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VOL. 132 | NO. 203 | Thursday, October 12, 2017

First Music Project Funded Through Memphis Slim House Loan Program

By Andy Meek

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Attendees of the Eric Hughes Band’s CD release party next week won’t see everything that goes into making a collection of tunes like the band’s latest.

The album – “Meet Me in Memphis” – and band will be feted Oct. 21 at the warehouse behind Earnestine & Hazel’s during a bash that includes live music and food by Central BBQ. Among the things that won’t be apparent amid the festivities, though, is all the work that goes into an undertaking like this, and the honing of chops that for Hughes has meant playing about 3,000 shows in Memphis since 2001.

To pull off his latest piece of recorded music, his band’s fifth album, the group turned to a novel source of financing – an upfront loan of $9,000 acquired through the Memphis Slim House Collaboratory, working with Community LIFT and its affiliate River City Capital Investment Corp.

Hughes’ loan was the first to be distributed as part of the organizations’ Slim’s Front Loan, which does just what the name says – it fronts local musicians capital they need for projects that include touring, merchandising, promo events and recording.

Without this source of funding, Hughes says, it probably would have taken another year for him to save up enough money to finish the new record, delaying his plans.

“This new album is really representative of how varied Memphis music is,” says Hughes, who has paid the money back. “It has some blues on it. Some rock ‘n’ roll. It has some soul, some folk, a lounge-y kind of half-jazz song. A Western song. It’s sort of a tribute to how diverse Memphis music is.

“(The loan) allowed us to go ahead and move forward with production, without having to lag and wait around and save up. On a bigger level, it was really encouraging – it was a sign of life as far as the recording industry in Memphis. It was like a sign of spring.”

For Hughes, who plays guitar, Dobro and harmonica in addition to singing, there were other benefits that came with preparing for the financial aid. Musicians tend not to think about things like paperwork and balance sheets, given the nature of the profession and the demands of grinding it out in clubs.

But Hughes says he found it helpful to submit to some of the prerequisites of the loan, like preparing financial statements and forcing himself to “look at this more as a business and treat it as a business, whether I qualified for the loan or not.”

To obtain the loan, musicians turn in a loan application that’s vetted by a committee that includes musicians, bankers and recording studios.

The maximum loan amount is $10,000, and borrowers who live outside Soulsville pay 5 percent interest, while Soulsville residents pay 3 percent. The loan term is six months for touring, merchandising and promotion and 12 months for recording expenses.

The committee will want to see things like tax returns, social media numbers, tour schedules and the like.

Memphis Slim House marketing and program manager Tonya Dyson said since the Eric Hughes Band’s loan, two more have been awarded and a couple of other artists are waiting on approval.

“It’s harder for musicians to get access to traditional lending,” Dyson said. “A lot of their incomes are not that stable. A lot of them don’t have regular 9-to-5 jobs that can produce a pay stub that shows 40 hours a week and things like that. Sometimes it can be really great for three months and really not great for the next three months. With the loan program, we take all that into consideration.”

And when it’s all added up and awarded to a musician like Hughes, it can have a big impact. It helped him take an even more serious approach to his finances and the business aspects of his career, but more than that, Hughes sums the program up by saying the loan itself “was absolutely vital” to supporting his efforts, so he can keep going and playing and recording.

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