"I want that window to kind of hone in on who I really am."
Aldous Collins has emerged from the quiet of Covid to a rebirth of sorts. Like all of us, the frontman for The Aldous Collins Band is thinking more about how he wants to live, to work, to show up for his family. We talk about what that will look like in his music and why he's making changes to his high-energy, funk band. He's a father of seven kids with his second wife Melanie, a novice bassist, live-out-loud painter, beer collaborator...spiritual gangster.
:00 Ally Donnelly
Hi, and welcome to the Hingham cast. I’m your host, Ally Donnelly. I spent 20 years in the TV news business, but I’ve picked up a new mic to tell stories in a new way. Here, on Boston’s South Shore. The Hingham Cast is hyper local, looking at the world through a small town lens. But we’re after, what we’re all after. Conversation. Connection. Community. Let’s start here. Let’s start now.
:44 Aldous Collins
I’ll do a little taste of Be Free and Happy.
1:24 Aldous Collins
Should I do that with the phone ring? Oh, hold on. It's probably spam.
1:30 Ally Donnelly
It’s hard to catch Aldous Collins when he’s not running. The frontman for the Aldous Collins band is always busy. Making music, painting, raising a gaggle of kids, collaborating on new beers, and a million other projects. We tried to get together for this interview for months and finally sat down a couple of days ago.
1:49 Aldous Collins
1:50 Ally Donnelly
Yeah. Count to 10 for me real quick.
1:53 Aldous Collins
1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
1:58 Ally Donnelly
Okay. Allright, let’s chat.
2:01 Aldous Collins
2:02 Ally Donnelly
I want to say off the bat, I love music. But seeing bands at Fenway or Gillette or whatever, it's not really for me. I don't like the anonymity of it. I'm not cool. I have no rhythm. But I have seen you play a bunch of times. And it's something else all together. And it's hard to put my finger on, but I'm talking about when you play with your band but you play with such joy and such abandon that it's very cool to watch. Do you hear that a lot?
2:34 Aldous Collins
I guess I get described in a bunch of different ways. But... joy and abandon? I'll take that. I think—I guess I just feel like it's kind of evolved into that. And I really love to be mellow too, to be honest. I love singing songwriter stuff. But when I'm with the band, I think that what happened in the making of the music was like a community. And I feel like just going for it and celebrating the best I can kind of honors the community that we built. And it just—I don't know if I'm actually thinking that while I'm doing it, but I feel like that's kind of how it happened. I mean, I used to be a shy performer.
3:23 Ally Donnelly
That's really interesting. Because,at World’s End, for instance, you play Solstice often. And you start playing and it's... it really draws people in. You’re a very magnetizing force. And, you know, people get up and I get up, I'm dancing, no rhythm. Sorry, it's embarrassing. But, you know, the parents get up, the kids get up. It's just—it's very, very cool to watch and you are a very unifying force. What was the loss of that kind of community that you talk about, that jam session for you during COVID?
3:58 Aldous Collins
Well, to be honest, it was probably a nice break. I've played so much and gone in so many directions. But it's not always easy. And it's, you know, it's a lot of weight sometimes to do what we do. But right now we have a rebirth. I'm not—I mean, I'm still singing and writing songs, but I'm actually playing bass now, just to kind of… Because we had the need, and we needed to kind of move forward. And it's just… To be honest, it's been—I'll be interested to see how people react to it. But I feel like it's changed the style a little bit. We’re still the same, but it's been more unifying within the band. One of the things that was interesting about the band is that I have a lot of guests that come up. You know, we have a core of guys, but we would never be able to really focus on having, you know, a solid framework for what we're putting out there. For the first time in all these years, we have a smaller band. Mike Rahman has been with me for eight years and Luke Breck and Kevin Hennessy, they’ve been like six years or something. So you know, we have a nice solid team. And then… So anyway, the break was nice. And then we're coming out of it in a kind of a rebirth-y type of way. So, you know, an odd crazy world, but I think the result is a nice one for us.
5:35 Ally Donnelly
Interesting, you say a rebirth. What does that rebirth look like? Sound like? Or what do you hope it sounds like?
