Often the death of a beloved parent inspires a person to a new level of creativity. Such was the case with singer-songwriter-guitarist-bassist Mark Edgar Stuart, who never had the chance to play his music for his father, Galen Louie Stuart, who died in 2011.
Mark Stuart, who was born and grew up in Pine Bluff, began writing the songs that are contained on his 2013 debut album, Blues for Lou, but he had the additional burden of dealing with his own lymphoma diagnosis shortly before his father's death.
"I'd never tried to write a song until two or three years ago," Stuart says from his Memphis home. "It was bittersweet, naturally, and I wish Lou could have heard the songs. I still get real insecure performing them."
It was during his cancer treatments that Stuart had time to sit around, play guitar and write songs. After his successful radiation and chemotherapy treatments, "Big Lou" got sick and died, devastating his son.
Stuart figures he will likely be performing one of his songs, "Remote Control," for the rest of his life. The song has been hailed for the way Stuart sweetly recalls growing up in an era when there were no remote controls, so at age 5, he sat on the arm of his dad's chair to race across the room to change channels when signaled to do so.
"I was happy to be your remote control," he sings in the first song on Blues for Lou.
Growing up in Pine Bluff, Stuart excelled in the school band, playing upright bass, and won an orchestra scholarship to the University of Memphis, thanks to his father's insistence that he concentrate on music instead of sports.
He became an in-demand session bassist in the Bluff City, and spent several years in Memphis alternative country band The Pawtuckets, touring and making three albums. His time in the band also was when he met his wife, Emily Dupree Stuart.
"We've been together 12 or 13 years," he says. "She's still dealing with all my shenanigans, but we both have a pretty creative sense of humor. If I can eke out a living with music, that will be great. The idea of being a star went away when I was in my 20s."
Stuart has toured with John Paul Keith, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jack Oblivian, and he has recorded two albums with another singer-songwriter, Cory Branan. He went along with Branan for an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman.
Would he like another gig on Letterman, perhaps, doing his own songs?
"I'd be pretty nervous," Stuart says. "But I'd love to do it. Guess I'd just have to cross that bridge if I came to it. I love writing, but I still get real nervous singing and trying to remember words, thanks to three years of chemo."
A new album is likely before the end of the year, he adds, since he finished the recording a week ago.
Stuart is not through playing bass for others, he notes. He plays bass on seven of the nine songs on the latest, self-titled album by Arkansas singer-songwriter Jim Mize.
Keith Sykes has expressed an interest in Stuart's songs, and he booked Stuart to play a set with fellow Arkansan Shawn Camp at the latest Sykes get-together of songwriters in Hot Springs.
For his show tonight, Stuart is excited over the prospect of a reunion with another musician, Ben Harris, with whom he has never played.
"We went to high school together, but I haven't seen him in 20 years," Stuart says. "We'll be doing mostly my new stuff," and, of course "Remote Control."
Weekend on 07/10/2014
Print Headline: Father’s death inspires Stuart’s debut album