For the lead guitarist of Oxford’s The Holy Ghost Electric Show, art and music are spiritually and genetically intertwined.
Will Shirley, son of Art Shirley, HottyToddy.com and former Ole Miss cartoonist, has been in this ascending band for three years. This semester he is taking a break from school while he and his bandmates try to jump to the next level with their folk-rock group.
“I started out as a biology major and quickly decided it wasn’t for me,” Shirley said. “I joined the band as the bass guitarist and took over as lead guitarist six months later. Meantime, I switched to computer science and I’m not sure if I want to make that my life’s work either. I hate math.”
Luckily, another passion is calling Shirley. His love of music and his band have convinced the easy-going musician to take a semester off to concentrate on The Holy Ghost Electric Show. Shirley learned about the band through conversations with Holy Ghost’s drummer Austin Wheeler, a fellow dorm resident. When Wheeler said the band needed a bassist, Shirley’s course was set.
“This will set me back a little in school,” Shirley admits, “but I’m committed to earning my degree eventually. I have great confidence in the future of our band, but the music business is always a risk and you have to prepare for life ahead.”
You might think Shirley’s parents would be greatly relieved to hear his practical attitude about the future, but the redhead shakes his shoulder-length hair and declares that his mom and dad, both singers, are his biggest supporters in following his musical dreams.
“I started playing in the 8th grade with a guitar my father bought me,” Shirley recalled. “Both my parents sang in college and my dad played in bands when he was my age. I definitely think my love of art comes from my dad (Art Shirley is not only a published cartoonist but he works in West Point, Miss. as a graphic designer). I started painting when I was little and I still like to draw. It might not seem like visual art translates easily to music but there can be a bridge between the two forms of self expression.”
When Shirley told his parents about his plans to take some time off from school, they didn’t panic. “My mom says I’m too chill sometimes,” Shirley said, “but both of them advised me that life and the future aren’t set in concrete. They stressed that I should be open to possibilities and to taking life as it comes. They still want me to get that degree, though,” he adds with a chuckle.
The Holy Ghost Electric Show headlined at Proud Larry’s earlier this month and at Rebelthon in the Grove on Feb. 22.
The band performs mostly original material although they’ll cover Bruce Springstein, Bob Dylan and some Mississippi Delta blues standards.
“We’ve been compared to Elvis Costello and The Band,” Shirley explained, “but we’re really about our own original sound.”
Lyrics carry a heavy weight in the band’s musical stylings. Lead singer and songwriter Cody Rogers is a prolific writer, and The Holy Ghost has already produced an original album with another on the way.
Shirley related how one female fan was listening to a song on The Holy Ghost’s first CD about a car crash as she drove along the highway. She had to pull over, incapacitated with emotion.
To show their versatility and to end each live show on a spiritual high, the band finishes every gig with a slow, soulful gospel song.
Shirley points to some promising signs for the band’s future growth. They’ve been booked to perform some East Coast shows this summer by a promoter looking specifically for southern musical talent.
“Right now I’m very content to focus on the band,” Shirley said. “Performing and playing and making music is a dream come true for me and my bandmates. We all get along and we want to ride this for as long as it lasts.”
Some well-known area record labels and producers are interested in working with The Holy Ghost Electric Show. While a national tour is always a possibility, for now you can still hear them perform their lively show at Oxford venues such as The Blind Pig and Lamar Lounge, as well as Proud Larry’s.
For more information on the band’s upcoming shows, and to buy CDs and merchandise, click on their website at theholyghostelectricshow.com or like them on Facebook at https://www.reverbnation.com/theholyghostelectricshow.
Andy Knef is editor of HottyToddy.com Andy can be contacted about this story at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com
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