5:41 Aldous Collins
I hope it sounds like stuff that people want to hear. I mean, to say exactly what it sounds like, I don't really know. To be honest, I'm learning a whole new instrument. I never played bass until two months ago, my whole life. But the sound… I don't know, I just hope it's just more of a team sound. Before, we had a free for all party sound, which I didn’t mind, but this might be a more unifying sound, at least from within.
6:10 Ally Donnelly
Will you still be the front man, so to speak?
6:13 Aldous Collins
Yeah. Oh, yeah. I'm still singing. I've just happened to filling in... I'm just taking another spot, you know.
6:20 Ally Donnelly
6:21 Aldous Collins
So yeah, I'll still—It’s the same concept and basically the same group. I've just... our bass player just had too many things going on. He's amazing, it just didn't work out. So anyway, now we're four-piece, but we're also on the same page. We probably have practiced in these last two months more than the band has ever practiced ever. Which is a unique thing, because we were just kind of, we kind of set it and then forget it. And then you know, we'd have horn players come in and out, some of the best guys in the business. But, yeah, anyway, it was a nice break, but I'm actually really—I'm more happy about returning than I thought I'd be.
7:02 Ally Donnelly
Was it tough to learn a new instrument at this stage in the game, or was it intimidating?
7:08 Aldous Collins
Yeah. I mean, I love to write songs and I do like the sounds of stuff. I always loved different instruments. So I played ukulele, I played a little mandolin. I mean, I understand a lot of it but I'm not a school musician. I kind of just write what I feel, you know, and I understand framework enough to get by with it. And I understand it enough to get by on bass, but I never really played one, ever. Maybe the most I picked it up was a minute.
7:46 Ally Donnelly
Let’s head to the break with a bit from a new solo song from Aldous called Teach ‘Em.
8:16 Ally Donnellypproval. Brian Comer, NMLS ID:
Okay, back back to our conversation and how Aldous helped raise money for small businesses in a time of crisis.
9:02 Ally Donnelly
You know, during the pandemic, you pivoted, which is an overused word, but, you were at home doing kind of acoustic concerts, but you posted them on websites or Facebook pages of struggling small businesses, which I thought was lovely. It was a spiritual gangster tour. Had you played alone much before that?
9:21 Aldous Collins
Well, I'm almost 50. And I had a very brief period of playing music when I was in high school. I was probably 16 and I played for like four months, just singing in a band. That was just like… we actually ended up writing a ton of songs because we were kids, and we had a lot of time. But then that just ended. And I didn't play music, really. I mean, I ended up getting a guitar, but I didn't really play. I wasn't—I wouldn't have considered myself a musician. I loved, loved music, but I didn't consider myself a musician. And then I lived out West for a bunch of years, and then I moved back and some friends from my hometown were like, would you want to play some music with us and you can sing. And I was like, okay, but I wanna get a guitar, I don't want to just sing. So that was when I was like, 28, or something, 30. And we actually did pretty well. We were in New Hampshire and we ended up… I just naturally like to book gigs, I don't know why, but that's what I do. So I enjoyed that. And I started getting the band out there, and probably more busy than they wanted. And two of the guys had a fight over something, then it just ended. So then... that's kind of how it happens. And it's not really anybody's fault or anything, usually. It's more just… the life of music, it’s brutal. It's really hard. Everybody loves music. But the reality is, it isn't supported great in the economy and socially. People love it. But even with the latest, the COVID stuff, musicians were probably some of the hardest hit.
11:02 Ally Donnelly
Yeah. Well, let me go back. Because I think it's very interesting. You grew up in Goffstown, New Hampshire. And I've heard you describe yourself as a skateboarder, a skiiboarder, a surfer. Other than high school, I mean, were you a musical kid? Or was that just you joined a band to join a band?
11:19 Aldous Collins
Oh, no, I wasn't a musical kid. At all. No, I didn't—we didn't have it in my house. I guess I'm the youngest of—I have an older brother and two older sisters, and they listened to music, but they weren't very musical. And there's no real music in my family. I gravitated more towards skateboarding and snowboarding and I ended up moving out West and I lived in Oregon at Mount Hood, I lived in Colorado at Copper Mountain. And I really loved that and it's kind of similar, it took… it's creating, it just feels the same as music to me to do that stuff. Surfing, I would say that I am a weak surfer. For some reason, I don't surf enough and so I wouldn't say that I'm a good surfer. And no, I'm older, so I’m not a great skateboarder, either, but...
