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Artists in their own words: Cardinal Sons

Cardinal Sons

Cardinal Sons (Photo credit: Flatland)



Who: Cardinal Sons (John, David, and Joe Shirley)

What: Musicians

Where: New Orleans (John and David) and Los Angeles (Joe)


Q: How do you know when something is important?

Joe:  Musically for us as a band, something's important when somebody feels very strongly about a particular idea. If someone offers something to the conversation, or to an idea or song, and they really feel strongly about it, then it's important enough to give it a chance. It's important to respond to that almost like you were having a conversation, you know?

David:  And we know when we all think it's really, really good. When the music is really exciting or inspiring, all of us feel it. When we all feel that, then we know it's important and we love it.

John:  That's a big part of knowing that something is important--when all three of us agree on it. That means it is a significant idea that we have all grasped in a good way.

David: These two songs that we're putting out, we all pretty much agreed on everything in terms of what we liked and the song's ideas in general.  We were all definitely on the same page.

Q: What is something you always wish you had with you?

David:   My dog, Coop.

Joe:  Shit, that's a good one for all of us.

David:  Yeah. He's kind of equal parts all of us. Joe and I got him from the pound a few years ago. John has definitely been his favorite uncle. Our dog Cooper is a big one.

John, are you going to be the total jerk and be like, 'Yeah, I actually wouldn't pick Cooper'?

John: No, no. I completely agree with that. In fact, in the article, if you could give a shout out to Coop Shirley on Instagram, that'd be great.

Q: When do you know it's time to stop practicing?

David: When there's an awkward silence and everyone's tired.

John: I think in developing your craft, a lot of artists are given the old diatribe that you should never stop practicing. It's one of those things where practice is work, and it can sometimes seem like a huge pain in the ass. We are told to push through that, keep going, it will get better.

There's also the Malcolm Gladwell rule about 10,000 hours--that if you want to be good at anything you really need to put in the work. I definitely am on the side of being lazy about practice. Be that either in playing guitar or writing songs. I think that I could definitely use a lot more practice because I think really to be good at anything you don't stop. You continue to develop your craft for a lifetime.

David: I thought you meant in like a band practice sense. Getting together with people and practicing as a band. In that case, it's usually kind of like, 'Alright, we've been here for awhile, we're tired. No one's saying anything. Let's take a break.'

Joe: Well, as far as real practice as a musician goes, my practicing has come down to basically zero now, which sucks. I'm sure David practices more than anyone in our band.

David: Yeah. I mean, when I'm in town, I practice every day. I try to spend at least an hour or two a day with drum sticks in my hand.  I also teach, so in between lessons I'm always able to mess around. Just now before this interview, I was doing finger exercises. I try to do it whenever I have free time.

Q: Who would you like to prank?

David: Ashton Kutcher.

Joe:  Who would I prank? Damn. I mean, it'd be great to do a big prank on Donald Trump right now. Anyone who could prank Donald Trump, I think all three of us would applaud very, very well. But how would you prank that? It would have to be something with his hair. Maybe you leave a really small brush so he's not able to comb out those locks. Keep it small scale, just to mess with him in the morning. Then he just would have a really rough day.

John: Donald would be good. The whole idea is that you break down how serious a person actually is and they have to laugh.  

Joe: The one prank John actually pulled back in the day was getting us to pass out. It really was not good for a growing young 7-year-old boy. But you lean over and hold your breath, and then you stand up and then you blow on your thumb.  Then you pass out. John thought it was a great prank, but when my parents came home one time and saw me laying on the ground, he got in big trouble.

John:  Really, I think the ultimate prank was on our parents, because, it's like, 'Oh, Joe's not dead.'

Q: What is a space that you remember as being really impactful?

David: We all grew up going out into the delta with our dad and going duck hunting on opening weekend of duck season and dove season. Being out in the delta as children and getting to see the landscape and the people out there and learning about that lifestyle was really impactful. The vastness of the landscape and the quiet. It's just amazing how quiet everything is and how beautiful everything was. That has definitely stuck with all of us.  

Joe: Yeah, I like that one too. I would say another space is linked to our aunt Cleta Ellington, who's a very important figure in our lives. She's a brilliant genius of a lady. She has always hosted Thanksgiving. Her driveway/garage, is this open air garage that we've all hung out in quite a bit. We always used to play music there when we were real young for Thanksgiving. That became kind of a Thanksgiving tradition. Which, in a way, was the precursor to us actually forming a band. That set the roots for us as far as all three of us playing music together.

John: There are a couple houses that come to mind. Our childhood home and then our grandparent's home. Those are significant and are really sort of the inspiration for these new songs.

The songs are about being raised and being from Jackson, Mississippi.  I suppose there's a bit of a nostalgia in there.
Cardinal Sons, along with Alexis and the Samurai, will be playing at Gasa Gasa on Saturday, March 25, which you can buy tickets for here. You can also buy their new cassette at the show featuring two tracks that were produced by Bill Reynolds (bassist/producer for Band of Horses). Their new song "Magnolia" will be released on 3/31, and the music video for "Stuck in New Jack City" will be released on 4/21. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to learn about upcoming shows and projects.






Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at kelley@nolavie.com.