Arts & Humanities

Man Of Many Talents

Stimson, a senior business honors major, will share his sunshiny tunes at 6 p.m. Friday at the Theta House for the public event Theta Fiesta.
By Rebeca Bennett, The Battalion November 18, 2010

A college kid armed with a guitar and lofty musical aspirations does not sound so atypical. But add the ability to sing, play the piano and saxophone, write both lyrics and instrumental arrangements and a trip to a NYC recording studio to the musical repertoire and you’ve got, well, Johnny Stimson. Stimson, a senior business honors major, will share his sunshiny tunes at 6 p.m. Friday at the Theta House for the public event Theta Fiesta.

“It’s very melody-centered with a lot of harmonies,” Stimson said of his music. Inspired by his favorite musical group, The Beatles, he added a new adjective to his description — “Beatles-y.”

With upbeat tempos and unabashedly joyful lyrics — “You make me wonder if I’m awake/But if I’m dreaming, I’d love to stay,” for one — songs from Stimson’s recently released, self-entitled album truly do evoke much of the blissful nonchalance characteristic of the legendary British group’s earlier hits.

“As for the genre, I described it to someone recently as acoustic folk rock. It’s kind of a mix between Jason Mraz and The Beatles,” said Adam Schwind, Stimson’s drummer and a junior university studies major.

Stimson learned how to play the guitar and piano from his father at a young age and started performing with a band in high school.

“We ended up going separate places after graduation,” he said. “So I just started writing solo in college.”

Stimson said he found composing arrangements of instruments, chords and melodies a lot more natural than writing his own lyrics.

“It depends on if I’m writing about my own experiences or if I’m making up a story around characters or something like that. But it’s definitely a lot easier to write about my own experiences,” he said.

With such decidedly happy lyrics, there seems to be evidence enough that this Aggie has a pretty charmed life. Yet even when reflecting on the special opportunity to head up to the Big Apple and record part of his album, Stimson acknowledges the hard work that went into making the final product.

“It’s been a two or three year process. It took a lot longer than normal because I switched producers and was going through school and all that,” he said. “Some of the songs I wrote my freshman year, actually. So my style has changed since then, but I’d like to think it’s still very whimsical.”

Stimson has a friend who went to NYC for music school, works for the music studio Acme Recording and ended up passing along his music to his boss, producer Peter Denenberg. During last year’s winter break, Stimson flew up to record his tracks and collaborated with session musicians and producers to mix the final cuts of his songs, which are now available on iTunes or can be listened to at

“It takes a lot of time to record,” Stimson said. “I have a lot of tracks that are very vocal-centric, a lot of harmonies. I’d say it takes a week for a song.”

After years of writing his own music throughout college, it is only within recent months that Stimson has organized an accompanying band to play with him at live gigs. His first show was last month, opening for the student a capella group, HardChord DynaMix, at Studio 12 in the Commons.

“I thought I was becoming a studio artist because I really, really enjoy the recording process, but it’s fun playing with people,” Stimson said. “I mean, it’s kind of silly to write my music and keep it to myself. And it’s a really great way to share my music, by playing it for others.”

Schwind formed his friendship with Stimson when the two met through the organization Brotherhood of Christian Aggies and began playing music together for fun. He said he enjoyed playing with Stimson because of their pressure-free relationship.

“What I enjoy most is me and Johnny are great friends. And that gives us a great dynamic because there’s a trust between us. It’s not a very professional relationship as far as music is concerned, but it’s very chill,” Schwind said.

Although the music is meant to be recognized as a solo act with a band—akin to John Mayer and Jason Mraz’s arrangements—Schwind said he still gets to add his own interpretation to the music.

“I’ve always kind of gotten reign,” he said. “That’s what I like about being a drummer — as long as you keep the rhythm, there’s really not a lot you can screw up.”

Schwind said he is interested in playing music with Stimson after college or at least pursuing a career as a session musician or road drummer.

“[Stimson and I] both kind of mutually understand that we don’t know what the future holds for us,” he said.

As for now, the plan is for Stimson to go on tour after he graduates next month. He said he plans on performing throughout Texas, but also hopes to head to California and New York.

“It will be strenuous, but exciting,” Stimson said.

This article by Rebecca Bennett originally appeared in The Battalion.

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