SHELDON—Lee “Stovetop” Stover of Sheldon began to question whether he was meant to finish his debut album.
After putting in five years of work on the album, the 30-year-old Christian hip-hop artist released “Work In Progress” earlier this week.
The album consists of 11 tracks with about a 38-minute runtime.
“It feels good. You always think about putting so much work into making an album. Now I am focused on getting it out to people,” Stover said.
The project began when he met Jeriah “Jay-Rah” Dunk while they were attending Northwestern College in Orange City. Dunk is an independent artist and music producer. Stover and Dunk began collaborating on the album before Dunk moved to California.
“I started writing and I eventually formed things to the idea of ‘Work In Progress’ because there’s always more work we can do to better ourselves,” Stover said. “We are always a work in progress. There is always more to learn.
“The original vision was to showcase Jay-Rah’s talents too. Jay-Rah created all of the beats,” he continued. “Distance contributed to the project taking so long, but that’s not all his fault. We tried doing everything over the internet, which worked, but it was hard with us both working full time and doing other things.”
Setbacks nearly derailed Stover at various points in the writing and recording process. Whether it were moments of self-doubt, questions of whether he should abandon the project and give up his dream or outside skepticism of whether he would ever finish the album, Stover was searching for answers.
“This was a constant back and forth of dreaming, chasing, becoming frustrated or scared and letting myself down,” Stover said. “I’d even started to feel like maybe it really was time to give up.”
“I’ve heard of plenty of people, some like Justin Timberlake, where that is a common theme no matter what height you reach,” he continued. “You can’t get over it, but you can work through it — ignore those voices and overcome it.”
‘Helped me focus’
Stover found several sources that helped him stay encouraged.
“I read all four of Jon Acuff’s books. That helped me focus and structure my time,” Stover said in reference to the bestselling author of “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.” “The biggest thing I got from them is you have to act. The more you act, the more confidence you have that you can overcome those thoughts and negative ideas.”
Stover joined online communities that help aspiring artists find clarity in times of uncertainty in their quests.
“I have two really good friends that have been really supportive throughout this process,” he said. “Jon Konz I’ve known pretty much all of my life, and Thai Hua — we always keep each other accountable. They kept encouraging me.”
Stover said there was another turning point within the last year that confirmed, to him, that he needed to complete the album.
“At the end of June I was at a conference in Chicago for work. In was a conference for evangelism. Someone was praying for God to reveal what He would have us do. It was loud enough that everybody could hear,” Stover said. “I had this overwhelming feeling of peace and the word ‘finish’ came to my mind. I felt there was direction in that moment. So I started moving forward.”
He considered finishing the album without a producer, but was not satisfied with how things were turning out.
“Since starting on the album I’ve gotten married and had a kid,” he said in reference to his wife, Jenna. and 2-year-old son, Lincoln. “One of the defining moments was when I was sitting at the table with my wife. She’s not a back-and-forth type of person. I’m more of a head case. She looked at me and said, ‘Just do it.’ She gave me her blessing to go for it and get it professionally done.”
Stover took the project to award-winning producer and audio engineer Mike Dresch, owner of Cathouse Studios in Sioux Falls, SD.
“I had three and three-fourths of the songs done. Then I took the rest to Mike and rerecorded and remixed everything,” Stover said. “I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out.”
The cover art for “Work In Progress” was created by Jay-Rah.
Some of the themes of the album include growth, positivity and spirituality.
“It’s OK to get to a point where you realize you’re never perfect. That doesn’t mean you stop improving,” Stover said.
“For the next little while I’ll be sending it out to blogs and websites that will cover that type of music,” he continued. “I’m going to try to get out for some shows. I don’t have anything lined up yet. I’ve got a few ideas for some videos too.”
Stover has released several demos and mixtapes along the way.
When he is not making music, Stover oversees marketing for Rise Ministries, a Sheldon-based ministry best known for putting on the annual RiseFest Christian music event or being a DJ as one-third of Stovetop Productions.
- Stream or download “Work In Progress” through the Apple Music iTunes store, Amazon, Spotify and YouTube. Physical copies are available for purchase at http://www.stovetop-music.com.