The Sound Wall: One Couple’s Musical Dreams and the Business Behind It

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By Natalie Salvatore
For the Opelika Observer

Five years ago, one husband and wife duo took their music career to the next level by opening a multi functional recording studio. Located in the heart of Opelika, The Sound Wall has become an important part of the community.

Owners Jen and Rob Slocumb, known as the duo “Martha’s Trouble,” have been writing and performing acoustic music across the country for over 20 years. Touring has brought the pair widespread recognition and extensive musical expertise. Their music has been featured on stations such as SiriusXM Coffee House’s “Acoustic Covers.”

The name Martha’s Trouble is actually a Biblical reference.

“It comes from a story in the Bible about two sisters, Martha and Mary,” the couple’s website said. “Jesus came to see them one day. Martha was running around, trying to clean up and prepare food while Mary was hanging out at Jesus’ feet. The story says Martha was ‘troubled’ because Mary wasn’t helping. The story, the duo says, is a reminder to stop and smell the roses, the idea of keeping an eye on the bigger picture and the important things in life.”

The duo has a comprehensive discography, with over 12 albums. Some of their accolades include winning Best Americana Album of the Year and having different albums selected for Billboard Magazine’s Top 10 Cover Songs of the Year and U.S.A. Today’s Top Holiday Albums of the Year list.

“Martha’s Trouble” started in 1996 when the couple first met at a Houston coffee shop where Jen booked bands. Little did Rob know that this trip back home would lead him to meet his future wife.

The couple decided to settle down in Auburn for their next adventure. Jen said that with this move, it was very important for them to give back to their community. Instead of using a pre-existing office building for The Sound Wall, they repurposed a 1907 historic Victorian home.

After a short year of remodeling, they opened their doors. Jen said for them, the most rewarding thing has been renovating the house. They had a vision of what it could be and took pride in actually making that happen.

“It was in such bad shape and had been abandoned for so many years — so, to see it restored back to its beauty and the life that it brings is so cool for us,” she said.

The Sound Wall has multiple functions and attributes, just a couple of the reasons this business is so versatile and inclusive of different musicians’ needs.

“We do recording projects, video projects, live intimate shows, supper clubs, produce the Opelika Songwriters Festival and host small events,” Jen said.

Their studio has a live tracking room, a listening room, as well as rehearsal space for artists to utilize. With the production suite’s equipment, plug-ins and outboard gear, producers can do their own stereo mixing or work together with one of the studio’s mix engineers.

“Martha’s Trouble” understands the importance of putting themselves out there in the music industry, so their studio’s digital video services allow artists to create content that will help them book more shows while gaining fandom and recognition. Links to their past video sessions can be found on their website.

The Sound Wall also has a chef’s kitchen and tree-top loft apartment to house incoming musicians looking to stop and take advantage of the studio’s many resources.

Artists can sleep upstairs and work downstairs, all in a welcoming and luxurious environment. Much like every other business in town, The Sound Wall has also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the ongoing health situation, they have not been able to do as many things as they could before with their studio.

“We depend on the community to gather together, so with the pandemic, it’s been devastating to us,” Jen said. “We have had to get creative on doing some things virtually, but it’s not the same and definitely was challenging.”

A major aspect of their business is The Sound Wall Music Initiative that was created a few years after opening.

“It’s a non-profit that is dedicated to promoting and celebrating the art of music in the Auburn-Opelika Community,” Jen said. “Part of the proceeds from the Opelika Songwriters Festival goes to helping with this cause. We have always believed in giving back, and it’s truly what The Sound Wall is all about.”

Funded by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the initiative’s goal is to enhance the lives of its community members through music, providing funding for local schools and musicians, as well as artist development.

Jen and Rob’s love for music and their understanding of its value to individuals’ lives was the source of the initiative’s beginning. It helps connect those who are passionate about music but lack the adequate resources to make things happen.

The initiative has hosted different events, such as GivingTuesday, Opelika Songwriters Night and The Sound Wall Holiday Supper Club. It utilizes The Sound Wall’s space and equipment to make all this a reality.

Community members can apply for different grants that are funded by donors. With the artist/musician grant, aspiring musicians can further their musical careers with workshops, equipment and recording services.

With the school grant, schools that need an extra boost in funding can add their own music program. This helps educate children on the value and importance of music. With a student scholarship, aspiring musicians receive different ways to aid their own musical careers, like songwriting and funding recording sessions, alongside other learning opportunities.

The Sound Wall is located at 605 Ave. B in Opelika. Call 334-575-3477 or email info@thesoundwallopelika.com for more information. To book any of the services, visit the website at

www. thesoundwallopelika.com/#intro-section.

To get in touch with The Sound Wall Initiative, call the number listed above or email info@thesoundwallmusicinitiative.com.

Community members can learn more, make a donation or leave a message on the website,  www. thesoundwallmusicinitiative.com/.

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