Roosevelt Collier Pedals His Way to the Summer Stage
How did your three uncles, Alvin, Derrick and Keith, influence your musical style?
My father died at a young age, so all these guys became my father. I would watch them perform during church service. The sound that they gave was so powerful. It was like a rock show every Sunday. It was high energy. That’s why it’s natural for me to play because I was raised that way.
What kind of pedal steel guitar do you play?
Ten string, seven pedals, five knee levels. It’s a Fessenden Steel Guitar made in Burlington, Vermont. I also have a lap steel which is my own design made by Dan Lawson at DLlapsteel guitars. I’m able to get up and walk around with it, so I’m actually mobile now.
How did you learn how to play?
Everything came from the church and I learned from my uncle, the late Glenn Lee. He was one of the sickest steel players. I’m a third generation player – it was kind of just given to me – like a gift. I watched him at church and he would coach and drill me personally. When I was 15, he would stand by me and make sure that I was playing right.
What was the most challenging aspect of learning how to play the pedal steel?
I started out playing a lap steel when was 12 or 13. Here I am starting out playing lap steel. I’m like, “OK.” I was getting it slowly but I’m learning. By the time I turn 15, my uncle the late Glenn Lee takes me off from my six-string and puts me out on a double pedal steel, by far the biggest steal pedal out there. I’m thinking, “This is big for me and I’m just a kid.” I cried and pouted and I was like, “Come on, this is a machine – it’s big, it’s heavy and I don’t know what to do.” He told me, “You better learn it” and I said, “How? This thing is so big, I can barely hold it.” And he was like, “You’re going to learn it.” He taught me the basics and after I calmed down, I started playing it and I was like, “I can do this.”
Can give you us an update on The Lee Boys?
We took it slow this year since the death of Vera Lee our mom/grandmother earlier this year. That was our Big Momma. That was a really tough time for us, so we kind of slowed down and spent more time at home. Come next year, most likely we’re going to tour.
What’s it like playing music with family?
Blood is thicker than water. It’s sweet and sour. You have your tussles but it’s the most love you’ll ever get. We’re all true blood.
And finally, what’s the plan until the family reunites?
You can look for a solo project that should be coming out soon. I’m working on it right now but I can’t say who’s going to be working on it with me. It’s going to be a surprise