He vividly remembers listening to his parents’ country, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues records, but it wasn’t until he attended his first major concert at Mississippi State’s Humphrey Coliseum that university alumnus Jamison Hollister considered pursuing a music-related career.
“I saw Garth Brooks in 1992, and it was then that I knew somewhere deep down that playing music was exactly what I wanted to do with my entire life,” recalls the 2007 history graduate who also completed English courses at the land-grant institution.
Now a three-year resident of Los Angeles, Hollister enjoys dedicating his talents to musical projects as diverse as the artists to whom he grew up listening. They included Aretha Franklin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.
In addition to writing his own songs and performing as a solo artist at local venues, the Starkville native regularly composes instrumental music for television and film. He also has performed, recorded and toured with musician, songwriter and record producer John Fogerty and singer-songwriters Lisa Marie Presley and Josh Kelley, among other artists.
Hollister appreciates the success he has achieved with the placement of the song “Should’ve Been Me,” which aired on The CW’s comedy-drama television series, “Hart of Dixie.” The song was performed by nine-piece Los Angeles-based Americana/Rock band, The Walcotts, for whom Hollister plays the mandolin and pedal steel guitar.
“I do a little bit of everything because it’s really tough today in music to do just one specific thing,” he says, while adding with a laugh, “You can, but I don’t like to put all of my eggs in one basket.”
Along with mandolin and pedal steel guitar, Hollister specializes in fiddle, dobro (a resonator guitar or acoustic steel guitar), slide and bass guitar, piano and drums.
“I’ve taken lessons here and there, had people show me things along the way and watched instructional videos, but for the most part, I’ve just spent a lot of time practicing and teaching myself,” he says. “You have to be your own boss and find the time to do everything and balance it all out, but it is a lot of fun.”
While every instrument he plays requires a different mindset and finesse, Hollister says the pedal steel guitar presents the biggest—yet most enjoyable—challenge. Played while one is sitting down, the pedal steel guitar is a flat instrument that usually has anywhere from eight to 12 strings.
“The reason I like pedal steel is because it’s almost like you’re working a math problem out as you play it,” says Hollister, who also spent his childhood years in Greenville. “The different combination of strings, pedals, knee levers and notes is really complex. There’s so much to learn, and it definitely requires the most thought.”
From country, bluegrass and folk to blues, jazz and pop, Hollister’s usually up for playing pretty much any genre of music.
“I feel like I’ve played almost everything,” he says with a laugh. “There’s so much variety in Los Angeles, and I’ve been really fortunate to play in everything from traditional jazz and Western swing bands to rockabilly and straight ahead rock and pop.”
Outside of the City of Angels, Hollister has played at numerous prestigious venues around the country and world. Among his favorite spots are Texas’s Gruene Hall (pronounced “Green”), New York City’s Carnegie Hall, London’s Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club, and Tokyo’s Blue Note Jazz Club.
For Hollister, the opportunity to occasionally perform various instruments on FOX’s American Idol and NBC’s The Voice has meant a lot more than just playing music on a stage.
“The degree of professionalism and talent of the production teams and musicians, like those in the house bands, is truly unparalleled,” he says of his experience on the hit American singing competition shows. “They are some of the world’s best musicians, and I’ve been really fortunate to work with them.”
When devising a new song, Hollister doesn’t follow a specific process. Sometimes, ideas come from playing a little bit on the guitar or being inspired by a phrase, thought, book or movie.
“For the most part, I rely on life experience. Sometimes, I have things I want to say, but I don’t like the way they sound on paper, so I just play them through instrumental music,” he explains.
“I try to get as much down as I can, and when I start writing something that I don’t like, I stop. Sometimes, things may sit for two days or two years. Sometimes, I’ll write with my wife McGhee or a co-writing friend,” he says, adding that most of his success has come by way of collaboration.
Asked whether he plans to produce his own album or add other instruments to his already-extensive repertoire any time soon, Hollister says it’s a possibility, but he’s pretty happy right now with his current projects.
“It’s a whole other nut to crack, but I’d like to put out my own album one day,” he says.
While life is great in America’s second-largest city, Hollister says he and wife-actress McGhee Monteith miss all of the wonderful people back in the Magnolia State.
“I love Starkville. It’s a great city, and it was a really fun and integral part of my learning experience,” says the son of Jack Hollister and Betsy Alexander. “I always loved Bulldog Bash and Super Bulldog Weekend. They were some of the best times of the year.”
Hollister expressed particular appreciation for former associate professor of history Jason Phillips and English instructor Marty Price.
“They were two of the many wonderful teachers who went the extra mile and really wanted to teach you, not just show you how to do something,” he says.
Whether or not they choose a music-related field or career path, Hollister encourages students to always do two things: be different and work really hard.
“There’s such a value in being very focused and dedicating yourself to being the best that you can be in whatever field you’re doing. With everything in life, you’ve got to be a self-starter. You’ve got to be proactive. You’ve got to be at the right place at the right time, and one of those you can control,” Hollister says in speaking from personal experience.
Sending out emails on a frequent basis and directing potential employers to his website, www.jamisonhollister.com, are among his major self-promotion efforts. More than anything, Hollister says his willingness to knock on a lot of doors has proven most beneficial throughout his career.
“Always put yourself whenever possible in a position to work with the people who can make changes,” he advises other aspiring musicians. “People will open the door for you, but you’ve got to walk up to the door and knock.”
Has performed, recorded
and toured locally and
• John Fogerty
• Lisa Marie Presley
• Josh Kelley
• Jimbo Mathus*
• Shannon McNally
• The Walcotts
• The Far West
• Leslie Stevens
• Brad Colerick
• Charlie Worsham*
Has shared the stage with
• Mumford and Sons
• Rhonda Vincent
• Robert Earl Keen
• The Del McCoury Band
• Great American Taxi
• Todd Snider
• The Hackensaw Boys
• Pokey LaFarge