Ed Roland worked to make it in music for more than a decade before forming Collective Soul in the early '90s with a group of younger musicians, including his brother, Dean. Their first single, "Shine
," was an unexpected hit, sending them on a lengthy tour in 1994 that pulled them far from their hometown of Stockbridge, Georgia. Much of their second album was written on the road around this time, including "The World I Know." Roland came up the lyric when he went for a walk on a rare day off in New York City.
"There was still some grit and dirt to New York City," he said in a Songfacts interview
. "Especially around Times Square and Union Square back then. I literally walked out of the room, took a two-hour walk around New York, and just absorbed and observed from the highs and lows of what society was offering in the greatest city in the world.
Back then, there were still homeless people living in cardboard boxes. Then, somebody pulled up in a nice limousine, with fur coats on, and walked right by.
Just to be in that big city, I was looking at what the good was, what the bad was, but also, you don't know what good feels like until you feel bad. You don't know what bad feels like until you feel good. So, I was trying to use that whole imagery and using it with New York City as I walked around."