After a year of hard work and dedication, Millikin student Stewart Arp finally released his debut album, Sparks, on Saturday, Feb. 21. Arp teamed up with the University Center Board (UCB) for a release show at the SPEC. It was free to anyone who went, and after the show, hard copies of the CD were sold for five dollars.
“It went great. There was a great turn out,” Arp, sophomore marketing major and music minor, said. “My favorite part was when I got up on stage, guitar in hand, about to play my first song. Playing is the easiest and most fun part.”
Hannah Lieb, sophomore music business major and communication minor, was the opening act for the show. She is featured on one of the tracks on the album.
“I think the show went really well,” Lieb said. “I was really pleased with how it turned out. My favorite part was singing ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ with Stew.”
Lieb also writes her own songs, and performed some of her originals.
“My favorite song that I performed was ‘Sigh,” Lieb said. “It has a really unique feel to it, and it’s just really cool to see my original songs come to life with a band.”
Sophomore commercial music and music business double major Grey Taxon played the guitar in Arp’s band. He also helped produce the album itself.
“I think the show was an absolute blast,” Taxon said. “It was fulfilling to see the songs come to fruition and take on a new life in that environment. That was the first time those original songs were performed with full instrumentation, as so much of the writing was done in the studio.”
Christina Cummins, sophomore vocal music education major, played the keyboard for the show.
“When Stewart created his single Chasing Dreams [last year], he asked me to record the piano track,” Cummins said. “When it came time to put a whole EP together, he asked me to help him out again and play for his CD, and, naturally, I became a part of his live band on campus. I think the show was a major hit from the energy of the crowd and band to the networking of a young artist’s music.”
The production process of the EP was long, and not always easy.
“I wrote the songs about a year ago, and the actual audio production started this past summer,” Arp said. “The most difficult part of the process is being happy with the finished product. When I write songs, I have an image of how they should sound exactly, and if they don’t turn out that exact way it can sometimes be frustrating.”
Taxon also weighed in on his opinion about the production process.
“Stew came to me with roughly eight acoustic songs he wanted to record as an EP, Taxon said. “From that list, we picked out the five that worked best together and re-worked the songs structurally. As the producer, I got to influence the instrumentation quite a bit, write some hooks, and fully develop the tunes into their final form on the record.”
Arp said his favorite song is “Everything,” the third track on the album. He wrote it last year after he had a very emotional vivid dream.
“There’s an overwhelming feeling of sadness [in the song,] and it’s about losing your ‘everything,” Arp said. “That song is the most special to me.”
UCB helped with the promotion of the show, as well as senior music business major Chris DiGiacomo. Arp was the test artist for his new company, Playpost. He placed a postcard with a code for a free download of one of the songs from the album. Ryan Pinkston of Hip N Humble Studio did the graphic design work for the CD’s cover.
Arp would like to thank his family for always supporting him no matter what, his friends for coming to the show, Grey Taxon for the production, Ryan Pinkston for the artwork, Chris DiGiacomo, Playpost, and UCB for the promotion, and Christina Cummins, John Spaw, and Tyler Marofske for playing in the band. Sparks is out on iTunes, and is also available for hard copy purchase.