At first look, Kelly McBride looks like any other college student just trying to get by in all his classes. What people don’t see is the rock star hiding just underneath the surface. He is the guitar player and vocalist for Pearl Divide, an Oxford band.
The band is comprised of McBride and his friends, Parker Daily, with the guitar and backup vocals; Mitchell Boulanger on the bass; and Joseph Wells manning the drums.
A performance by Pearl Divide can change the entire atmosphere of a venue. One minute everyone will be sitting at the bar having an average night. That all changes when McBride and his friends step on stage and start their show.
People are now on their feet dancing. Everyone’s eyes are glued to the four musicians on stage, and no one wants to look away until the performance is over fearing they will miss even a minute.
Pearl Divide has been playing together since January 2017, but in those two years, they have created something special. All four members are from Jackson and have been friends since high school.
“Basically, me and our old drummer started playing together, and I taught Mitchell how to play bass,” McBride said. “One day, I invited Parker to come jam with us, and ever since then, we’ve been playing together.”
The group got the name Pearl Divide from the Pearl River that flows near their hometown. The group joked about how they lived on one side of the river, but went to school on the other side, hence the “divide.” The river was also a common place for McBride and friends to hang out and enjoy being young.
McBride on stage and McBride off stage are two different people. Off stage, he is reserved and doesn’t seem like the front man for a rock band. However, looks can be deceiving.
On stage, McBride seems to grow in maturity as soon as he steps up to the microphone and turns into a completely different person. He doesn’t try to overpower the other instruments with his voice. Instead it blends with the music.
“Our style of music really is based off of what we like, which is a lot of different stuff,” McBride said. “But generally, we like to play alternative rock with extended jam band style solos.”
Pearl Divide does mostly covers, but also has four original songs they are comfortable performing live. However, they are constantly working on their craft in their free time and creating new songs.
McBride has a long list of groups and performers who have inspired him, ranging from the rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Hip Hop artist Kendrick Lamar. He draws from different genres to create a unique sound. Some of his other idols include Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, and The Grateful Dead.
“It’s my favorite thing in the world,” guitar player Parker Daily said. “There’s nothing quite like being up on that stage.”
McBride and the rest of Pearl Divide perform all over the Square and around Oxford. The most common place to find them serenading an audience is at Rooster’s Blues House. They will also play a number of shows at The Levee, Rafters and Harrison’s.
It is not uncommon for someone to just randomly come across the band at one of these venues, and then leave a fan. They have an upcoming performance at the annual Chi Omega craw fish boil in March.
The longevity of college bands is usually just the four or five years that they are in school. It is rare to find a group like Pearl Divide that doesn’t split up when the real world comes knocking. They all end up in different places to start the next chapters of their lives. For some, there comes a time to hang up the guitar and put on a tie.
“I’d like to think the band could go somewhere further,” McBride said. “But we’ll see what happens down the road.”
The future is unclear for McBride and the rest of Pearl Divide. The music industry is a hard business to get into and even harder business to be successful in. Unlike most bands, Pearl Divide actually has a good chance of breaking through, but they aren’t worried about that right now. They are just living in the moment and enjoying every second of it.