Pushed out by rising rent, recording studio leaves Nashville for Memphis

After more than a decade running a successful recording studio in Nashville, entrepreneurs Claire and Scott McEwen are making the move to Memphis with hopes of turning a dilapidated building at 618 Vance Avenue Downtown into the city’s newest recording studio.

Memphis Magnetic Recording Company will sit three blocks from Beale Street.

The McEwens owned and operated a commercial recording studio in Nashville for 11 years. After rent skyrocketed in recent years, they decided to shut the studio down and look elsewhere to buy a new location. When real estate prices in and near Nashville proved too high, the McEwens turned their gaze to Memphis.

“I always feel really great when I’m in Memphis. There's magic here that I can’t put my finger on,” said managing partner Scott McEwen, who is a recording engineer, musician and producer.

The McEwens found the 2,000-square-foot building on Vance Avenue, which was built in the early 1920s, at a "reasonable" price considering it needed some work.

“The electricity was cut, the roof was leaking, and there was old plumbing there that wasn’t connected,” said McEwen. “The building was sort of off the grid and just sitting there vacant.”

The new studio will be a “purpose-built vintage” recording studio, designed by Suffolk Studio Design. McEwen plans to record roots and indie bands on analog equipment that has been in use for 30 to 50 plus years and still functioning as designed.

“As crazy as it sounds, a lot of people don’t record on tape anymore, having a band in the room and recording is the way almost all classic records were made,” said McEwen. “Having bands in the room, you can capture the air molecules vibrating between people. That’s the magic of Stax and Sun Records, all those classic recording studios; it’s all those people in the room playing.”

To help with getting structural improvements completed, last week McEwen received a $20,000 EDGE loan from the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) for Memphis and Shelby County. Funds will be used to build a new 360-square-foot entry, which will serve as a main door and lobby. The building will be equipped with new HVAC, and a new ADA bathroom will be installed. Self+Tucker Architects created the floor plan designs.

Total qualified project costs are estimated at more than $51,000.

The McEwens hope to be open by spring of next year, and they plan to hire two part-time employees before opening day.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
Signup for Email Alerts