A "Sweet Kind of Blue" -- In Search of the Memphis Groove

May 19, 2017

U.K. recording artist Emily Barker outside Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis.

When tourists visit Memphis, they might spend the day soaking in the music history. But when musicians make "the pilgrimage" to a famed recording studio, it's about finding the groove. Just ask U.K. recording artist Emily Barker.

Though born in a small town in western Australia, Barker still had the Memphis blues. At least, once in a while. An annual hometown blues festival gave her a taste of that southern U.S. sound. When the singer-songwriter started her own musical journey, it was the folksy "Americana" style that infused her music. 

Emily Barker's "Sweet Kind of Blue" was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis.

Last year, she got in touch with Grammy-winning Memphis producer Matt Ross-Spang, who got his own start on vintage equipment at Sun Studio and now works at Sam Phillips Recording Service on Madison Ave. Ross-Spang assembled a group of studio regulars who would shape the sound of Barker's new record. 

"I would play them a song on my guitar or on the piano and one of them would inevitably go 'Okay, what's the groove on this one?' she laughs. "And I guess that's what, you know, is the staple part of the Memphis sound. It's all about the groove. So there's no way I could have got that sound anywhere else, I don't think, other than Memphis."

Today, "Sweet Kind of Blue" is available online and in stores. Listen above to hear how working with Ross-Spang at Sam Phillips Recording affected her music.