12:03 Ally Donnelly
I don't advise it, as a 50 year old, your senior, I don't advise big bumping falling down things. I got out of bed this morning and threw out my back wall.
12:22 Aldous Collins
Yeah, I have it all the time. I get up and I'm like, What is up with this pillow? It’s killing me. Like, who would ever think that pillows could kill you? But once you hit a certain age you’re like, I don’t know, it’s like the princess and the pea.
12:44 Ally Donnelly
I want to go back to your solo playing because I—not that you hadn't written or played, whatever. But to come out, you know, during the pandemic, you played solo. And was it scary for you at all to put yourself out there like that? Or were you fine?
13:00 Aldous Collins
It's different. I mean, I've played so much... I feel okay enough about what I do to do it. But I probably had those moments where I was like, Oh, crap, I didn't deliver that song right or whatever. You know, it's just a matter of how much time I was able to put into it. But I kind of walked away from it, and looked at it more like, it's something that I had, I feel like I had to do.
13:37 Ally Donnelly
Let’s head to break with Aldous’ Tomorrow’s A New Day.
14:14 Ally Donnelly
Before we get back to our conversation with Aldous, I want to take a minute to thank our sponsor, Vitamin Sea Brewing. Great news, their taproom in Weymouth is back open after a 15-month hiatus. They’re open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 12-8. They’ve got on site tours, cans, and merch to go, which you know goes fast. They’ve got a great list of rotating food trucks coming in which pair with their awesome IPAs, Fruited Sours and Stouts. And stay tuned to hear how you can score some sweet Vitamin Sea Swag and gear.
Okay, let’s get back to Aldous and what he’s thinking post pandemic.
14:48 Ally Donnelly
You know, I think we're all kind of taking hard looks at our lives after this, as we're coming out of this. You've had some very big life moments. The birth of your daughter, Indie. You and your wife have seven kids together, right?
15:00 Aldous Collins
She has three boys and I have three girls. Then we just made the seventh and that’s Indie.
15:10 Ally Donnelly
So are you seeing things differently for yourself, as you come into this kind of next post pandemic phase? What are you seeing?
15:18 Aldous Collins
I don't know what I'm seeing. I think I'm just at a point where, you know, music can play tricks on you. I never was the type of guy that really wanted to just get on a tour bus and tour. Although we probably could have, and probably still can. But I think if I'm looking at how the future is, I want to make music, I want to record more. I have a million solo songs now. Whether they're good or bad, I feel okay about them and I just feel like, you know, when you see someone with a guitar playing, it doesn't… it may not resonate the same way it would if they have a professional product. And I'm fortunate that the only songs that I've done solo, they've all been licensed by companies. So… And there's not that many, so I feel like a fool for not doing more. I feel like a fool in many ways, but I think we all do.
16:19 Ally Donnelly
You know, one of those is Walking in the Sunshine. Did you write that?
16:22 Aldous Collins
Yeah. If I didn't just look at that, or post that the other day, I would not even know that I had that song.
16:30 Ally Donnelly
16:31 Aldous Collins
I write songs, and I forget all about them. But that's—it's just funny. I just posted that the other day because someone liked it before. So I was like, I'll just post it again.
17:02 Ally Donnelly
You've got cool lyrics in that song. I think there's this kind of odd—it's not a dichotomy, per se, but it's like this... You know, obviously, we're all multifaceted. But in Walking in the Sunshine, you say, “I woke up with a sunrise, I woke up with a peaceful mind.” I mean, it's just very easy. It's lovely, it's a lovely song. And then, you have a little bit more fun. And forgive me, I don't know the title of this song. You said “roll them up, lift them up, drink it up, live it up.”
18:10 Ally Donnelly
I like those two, kind of shifting into each other. I don't know, I kind of like seeing how you're feeling. So when did you write both of those? Are those in the same kind of timeframe?
18:19 Aldous Collins
Yeah, those are both mildly new, I would say. I mean, the Roll Them Up was just two weeks ago. And if someone asked me to play it, I couldn't play it.
18:28 Ally Donnelly
Really? You sit, you write it, play it, and that's it? What do you mean?
