Music, food, and printmaking.

If I could choose three words that described the majority of what makes up my life these days, those would rank pretty close to the top. What I didn’t know until recently is that they’re three words that also describe the majority of what makes up Nashville, Tennessee.

I admit that Nashville has never been a city that I’ve ever thought much about. In my mind, it was all about country-western music, and not much else. And that’s not where my particular interests lie. But then earlier this year, my roadtrip-loving parents told me that Nashville was going to be on their list of destinations this year, and I was welcome to come along if I wanted to.

Cue reluctance – Nashville?? Cue confusion – my parents aren’t any more fond of modern country-western music than I am! Why would they want to go to Nashville? My interest was piqued. And then I found out about the Music, Food, and Printmaking.

The thing about music is that even if I don’t like modern country-western, I do enjoy the “early stuff”. The bits where country overlaps with folk and bluegrass. The bits where country overlaps with blues. The bits where country overlaps with rock. Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Elvis. Yes, Elvis. Those early cross-overs that started making parents nervous about what exactly their kids were listening to in the 50s and 60s. Maybe I’m too young to enjoy that stuff, but I do. The “oldies station” has always had my love, even when I was a kid.

There are landmarks that are worth seeing even if not every single thing about it falls within your interests. One of those is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Columbus, Ohio. And in Nashville, The Country Music Hall of Fame is another. Yes, there is admittedly a lack of diversity in a lot of the history that is displayed, but what is there is really interesting.

I could probably spend paragraphs talking just about Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash, and if you’re not familiar with either of their stories and their music (especially the lyrics), you do owe it to yourself to look some up. Loretta is 85 years old and still making music as her health allows. Johnny unfortunately passed away almost 15 years ago now. Loretta has written songs about her life growing up, being poor, her husband’s infidelity, divorce, birth control (in a time when it was far more controversial than it even is today), and any other number of things that could and did affect women. Johnny wrote about and acted in support of things like prison reform, native rights, the poor and hungry, and anti-war opinions. If you have any question about his outlook on things, just give a listen to “Man in Black”.

Maybe you’re saying okay, but is there anything at least a little more modern than people born almost a century ago? Well how about Jack White? White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather, Jack White? In the early 2000s, he helped Loretta Lynn create her album “Van Lear Rose”, and then moved himself and his record label to Nashville. Third Man Records is putting out a lot of great music lately and has one of the most eclectic stores I’ve ever been in. It’s worth the parking hassles to swing by and check it out.

Pretty self-explanatory. Just like most cities of any size, Nashville is full of good places to eat. Of course BBQ is huge there, but there are also a lot of other types of cuisine as well. If you do get to the Country Music Hall of Fame, there’s a little taco place tucked between the museum proper and Hatch Show Print that serves some of the best nachos I’ve ever eaten. (Granted, we were all pretty hangry by that point, but that doesn’t mean they were any less delicious!)

Oh my goodness. I’m sure there are other woodtype/lettterpress print studios across the country and the world, but the two I’ve (now) been to have been a-maz-ing. One of them is Hamilton Wood Type in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The other is Hatch Show Print in Nashville. Hatch opened way back in 1879, and they’ve been printing ever since. One hundred and thirty-eight years of printing! If you don’t think that’s completely awesome, I don’t know what to tell you. They’re working at preserving their collection and not collecting more type, so they’ve been able to keep a certain consistent style for so many of those years. “Preservation through Production” is the motto they work under. If you see a Hatch print today, you know it’s from Hatch, just because of the way it looks. And, as we noticed around Nashville, so many local businesses had prints from Hatch that is almost seems a right of passage for your business to get one.

More than just the local businesses, Hatch has an ongoing tradition of creating concert posters for the musicians that pass through Nashville. Their entire space is nearly wallpapered in all those posters. But beyond that, they’ve done projects for national restaurants, CNN, and more. If you need an awesome poster for any reason at all, and have the budget and need for at least 100 prints, contact Hatch. They have 8 on-staff designer/printers that each oversee the individual projects from design through shipping, and multiple interns to help everything along. And if you’re just in Nashville and kicking around, they offer tours of their space that ends with you able to print your own take-home commemorative print! Worth it.

(This is where I admit that my “souvenir” money was mostly spent at Third Man and Hatch on this vacation! Cool things that I couldn’t help but bring home with me. Also where I admit that I’ve eyed up Hatch’s short winter internship as a possibility to do in the next few years…)

So that’s Nashville! If you’re a country music fan, go! If you’re not a fan, go! If you like printmaking, go! If you like food, go! If you like walking down a street where almost every doorway leads into a bar and each bar has a live band playing, GO! There’s something there for so many different interests. If we’d had more time and a little less of the northern reaches of Hurricane Irma, I would’ve hit up a few of the art museums there. Worth the trip, and worth a return sometime in the future.