The Fray before going on to establish himself as a writer and producer. In recent years, he’s been involved in artist management, working with the likes of Joe Jonas and Adam Lambert. Meanwhile, Emerson ignited a successful solo career, including albums such as Cigarettes and Gasoline , Beauty in Disrepair , and his 2019 third full-length 32 Thousand Days.
No matter what, the members of Tonic find themselves coming back together, hitting the road every year.
“This is like musical home base for us,” Dan leaves off. “From there, we can branch out and do other things, but this is something we all go back to. The fact the three of us have managed to stay together since 1996 with only a few years off is something we’re very proud of. The truth is we’re just three dudes from New Jersey and New York who have the same sensibilities. That’s why we’re still together decades later.”
Jeff agrees, “Every time we get back together, it just sounds and feels like Tonic.”
“The songs keep us around,” smiles Emerson. “We love seeing the excitement in fans’ eyes. We’re all connected. When we play, it’s a moment where we all feel something together.”