Lucas Arens (Luke) is a producer, songwriter, mixer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist originally from St. Louis, Missouri.
Raised studying trumpet and playing guitar in post-rock bands, Arens has become one of the most promising music producers and engineers.
Arens has worked for numerous artists from different genres. He has engineered for artists including P. Diddy, JoJo, Dropkick Murphys, Sebastian Bach (of Skid Row), Yo Gotti, among others. His work of instrumentation has been heard on popular TV shows like Degrassi: Next Class (Netflix), Gallivant (ABC), and Grey’s Anatomy (ABC).
Published by Downtown Music Publishing and Tony Esterly (Pray For My Haters Music), Arens has had cuts with Justice Skolnik (Republic - “Wildside”), Unknown Brain ft. Trove (“Luke Home”), Ray Volpe (“Without You”), Kat Saul (“Nick Miller, “Unit 408” and “Middle Name”, Lo (“Prescription”, “Mantra”), Diamond Pistols (“Gravity”) and more recently, he produced and co-wrote Ellrod’s debut single “Concept” released in May and co-produced/wrote & mixed J. Human’s new single “Nameless” now available on major streaming platforms.
While chief-engineer/producer at Shock City Studios in St. Louis, the Nashville-based artist worked with NBC’s The Voice and MTV’s Made, as well as nonprofit organizations like Kids Rock Cancer, The National Blues Museum, Stray Rescue of St. Louis, and Saint Louis University and SLU Hospital.
What's your story?
I’m from St. Louis, MO, born and raised! I went from pre-K thru college in that city. After I graduated from Webster University with a degree in Audio Engineering and a minor in Music, I was lucky enough to get an internship at Shock City Studios on the engineering side of things. I met my long time mentor (and now best friend) Tony Esterly during my time at Shock City. After a little over a year of interning on an almost daily basis, I was offered an engineering position at the studio. After a few years, Tony ended up moving to Nashville to attack his dream of becoming a songwriter and producer, leaving the head engineer space open. Lucky for me, I was offered that position. I spent about 5 years in that position before I, too, decided to move to Nashville, much at Tony’s urging.
When did you decide to move to Nashville? What appeals you the most about Nashville?
Mid-2017, my girlfriend (now fiancé, we’re getting married in September!), Lauren, and our dog, Taco, packed up and moved to Nashville. I’ve always wanted to be more on the creative side of music and I figured out that St. Louis didn’t necessarily have as much opportunity for that as I thought, even though there are so many talented musicians there. Nashville seemed like the place to be and I am so lucky to have been accepted in this city…
What did you grow up listening to?
I grew up studying trumpet and playing guitar in post-rock bands. My musical influences range from Miles Davis and Chet Baker to Good Charlotte and New Found Glory to Steely Dan and Yes to August Burns Red and The Devil Wears Prada to Taylor Swift and Tove Styrke to J Dilla and Frank Ocean, etc. etc. etc…
Do you remember your first cut as a producer?
It’s hard to tell, but what I consider my first cut as a producer is a song called “Not You” by Leslie Powell. I was lucky enough to be in a room with Leslie, Stephen Ellrod, and Lydia Vaughan that day. We got such a cool vibe and I was lucky that Leslie wanted to release it!
You worked on Kat Saul's debut EP "... from Unit 408" - how was it like to work with Kat? Could you describe us the production process for the song "Unit 408"?
Working on Kat’s Unit 408 project was extremely special. Kat is one of the few artist’s that I’ve been able to work with on a consistent basis that let me help procure her sound. The close-knit team of songwriters like Megan Redmond and Paige Blue have really helped explore sounds and motifs that have given Kat’s music an extra-special push. And Kat, she’s just amazing. She works her ass off to be the best she can be in every single aspect of her artistry and for that I’ll always respect her. Plus, she’s a bad-ass and is one of the sweetest people I know. She’s left random gifts for me on my front porch even though I live quite far from her…
To those who don't know, why is it important to mix records?
Obviously, my engineering background really plays a role in how I approach everything in music. Whether I’m listening or creating, I can’t help but think of the engineering and mixing side of the process. In fact, I’ve been obsessed with that part since I can first vividly remember being intrigued by the manipulation of sound. My parents had a home PC that I was allowed to use. I eventually stumbled upon a ‘voice-recorder’ type app. It only had a few functions: record, play, stop, and reverse. I used to record myself counting from one to ten, reversing it, listening and learning how to speak each number in reverse, then recording myself doing so before I’d then reverse it again to see how close I could get to making it sound like I had said it forward. Nerdy, I know…
Anyway, mixing is extremely important. After all, any piece of packaging of any product can go a long way. Think about ordering a coke without a cup. Wouldn’t work, right? That’s how I feel about the mix process. It’s that important.
What makes a good mix?
Good mixes have clarity, but are still dirty. Good mixes are loud, but still dynamic. Good mixes are spread, but still sound good in mono. Good mixes sound awesome on thousand dollar systems, but also awesome on your mom’s broken iPhone speaker. Good mixes let you hear and understand the vocals, but still hit you in the face with the snare and jingle your innards with the bass.
What are the things you are looking for in artists when working with them?
I could go on and on about what I like to see in artists I work with. Stephen Ellrod is a great example. He’s a good person and that’s so important. Not only that, but he always respects me and my part in the process for which I’m always grateful. I also know he’s doing anything in his power to put his best foot forward in every aspect of his professional and personal life. And on top of all of that, he’s an incredibly smart person and extremely talented singer that has a voice listeners will want to hear from for years to come… short answer: be nice.
You are also working with nonprofit organizations such as Kids Rock Cancer, The National Blues Museum, Stray Rescue of St. Louis, and Saint Louis University and SLU Hospital - could you tell us more about some of these organizations and tell us how we can help out?
Most of my connections to the charities and non-profits I’ve worked with have come thru music. I highly recommend doing a quick google search of each of them because each of their causes is so unique but still incredibly important. My favorites right now are Stray Rescue of St. Louis and Metro Animal Care and Control of Nashville. My dog, Taco, is one of my favorite things in my life and anything I can do to support dogs without homes I will do. Every penny and every re-post helps. Plus, who doesn’t wanna give the good dogs a bone?
How do you want to be remembered for?
One of my favorite quotes should answer a question or two: “Heroes get remembered but legends never die”.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
The world would be a better place if my house was full of puppies and speakers, haha. But for real, being around truly good people never ceases to amaze me. My family, friends, and co-workers always teach my ways to make myself a better person and I’ll be forever grateful for that. I know I can’t fix everything in this world but I feel like I can at least get started by being good to others and hopefully they’ll return the favor. That’d be dope, right?!
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