18:32 Aldous Collins
Yeah, that's what happens. I have about 100 to 200 songs like that, that I've written and I played them. And then if they aren't used in the band, which the Walking in the Sunshine, I was thinking of, and I have another one... The Roll Them Up one I kind of liked, and I have one called Pulling Weeds. But if I don't record them, or if I don't go the distance of learning them to play them out, what I do is I write them. But if I don’t do something to memorialize it... The videos or so I can go back to them sometime. So the videos, if I put them on Facebook, or Instagram or whatever, I kind of do those to memorialize them for me. So I can go back and look at them, and to get…
19:22 Ally Donnelly
That’s your filing system?
19:25 Aldous Collins
Kind of. But sometimes, if I don't go back to these songs, you could have said, Walking in the Sunshine or another title, or you could have named 10 or 20. And I would have been like, what? I don't know that one. It’s just the nature of the beast. I mean, when you create, you can be reminded of what you created, but half the time, you create it and then you move on. It's probably because I got a pea brain. I don't know.
19:45 Ally Donnelly
I think not. You said the song you're writing on now might be your favorite. How come?
19:58 Aldous Collins
I don't know. I don't know. I just—it could be my favorite right now and then, you know, tomorrow, I could be like, “Oh, that was terrible.”
20:09 Ally Donnelly
Okay. Let’s listen to a little Pulling Weeds as we head to our next break.
20:37 Ally Donnelly
Before we get back to the conversation, I want to recognize Intrinsic Provisions. If you haven’t been in, you’re missing out. The outdoor/lifestyle store is a total hidden gem across from the Fruit Center in downtown Hingham. It’s the only store in Greater Boston to carry Stio. You know you’ve got the catalog. Plus, they carry a great selection of brands like Toad & Co, Sunski Duer, DemerBox, BioLite, and more. Find them at 69 Water Street. On social they’re @intrinsicprovisions or head to their website, intrinsicprovisions.com. And make sure you’re signed up for our emails. This week, Intrinsic is giving away a $100 gift card, just in time for Father’s Day, and we’ve also got a pair of passes to check out a movie at Patriot Cinemas. And be sure to tune in next week, because Vitamin Sea is putting together awesome packages: shirts, hats, glasses, great swag. So sign up on our website, thehinghamcast.com.
Okay, back to Aldous and why he started creating a new kind of art and how he’s looking at the future.
21:40 Ally Donnelly
I'm kind of shifting a little bit. But it's interesting, because you're, again, I'm not calling you an old man. But as you're aging, it seems like you're making choices where you're trying new things and getting into new perspectives. You also paint and for my understanding you didn't start until about four years ago. Why? Why are you doing art now? Well, I know you went to school for it, right?
22:05 Aldous Collins
Yeah. Well, I didn't go to school for painting. I just went to school for art. I actually never took any painting classes. I think... I don't know, maybe before this venture, probably four and a half years ago, I probably painted three paintings maybe, I don't know, something like that. But being with Melanie for a little while, she gifted me some art supplies. And I painted a picture and it was of a fish. I held it up. I was living in Marshfield at the time on Ocean Bluff, which I actually loved. It was so cool, Marshfield is such a great town. But I loved the spot I was living in. And I went to the end of the street and held up my painting. And Melanie took a picture and then a friend of mine, Sarah Hamlin, messaged me and she said, how much? And it was sold in like an hour. And not every piece sells like that. But I have been very lucky. And it works very well with music because when one's not firing, the other one's gonna sing to me and I'll play with it.
23:19 Ally Donnelly
Yeah. Do you lose yourself in the painting, like you do in the music? If you do.
23:26 Aldous Collins
It's interesting. I get really absorbed in the feel of what a painting is. I'm not—I can be detailed. But my nature is not to be detailed. Because I find it boring. I get a little exhausted and tired of myself. So I don't want to... I don't want to just sit there and needle on blades of grass. It's not enjoyable to me. But I want the conceptual feel to be presented. And that part, I can lose myself in. The part that gets hard as a painter is... the the inspiration is fine. And then the first couple hours are exciting. And then the finishing work, it's like eating your peas. Nobody wants to eat their peas.
