CA: Memphis Slim House celebrates 2 years as music incubator
In 2014, the historic family home of blues pianist Memphis Slim (aka John “Peter” Chatman) — a dilapidated structure in the heart of South Memphis, across from the Stax Museum of American Soul Music — was transformed. Reborn as the Memphis Slim Collaboratory, it was turned into a unique, modern educational workspace for musicians, part of a larger arts-based revitalization plan for the Soulsville neighborhood.
Two years later, the Slim House, as it’s commonly known, is thriving and expanding. It marks its second anniversary Friday, June 17, with a free outdoor event and concert.
Opened in spring 2014, Slim House’s parent company is Community LIFT, a “funding and capacity building support organization for the revitalization of Memphis’ under-resourced communities.” In its first two years, the Slim House has evolved into a bustling center of creative and professional activity. Use of the facility comes through a membership program. Musicians can purchase a $60 annual membership, which entitles them to eight hours a month exclusive use of the facilities — including studio, rehearsal and meeting space — as well as numerous other benefits associated with the Collaboratory and its amenities.
“The idea is make this a mecca for Memphis artists and to nurture them to take their work a step further,” she adds. “It’s not only a place to create but to then see what’s next — how will these projects get out, how will they be seen, what type of exposure and opportunities will there be?” To that end, the Slim House will present a series of “Backstage Pass” symposiums. The first will take place July 3, featuring guest speaker PJ Morton, noted R&B producer, songwriter and keyboardist for pop band Maroon 5.
Beyond industry education, the Slim House is helping musicians in even more tangible ways. This past December saw the launch of a music loan program called Slim’s Front Loan. Administered by River City Capital Investment, the lending arm of Community LIFT, it’s designed to aid artists “across Memphis’ broad musical spectrum.” According to Community LIFT’s mission statement, “Slim’s Front Loan was created out of a demand among members of Slim House who often have difficulty securing capital to take advantage of critical growth opportunities for their careers.”
The pilot version of the program, which launched this past winter, will offer musicians funds for touring, recording and merchandise. The loans vary — with three- to 12-month terms, and a flat 5 percent interest rate. Loans are given after candidates’ work history, credit, music industry income streams and repayment plans are examined. The individual loan maximum is $5,000. Repaid funds will then be re-loaned to new candidates. “It’s still a relatively new program, but (blues musician) Eric Hughes, who’s a fixture on Beale Street, he was approved for the first loan, and we’re working on a second,” says Dyson.
For Hughes, who plays 300-plus shows a year and is currently working on his fifth CD thanks to the loan program, its “been a godsend,” he says. “It’s very encouraging not only for my career but for Memphis music in general, because I don’t think a lending institution has loaned a musician money to make product here since the ’70s probably.”
Hughes notes that securing the loan “required a lot more organization and paperwork and accounting than most musicians keep up with …but it’s another good reason to keep up with how much you spend and how much you make,” he says. “They wanted a mission statement, an income statement, projected income — the same things a regular loan would involve. But the loan program, and the Slim House, it’s an opportunity and a resource musicians in other cities don’t have. And it’s an indicator of where Memphis music is going. I would recommend it for anybody.”
Slim House second anniversary party
6-9 p.m. Friday at the Memphis Slim Collaboratory, 1130 College. Featuring: Chinese Dub Connection Embassy, DJ Space Age. Admission is free. For more information, go to memphisslimhouse.com, or call (901) 590-4591.