Shaw, Collective Soul frontman E Roland, and Styx producer Will Evankovich tell the tale of how the Styx guitarist/vocalist came to play a key role on the touching final track on Collective Soul’s stunning new album, Blood.

by Mike Mettler, resident Styxologist

Collective Soul release their tenth studio album Blood today, June 21, 2019, on CD, vinyl, and through digital outlets via Fuzze-Flex/ADA, and sharp listeners will quickly discover the LP includes a very special guest at the tail end of it — namely, Styx guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw, who appears on the final track, the reflective, poignant acoustified coda “Porch Swing.” On this instant-classic down-home kind of song, Tommy contributes background vocals and tasteful mandolin and dobro licks, all of which he was beyond thrilled to contribute. “I’ve always been a fan of E Roland and Collective Soul’s recordings,” Tommy tells Styxworld. “I thought about adding more parts than what E asked me to do, but as someone wiser than me once said, ‘Don’t paint over the masterpiece!’”

Enthuses the aforementioned Collective Soul frontman, E (formerly known as Ed) Roland, “Having Tommy come in and sing and play dobro and mandolin on ‘Porch Swing’ was awesome. I didn’t want it to be a Collective Soul song or a Styx song, or us trying to be Styx. I thought this was something Tommy would really dig because he’s also into the mandolin and bluegrass music. I also thought this was a perfect median for what the song idea was. And it’s kinda cool to hear Tommy’s voice end the record too. I mean, with him being one of my heroes and all, I thought that was a really cool way to go!” (Can’t argue with the E-man’s logic!)

Not only is “Porch Swing” the seamless bookend for the overall arc of Blood itself, but it’s also a shrewd callback to the track that resides at the close of 1995’s Collective Soul. “I like the way we ended our second album with ‘Reunion,’ and I think this one is right up there with it,” assesses Roland. “We waited until the very end to have everybody sitting out there on the porch swing. I’m using an acoustic, and now another guy’s got a dobro out, and then there’s Tommy singing, and there’s whistling too — and then it all becomes calm again. And it is calm. We’re just there, writing music, playing music, and enjoying each other’s company. Yeah, to me, that’s the right way to end this album.”

Assisting with Tommy’s contribution to “Porch Swing” was none other than Will Evankovich, the man who produced Styx’s most recent studio album, 2017’s perpetually excellent The Mission. “Oh yeah, it’s a really, really cool song,” Will notes. “Tommy just asked me to come over and produce his part as a favor, and I was more than happy to do it. It wasn’t that pre-meditated. Working with Tommy on ‘Porch Swing’ was a lot of fun, because I think it certainly suits his proclivity towards some of that really great songwriter material. In fact, it reminded me of something we would have done on one of his solo records,” Will muses. “I enjoyed all of the hooks, and I really enjoyed the lyrics of ‘Porch Swing.’ In the face of all the adversity in your life, it’s saying, ‘Don’t worry about me, I’ll be right here,’ you know? ‘No matter what you throw at me, I’m kind of impervious to it. I’ve been through it all, and I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’m doing my thing, no matter what!’ It’s so great.”

Does Roland have any second thoughts about having someone who’s not a member of Collective Soul be the last voice you hear on their new album? “I mean, that’s Tommy Shaw — who you jokin’ about with me over there, boy?” Roland says with an exaggerated drawl and a hearty laugh. “I almost think I shouldn’t have stopped at having him be on just one song!”

Roland (at left in the band photo below) then gives us his overall assessment of Blood, which may very well be the best album from stem to stern in the entire Collective Soul canon. “I think Blood expresses where we’ve been on this life journey of ours,” he says of the band that’s celebrating their 25th year together in 2019. “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.” And you should be proud, Sir E, as you and your collective friends keep rockin’ on your porch swing all night long. . .