Stephen Shirk -
Studio Owner - Engineer - Producer
Stephen got his start in music at an early age singing in church choir and playing guitar in Bloomington, Illinois. He began playing in bands in junior high school and continued doing that through his time earning his degree in Business and Marketing at Miami University. In 1998 he decided to chase his dream of working in a recording studio and relocated to New York. Between 1998 and 2004, Stephen was employed at The Hit Factory, Pink Noise, Inc., Three Tree Productions as well as assisting on sessions at many legendary NYC facilities like Avatar (Power Station), Clinton, Right Track, and Sound on Sound. Stephen says his time in New York was perhaps the best education he ever received. Although he was just getting his start, being in sessions with individuals like Amhet Ertegun, Arif Mardin, Jay Messina, Troy Germano, Bernie Drayton, Jake Holmes, Nick DiMinno and Michael Maxwell would fuel his passion to learn more. Working in New York also exposed Stephen to a unique artist community beyond that of music. His collaboration with Nadine Robinson would ultimately land one of his sound designs in the Museum of Modern Art’s Tempo exhibit in 2002.
A Midwesterner at heart, in 2004, Stephen relocated to Chicago to be closer to family and begin a new life with his wife. He also made the plan to go out on his own producing and recording bands, creating sound for art installations, as well as providing audio services for the advertising community. This was the beginning of SHIRK studios. Stephen ran his production company out of rental apartments, artist lofts and commercials spaces until 2013 when he acquired the current building that now houses SHIRK studios in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.
Now firmly planted in Chicago, Stephen records, produces and hosts sessions with some of Chicago’s most celebrated artists as well as those just getting their start. Stephen says that he tries to learn something new on every session no matter how well known the artist may be. “If I’m not learning I’m standing still, and standing still feels like a waste of time. During 2007-2015 while we were doing the HearYa Live sessions series, I was constantly trying different mic setups and placements in the room. Learning what works and what doesn’t. Getting more and more comfortable with bleed and learning how to make it work for you. I’m also always watching freelance engineers and producers when they come into my studio. I’ve built of a great collection of tools at SHIRK studios. Watching someone else come in and use those same tools in an entirely different way than I do is really invigorating. It stimulates me to try new things on my sessions and keep my approach from getting too static.”