Friday, 02 September 2016 17:15

Q&A with Christopher Alan Yates of Ed Roland & the Sweet Tea Project

Even though I was raised OTP, I consider myself native to Atlanta. My dad however was raised ITP, which apparently makes him an official Atlanta Native, and those are hard to come by. He attended Christ the King, lunched at Henri’s weekly, graduated from Marist, and pronounces the days of the week, like: Sundee, Mondee, Tuesdee. In the front yard of his childhood Atlanta home, grew a magnolia tree, now having a canopy that you could literally build a 4 bedroom, 2 story house under. My grandmother still lives there, not under the tree, but like I said…she totally could! I love listening to stories of her 7 children and their shenanigans(my dad being the ring leader), Garden Club meetings and mandatory family Sunday(pronounced Sundee) Dinner and served with glasses of sweet iced tea. Like the traditional southern beverage, my Grandma Darlin’ is as sweet as the day is long.


Her given grandparent name came from her tendency to refer to everyone everywhere as darlin’, and with 7 kids I suppose that darlin’ may have been an easier than remembering if you were Jimmy, Gina, Michael, Teresa, Tony, Laura or Michelle!  Needless to say, southern dialect, southern traditions and southern comfort are a huge part of my heritage, proudly filling my southern soul. Since it takes one to know one, I can honestly say that after interviewing Ed Roland & the Sweet Tea Project’s Christopher Alan Yates, it’s clear that the sweet sound waves like tupelo honey come from their own rockin’ gypsy southern souls. Here Christopher Alan Yates talks about how Ed Roland & the Sweet Tea Project came to play and how the journey has been pretty damn sweet.


How does it feel exactly, when a "magical engaging one-off project" evolves into a "powerhouse recording and touring unit"?

Christopher: When we’re in the zone on stage, nothing compares and one of the best musical experiences we’ve all had. In the studio, we truly work as a team songwriting and working out arrangements. But we have our challenges, Ed is still very much dedicated to his role as front man and lead singer of another little project called Collective Soul. They’re a hard working band, still songwriting, recording and touring to this day. C Soul’s fan base is out there and always ready for new C Soul music or to go see them perform a live show. The Sweet Tea Project has benefitted from the success Ed’s had with Collective Soul. Opportunities and gigs like “Rock Chastain” have opened themselves to us because Ed’s been a hit writing machine for a couple of decades now. But Sweet Tea happened out of a love to create new music and you can never predict what’s going to happen or how successful that music will be, you just do it ‘cause it feels good, haha. It’ll always be a struggle finding balance between the two musical entities, but it’s worth it!


One of the reasons, fans love you guys is because you respectfully play a serious plethora of musical instruments on every record. Aside from the conventional ones, there’s a banjo, a ukulele, a dobro and a steel pedal guitar. How did this instrumental collaboration come to play?

Christopher: Ed’s a connoisseur of fine musical instruments, so he tends to have an eclectic variety hanging around his studio. When we’re working on a new tune, someone might say, “I wonder what this instrument will sound like here”, and we’ll try that out. If it feels right it becomes a part of that song. In addition to that, we feel like these songs are begging for these types of instruments, so it just sort of comes natural to what we’re creating.


It appears that your southern roots have an influence on your music, and that you have an influence on your southern roots. This October, will be your second year headlining Rock Chastain, a benefit concert for the Chastain Park Conservancy in Atlanta. Why is it important for you to be a part of this event?

Christopher: We are proud of where we come from and we love Chastain Amphitheater. We all live in and around the Atlanta area so we totally get how important Chastain is to the music community here. Ed lives in the same neighborhood as the park. The work the conservancy does is important and we’re stoked to be able to help out by playing this great event.


Your first album, Devils ‘n Darlins was a huge success. How do you feel your 2nd album, set to release this fall, will stand in comparison?

Christopher: You can’t predict how it’ll be received by the public but we’re extremely happy with the sound of this new album. The band’s had a few more years to develop and work together and the songs reflect that.


Fans will look forward to hearing their current favorites and soon to be new favorites off both albums, live on October 15th at Rock Chastain 2016. If you each had to choose one track from either album to be your favorite, what would that be and why?

Christopher: That’s a tough question to answer. The title track from the first album Devils ’n Darlins is a lot of fun to play live and tends to get people moving and juiced up, so that’s always a great feeling. The new album…… it’s too soon to say, fans will just have to decide that for themselves.


It’s fair to say, that most can relate to the hook from Devils ‘n Darlins' track, “Forget About Your Life”- “life can be hard as a Monday morning or easy as a Friday night”, but I think fans would find it interesting to know what you typically do at home in Georgia (pronounced GAW-gia) "on a Tuesday"?

Christopher: Yeah, that’s a great line and was written and sang by our bass player Brian Bisky. Well let’s see, Ed’s on tour with C Soul, so home for him right now’s a tour bus, a hotel room or a stage. When he comes off the road in September, I’m sure he’ll be taking at least a couple of Tuesday’s to recharge at home with his family. But I think for the most part musicians tend to be busier towards the end of the week and through the weekend. They use those first couple of days in the week, that for a lot of people is the start of their work week, as time to recharge a little bit.


Speaking of lyrics, you know that kind of smirk you get when you hear lyrics in a song that are so simply or uniquely written and also express something so clear and relatable. Some that come to mind for me are, "That's where it's at"-Sam Cooke, "My angels, my devils, thorn in my pride"-The Black Crows and then of course, practically every line in Bob Dylan's, “Like a Rolling Stone”. Assuming that you continue to also incorporate your oh so cool philosophical vernacular, are there any one-liners we can look forward to smirking about?

Christopher: Well I don’t know if it’ll make you smirk but one line that jumps out at me as I think about it is in the song “Lovers Lullaby”. It’s written by our guitar player Jesse Triplett, (it features Jesse on lead vocal as well). The line goes, “seven billion people and all I want to see is you”. To me, that’s brilliant in its simplicity. He summed up how anyone who’s ever been in love has felt at some point and he included every person on the planet in that line of his song…. all in just a few words.