Wesley Bright was born and raised in northeast Ohio, but the burgeoning soul man's stage presence is informed by the Deep South.

Wesley Bright was born and raised in northeast Ohio, but the burgeoning soul man's stage presence is informed by the Deep South.

"My family has roots in Barnesville, Georgia, and I grew up with that southern church experience, where [services are] very robust sounding with lots of shouting," said Akron resident Bright, 33, who joins his band Wesley Bright & the Hi-Lites for a concert at Ace of Cups on Saturday, Nov. 22. "If you listen to a lot of soul music you'll hear the church, and in your mind you'll be able to see the gospel choir two-stepping to the song. I remember times when I'd hear the preacher say, 'Can everyone say amen?' 'Amen!' It's the same thing I do when you hear me say, 'Can everybody say yeah?' 'Yeah!' It's the same thing."

Despite the heavenly inspiration, much of the Hi-Lites catalog dwells on far more earthly concerns, with Bright alternating between heart-fluttering tunes born of romantic love and shattered numbers that find the frontman surveying the wreckage of relationships come undone.

"I don't want to come across like a preacher," Bright said, explaining the more secular nature of the band's music. "Catching the Holy Ghost is something that never happened onstage to me before, but you catch the feeling, and I guess that's the musical equivalent. There've been times [when] that feeling goes throughout the concert hall and bounces off the walls and shoots through everybody in the audience. It can be a great thing."

To this point in its career, the band, which was founded in the spring of 2011 by Bright, drummer Nick Fritsch and bassist Bob Basone, has staked much of its reputation on its live performance, with its concerts often breaking off into sweaty, horn-stoked dance-offs. It's a trend that makes the group the ideal act to kick off the Mess Around, a new retro soul/R&B dance party that debuts at Ace of Cups this weekend.

Like most skilled dancers, Wesley Bright & the Hi-Lites rely heavily on feel, and over the course of our early November phone conversation the genial Bright's tone only curdles when he discusses soul musicians who ascribe to some preconceived, by-the-numbers formula.

"It gets on my nerves when I can tell a soul song is being written in a way that's not coming from a feeling, and where you can tell someone tried to hit all the technical aspects, like, 'OK, how many measures before this happens and then that happens,'" Bright said. "Naw, you're getting it all wrong. To me it's not soul music if you're following some formula. You can't copy soul, or replicate it. The music is about a feeling that has to be expressed."

In turn, the band's concerts tend to be unpredictable affairs, with both the frontman and his bandmates moving whatever direction the music happens to pull them in that moment.

"During the first year of us being up there as a band [the performance] was really well sketched out, but I've come to realize … you've gotta be off the cuff," said Bright, who was born in Cleveland to a long-distance trucker father and a mother who owned a nail salon. "Now when I'm up there doing what I do, it's all feeling. I'm not trying to memorize lines and steps and all that. Whatever happens is a result of that music we're playing."

Growing up, Bright never envisioned himself fronting a band, though he did take naturally to the spotlight - first as a high school athlete ("I guess I had some flair [on the field]") and later as a college aerobics instructor.

"It was the strangest thing, man, but when I got in front of people and started teaching I discovered a different part of myself that loved movement," he said, and laughed. "Now here I am onstage still doing the same thing - with a little bit of a twist."

Through it all, his love of soul music remained a constant. As a child, he absorbed the classics (Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, etc.) on the family stereo, while more recently he's immersed himself in the likes of Lee Fields, Otis Clay and Arthur Conley. But even though Bright tends to look to the past for musical inspiration, he believes soul remains a vital, modern form of expression.

"It's interesting how folks look at [soul] as something from the past," he said. "When I'm playing soul music around people ... they'll call it the oldies. And I'm like, 'Oldies? This isn't old. This is happening right now.'"