Serengeti Man: A Conversation With Collective Soul’s Will Turpin

The Book of Will Turpin is one that shouldn’t be judged by its cover.

Turpin, who came to fame as the bassist for the 1990s, Atlanta-based rock band Collective Soul, is proud of the work he and his band have produced over the course of the last two decades. But with the recent release of his second solo album, “Serengeti Drivers,” Turpin has divulged a deeper, more contemplative side that stretches well beyond that boundaries of radio-ready commercial rock. So much so, that at first listen, one may deem “Serengeti Drivers” an effort in rock of the softer variety at times.

But soft it is not. And neither is Turpin. In fact, the new album is a direct reflection of an incredibly difficult and tumultuous time that Turpin went through before, and during, the recording of the album.

“I began to write and record these songs when my wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Turpin said. “That changed me, but I am incredibly proud of what came out of it.”

Turpin teamed with Jonathan Becker to produce the “Serengeti Drivers,” a title born from a recurring dream he was having at the time.

“When we started to record the record, I kept having this dream that I was walking in a desert, lost and not knowing where I was going,” Turpin said. “But then I would see some friends of mine, just out of the blue, driving around in the desert, having fun, being care-free. I’d wonder, ‘Who are those Serengeti Drivers?’ and then recognize them.

“I’d wake up, and it was literally the only part of the dream that I could remember. And it wasn’t a bad feeling. I didn’t wake up thinking I’d had a nightmare. I was just alone and maybe searching for something. But I’m not sure why I wasn’t having a feeling of abandonment. I didn’t feel like I needed them to stop and give them a ride. I just saw them, which is odd.”

Or it maybe it wasn’t so unusual. Dreams have a way of speaking their own mind. On one hand, Turpin was a father of three with a loved one staring cancer straight in the face, wondering what the future was going to bring. But despite looking on into the unknown, Turpin somehow knew his was on solid ground — and had the support of his longtime bandmates and friends in Collective Soul.

The aforementioned creators of rock staples such as “Shine,” “December,” and “Where The River Flows,”  take a backseat to nothing, musically, Turpin said.

“We all know that’s where the bread and butter is, and we’re still having fun doing 100 shows a year or so,” Turpin said. “Collective Soul will always be the main thing, and we all enjoy it. As long as that’s there, and there’s demand to see us, we’ll be there, too.”

The solo stratosphere is a creative space that allows Turpin to branch out a bit, he said, and employ some creative liberties that might not necessarily be right for Collective Soul, such as the ever-s0-slight nod to Americana/country on “On and On,” with its banjo and mandolin instrumentations, or the introspective “Fallen Castles.” Turpin smartly avoids the temptation to take the album a thousand miles off the Collective Soul course, thanks to tracks “Belong” or “All On You” that will subtly keep listeners in the CS musical ballpark.

“I’ve been in the band long enough that there’s bound to be some comparisons here and there,” Turpin said. “And that’s natural, as it should be. I’ve been a part of that team for more than 20 years.”

Turpin pointed to the new track, “Demons,” as one of his personal highlights from “Serengeti Drivers.”

“It’s not about anything I went through in particular, but instead just this idea that there will always be good and bad, dark and light, but in the midst of that, you have to find balance,” he said. “I’m not ridding myself of demons. I’m just happy having a little bit of everything.”

“It’s going to be a lot of fun and good times,” Turpin said. “I’m in a good place, and we’re in a good place. I’m proud of the way things have gone.”

Collective Soul on Tour:
Oct.  14 Grand Rapids, MI
Oct. 15 Kitchener, Canada
Oct. 17 Westbury, NY
Oct. 18 Red Bank, NJ
Oct. 20 Greensboro, GA
Oct. 23 Brandon, MS
Oct. 24 Huntsville, AL
Oct. 26 Chattanooga, Tn,
Oct. 27 Cherokee, NC
Oct. 28 Charleston, SC
Dec. 2 Fort Lauderdale, FL

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