The diamond in the rough: A sit down with Cody Rogers of The Holy Ghost Electric Show

Alice McKelvey
The Oxford Eagle

Cody Rogers, lead singer and guitar player in his band The Holy Ghost Electric Show, is shaping the local Oxford music scene with his thoughtful and, almost poignant, tunes.

The Corinth native began playing music publicly at an early age around neighboring cities in North Mississippi.

“The way that Holy Ghost Electric Show started, it was just me, not much electricity, and not much of a show. It was just me and an acoustic guitar playing at little hole-in-the-wall places… And I used to play crazy things too, I used to busk in Tupelo all the time, like go to the mall and busk out in the parking lot.

“I used to play in parks at night and played a lot of house parties too, you know – little, quiet house parties – the kind you’d expect a beatnik to go to, where everybody’s drinking Irish whiskey and coffee and getting really quiet.”

Rogers regards a local record store in his hometown as the basis of his musical roots. Top Shelf Records, now closed after years of service providing movies, CDs and vinyl records, was where Rogers spent most of his time while living in Corinth.

After Corinth, Rogers floated around the South living in various cities. For a while, he lived in Nashville. However, he claims Oxford has his heart, calling it a “diamond in the rough.”

“A lot of people I know don’t know it, but I’ve lived in Oxford only for about a year,” he said. “But I’ve been coming to Oxford all the time for years now. Even when I lived in Nashville, I’d come here every weekend. I’ve lived quite a few different places, and Oxford’s pretty hard to beat.”

The Holy Ghost Electric Show is a somewhat recent project of Rogers’, forming only within the last two years. The band consists of six core members: Cody Rogers (vocals, guitar, songwriter), his brother Jake Rogers (guitar, banjo), Will Shirley (lead guitar), Connor Wroten (bass), Austin Wheeler (drums), and Dylan Van Zile (saxophone, keys).


According to Rogers, many of the band members have been friends for years, playing music together with friends from Tupelo at his parents’ cabin. A lot of the early members came and went, with Rogers noting he’s been through more drummers and lead guitarists than he can count.

When the band recorded their first album, “The Great American Holy Ghost Electric Show,” the core group came together.

The album was self-released in January of 2014. In August 2014, the band was picked up under the label “This Is American Music,” which features other artists like Tedo Stone, Caleb Caudle, and Great Peacock. The label then re-released the album.

In January of 2015, the band was offered the opportunity to record an EP in Woodstock, New York, with Simone Felice of the Felice Brothers, a folk rock/country rock band with a similar sound to The Holy Ghost Electric Show.

The EP was set to be released in the spring of 2015, but Rogers said a talk with Simone Felice and his musical friends and mentors said it would be best to push the album release date closer to the recording of their second album, which is expected to be recorded in January of 2016.

“We found that the best course of action would be to release this EP on CD and vinyl at the beginning of this coming year while we’re in the studio with Simone,” Rogers said. “And the album, which I’ve been promised, will get a spring release. So we basically have an EP and an album back to back.”

While the band is not playing shows or recording, its members are working and/or finishing up school at Ole Miss. During the day, you can find Cody Rogers at the Oxford T-Shirt Company, where he manages the graphic design department.

IMG_5116According to Rogers, being in the band is like working a second job.

“Andrew Bryant here in Water Liars [another local band], he said, ‘If you’re not filing as much paperwork for your band as if you were working an office job, you’re not doing it right.’ And that’s the truth,” Rogers said. “Some days, I’ll end up working 10 hours a day, 12, 14…I’ve been doing it for so long now, it’s just routine. I don’t think about it that much. But I don’t feel that the band suffers in any shape or form. And we never ignore opportunities or not honor a commitment because of that stuff.”

Recently, the band just got home after a two-week tour across the South. One member, Will Shirley, was not able to attend most of the tour due to other circumstances but was filled in by Kell Kellum, another local musician.

IMG_5119“We have such a huge amount of musicians we can call upon, we just called upon Kell Kellum to play pedal steel for us on a few gigs, and that’s what he did,” Rogers said. “And we sounded great. It sounded different than what a lot of people probably heard here in Oxford, but it sounded great. We don’t skip a beat as far as that stuff goes.”

The Holy Ghost Electric Show has gained quite a following on the Mississippi music scene, attaining recognition from news outlets like Jackson’s newspaper The Clarion-Ledger.

Jacob Threadgill, a reporter at The Clarion-Ledger, had this to say about the band:

“A concert involving Holy Ghost Electric Show also serves as a social experiment in cognitive dissonance,” he said. “As lead singer Cody Rogers stands adorned with cowboy hat and acoustic guitar, and his brother Jake to his left strumming on a banjo, the brain has an idea of what type of music to expect.

“As live songs pick up the influences of the rest of the band, it goes more from sounding like Woody Guthrie to more like Godspeed You! Black Emperor.”

Dustin Wright, an Ole Miss freshman, remembers the first time he saw the band play live the night of their first album release show at Proud Larry’s.

IMG_5064“I had never heard any of their music before, and I knew nothing about them,” he said. “I think the Red Thangs and Light Beam Rider opened the show, and then Holy Ghost came on with about 20 people onstage setting up gear on Proud Larry’s already small stage.

“I had never really seen anything or heard anything like it. It was loud and rowdy.  The drummer kept jumping on top of his kit and standing while playing.

“They had a horn section and piano player along with a full five-member band. The band kept yelling the lyrics and going crazy, while the front man kept rather calm and stoic.  And that’s when it really hit me that they were a special band.”

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