24:38 Ally Donnelly
A quick thank you to our media partner, the Hingham Anchor. Put a face to Aldous’ voice, see photos and a video of his solo playing at highamanchor.com. Okay, what’s next for the band?
25:06 Ally Donnelly
Your schedule is filling up. How frenetic is that?
25:09 Aldous Collins
I'm not doing everything that comes my way. We want to keep it somewhat fresh. I mean, we're at Roht Marine every week, which for me is a lot. I kind of don't want to play a place every week. But it's only the summer. And the owner Eric Roht, we've been through a lot together. We've had some amazing nights there. But, the noises, you know, bothered some of the neighbors. So that took a little of the joy out of me. But that's like a friendship gig to me. But the overall business, we're playing Levitate on the 4th. We have Summer Solstice, which… World's Ends is a beautiful spot, so we're honored to be able to play there. And we're the only band that plays there every year and it's been going on for years.Ally Donnelly:
Yeah it is really… it's my favorite event of the year. It's just super special and the podcast will air the day before Worlds Ends, the day before Summer Solstice.
26:13 Aldous Collins
See you guys tomorrow at Summer Solstice.
26:15 Ally Donnelly
You know, it's interesting you said just about Roht Marine, it’s a friendship gig. Outsider looking in, you’re very much about community. One of your songs, Be Free and Happy, you say “ain't no living good, If you ain't giving like you should.” Is that a life credo for you?
26:32 Aldous Collins
Look at you. I do... wait a second. I do a lot of interviews. You do a lot of homework. Good Job.
26:43 Ally Donnelly
I do indeed.
26:44 Aldous Collins
Well, yeah, I think we all try to do the best we can in our circles, and we're not going to please everyone. To be honest, I want to please everyone. And, you know, I'll fail. And sometimes I want everybody to please me. And I think that the key is, you know, you want to be transparent. So when you're dealing with people you want to be honest and open, I think, and I think that that credo is, it's in that too, so being honest. But I would say that I have I'm amazing mom. My mom's like, she's pretty special. She's different than most people, I think. Everybody loves—everybody should love their mom, but she's pretty special. She's like, she's just a beast. She does so much for so many people. And she's just—she's just a sweetheart. And I think that… I don't know, I hope that if I'm coming across as that I'm community and trying to be good, I hope that I'm coming across 10% of what she is because she's an angel.
28:09 Ally Donnelly
That's lovely. That's good.
28:10 Aldous Collins
For people who don’t know me, I'm just a guy from New Hampshire. I moved down here and my life changed and like a lot of people, I had—my first marriage didn’t work and then other little things happened and whatever. But I'm a happily married guy and we have a lot of kids and we're really... I love being a dad. And I'm very fortunate for the nice things I have in my life and the people that have supported me. And I hope that I can represent them in my collaborations in a way that makes them happy.
28:50 Ally Donnelly
So what do you want for you, in the year or two ahead?
28:54 Aldous Collins
Just to be better, you know. Kind of like the same thing I think that you want for you, what everybody wants for themselves. I want that window to kind of hone in what I really am. And I think that COVID was great for that, a kind of reflective, cool time. But that doesn’t mean that I have these ideas in my head of what I want to do. And, you know, I just get pulled in so many directions that I hope I can still execute on stuff that I feel like I should do. But we'll see. I mean, I'm happy right now, as long as I can keep taking care of my family and growing in that way and growing in other ways. And if a few people reach out like you and say, I don't think you're such a schmo, that's a good start.
29:56 Ally Donnelly
Aldous Collins, I don't think you're such a schmo. Well, thank you so much for talking with me. I really appreciate it. It was a great conversation.
30:07 Aldous Collins
Oh, thanks. Thanks for having me in. And sorry it took us so long to get together. But here we are.
30:12 Ally Donnelly
It's all good. It's all good. I'll see you at Summer Solstice.
30:15 Aldous Collins
All right, great. Thank you so much, Ally.
30:40 Ally Connelly
As we say goodbye, I want to leave you with a bit more of Aldous playing Be Free and Happy. I also want to thank my podcasting partner, Kristin Keefe, someone who is always looking for joy and art in this world. Our fabulous intern is Claudia Chiappa from Boston University and our website is the work of Donna Mavromates at Mavro Creative. I’m Ally Donnelly. Thanks for listening. Talk to you soon!