Introducing Southern Grooves: Memphis’ Newest Recording Studio

Southern Grooves is the realization of a life-long dream by Grammy-award winning producer, engineer, and mixer Matt Ross-Spang.

interior area where band sets up in Southern Grooves Studio
Julian Harper

When you step inside Southern Grooves Recording Studio in Crosstown Concourse, its mid-century decor complete with wooden panels, green flooring, and orange walls gives anyone the vibe that the studio has been long in operation when it’s really Memphis’ newest recording studio.

But the legacy of working on influential albums and making a mark in the music industry was established long ago by owner Matt Ross-Spang who has an extensive history as a premiere record producer and engineer, working across the country and genres in folk, rock and roll, and R&B.

interior of recording space in Southern Grooves
Julian Harper

He’s worked with some of the most notable and legendary names and personally a few of my favorites: Jason Isbell, Lucero, Arlo McKinley, Margo Price, John Prine, Mountain Goats, Drive-By Truckers, Iron & Wine, St. Paul and the Broken Bones and so on. 

Ross-Spang won two Grammy Awards for engineering Isbell’s 2015 album Something More than Free and again for its follow-up, 2017’s The Nashville Sound

He’s also worked on notable legacy albums such as Elvis Presley, Lou Reed, and Al Green. Most recently, he mixed the Elvis Presley Aloha from Hawaii record that broadcasted originally via satellite around the world.

He is currently nominated for seven 2023 Grammy Awards: co-produced the Blind Boys of Alabama's Echoes of the South — which is up for Best American Roots Performance, Best Americana Performance, and Best Roots Gospel Album — and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Best Folk Album-nominated Jubilee. He also engineered Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s Weathervanes, which is nominated for Best Americana Album, Best Americana Performance, and Best American Roots Song.

Matt Ross-Spang sits at table in lounge of studio
Julian Harper
Grammy-award winning producer, engineer, and mixer Matt Ross-Spang

With his Southern Grooves studio, Ross-Spang has the ability to continue that work with many of those same notable names in a space that’s guaranteed to inspire anyone that steps inside -- a space that he referred to as Dr. Frankenstein.

“Because it’s where we are creating something new everyday but you also need to make it inviting to people,” he said. “It has to have a good feeling to it for people to want to create in there and open up whatever it is they’re dealing with. You have to make a studio part technically but also part emotional so when they walk in they immediately feel something and they feel at home.”

recording room in Southern Grooves
Julian Harper

Ross-Spang’s story really begins at age 14 when his parents bought him two hours of studio time with a friend to record at Sun Studio. He jokes that they should not have been recording.

“We were terrible but the guy, the engineer at Sun, was this guy named James Lott and he was amazing,” Ross-Spang recalls. “He had a beret on and cussed like a sailor but he treated us like we deserved to be there.”

He said it was in watching Lott work the board, lights, and add effects to make two kids sound good that turned into a pivotal moment in his life. 

“I knew immediately when I saw him doing that, I was like that’s what I want to do,” he said. “I saw the way he manipulated sound and the engineer was always the coolest guy in the room.”

He started interning with Lott at 16 and worked his way up to being the main engineer at Sun. In 2015, he left Sun to engineer for Jason Isbell’s Something More than Free that later earned him his first Grammy.

Matt Ross-Spang sits at recording board in studio
Julian Harper

He then went on to use recording space at Sam Phillips. He has also worked with Fame and RCA. 

It was experience in all those studios that helped build Southern Grooves into what you see today. Ross-Spang said he took what he liked about each of them and put it into his studio. It also important to him to build it around his preferred method of recording audio which, like the decor, resembles a relic of the past.

“I like to record a bunch of people in a room together and so back in the 50’s and 60’s they built rooms for a bunch of people to sound good together without headphones because they didn’t have headphones at the time,” he said.

In later decades, music got more direct with isolated recordings, as Ross-Spang puts it.

“We lost that feeling of people in a room together and so studios kind of lost that design since you didn’t need to put a bunch of people in a room together,” he said. “I wanted to go back to the old room where three to four people can play music in a room together without headphones and it sounds good.”

looking into recording booth from studio
Julian Harper

Southern Grooves is located on the second floor of Crosstown Concourse, a unique position for a recording studio but one that undoubtedly comes with benefits. You have restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and more at your disposal that comes in handy for those long recording days. Another pro – artists recording there can stay at Crosstown Concourse and pop in for promotion at WYXR’s radio station.

Crosstown Concourse is a creative hub when you consider Ross-Spang’s hallway neighbors include the Listening Lab, Craig Brewer, and photographer Jamie Harmon. Talk about keeping good company.

Ross-Spang thanks his late friend and singer-songwriter John Kilzer for introducing him to the idea of putting a studio in Crosstown Concourse.

“It blew my mind,” he said. “[Crosstown Concourse] is a beacon of creativity and community-building. Artists can stay here and feel a part of the city.”

inside recording studio
Julian Harper

In March 2022, Southern Grooves recorded its first music with Lucero for their album Should’ve Learned by Now. Give it a listen. There's a lot more in the works too.

Take a dive into the discography of Ross-Spang. I’ll admit I fangirled hard while talking to him and absorbing his wealth of experience, expertise, and encounters with some of my favorite artists.

One of my favorite albums of 2022 was Arlo McKinley’s This Mess We’re In that was produced, mixed, and engineered by Ross-Spang. He also did his Arlo’s previous record Die Midwestern and the third album will later be recorded in the new Southern Grooves studio.

A grand opening celebration of Southern Grooves will be held on September 28. It’s so exciting to see what music is yet to come.

alternate view of inside recording studio
Julian Harper


About the Author

Hello! I'm Jalyn Souchek, the Director of Content for I Love Memphis Blog! I love calling the 901 home. When I'm not running the blog you can find me cheering on the Grizzlies, at a concert, exploring a new restaurant or kicking back at one of our breweries. I hope you'll love experiencing Memphis with me.

Build your perfect Memphis meal:

I love to eat so if I were to have only one meal left.. I’m going all out. I’d start with an app of Gumbo Fries from Blue City Cafe or Bayou Fries from Chef Tam, wings from Good Fortune or Central’s (honey gold and Jamaican Jerk), potato salad from Fat Larry’s, side of bbq spaghetti from Bar-B-Q Shop, and fried okra from Soul Fish. All paired with a Beale Street Brewing Space Age Sippin’.

Your most memorable Memphis moment:

College GameDay on Beale Street. That was an electric and perfect morning. I was still working in news then and was able to take it in up close and on the stage at some points. The fun and joy of everyone down there that morning is unbeatable.

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