How Do We Regard Bloodshot Records After Lydia Loveless Revelations?
It was South by Southwest 2011, and I stepped into a dive bar on Austin’s east side just off of 7th Street that has since changed hands probably half a dozen times. I was there to see singer/songwriter Austin Lucas perform, as well as the boys from Two Cow Garage and others. The unofficial SXSW showcase was being thrown by the now mothballed ninebullets.net, and the blog’s proprietor at the time, Autopsy VI. Of course this was back in the day when independent music blogs were a thing, and they were significant enough to be able to throw industry showcases and have artists line up to play them.
There was a good crowd assembled, but Autopsy was flustered. The venue was supposed to supply the PA system, but didn’t. After procuring a sound rig so the artists could at least put on some acoustic performances, the show went on, and was really good. Austin Lucas played a rendition of “Nevada County Line” accompanied by his sister Chloe (this one) that gives me chills to think about to this day. Autopsy at one point leaned over to me and said, “You know it’s a good showcase when other artists are attending. Do you see that girl over there? That’s Lydia Loveless. She was just signed to Bloodshot Records. She’s super young, not even 21 yet I don’t think, but they think she’s going to be their future.”
At that time, Bloodshot Records was everything, at least when it came to independent and underground country music. There were others that dabbled in the space of course, like Yep Roc, or maybe Sub Pop. But Bloodshot Records was the first sign Ryan Adams and Neko Case. They had the “Dirty Ol’ One Man Band” Scott H. Biram on the roster, and the “King of Juke Joint Swing” Wayne “The Train” Hancock. They also had Justin Townes Earle, who people still forget was the next big thing before Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson came up. It was a developing Jason Isbell that Justin Townes Earle invited to play guitar when Earle was invited to play Letterman. At the time, nobody had heard of Thirty Tigers yet, or Dave Cobb, or Cody Jinks, or Sturgill Simpson.
Bloodshot Records was a stepping stone, and a repository for artists who were too ornery to be signed elsewhere. And that was what was cool about them. It was a punk attitude imprinted on country, and their verbiage about leading an insurgency inspired others to pick up the charge to take country music back, including this very website. It gave artists a healthy alternative to the advantage taking that artists were susceptible to in the mainstream. Or at least we thought. Now we know that as far back as during that SXSW in 2011, Lydia Loveless was already being sexually harassed by a creep named Mark Panick, who was the life partner Bloodshot Records co-owner Nan Warshaw.
And Lydia Loveless put up with it in private, because this was Bloodshot Records, and her avenue to a music career. Though the fact that Mark Panick was never an employee of Bloodshot is probably an important legal note, it’s of little consolation to Lydia Loveless. Bloodshot Records was always presented as a family, both in public and private. Panick was in a position to take advantage of Lydia Loveless, and did so, knowing that Loveless had little recourse that wouldn’t have grand ramifications on her career, no different from the behavior existing on casting couches, and in the worst crevasses on Music Row in Nashville.
Make no mistake, the name of Saving Country Music is probably received with mixed feelings at Bloodshot Records Headquarters in Chicago, and in the Lydia Loveless camp especially. This is what happens when you take an objective role in music journalism. Bloodshot wasn’t too happy when Saving Country Music reported on a drunk Justin Townes Earle tearing up a green room in Indianapolis in 2010 in a situation that in 2019 might get him excommunicated from music similar to Ryan Adams. Lydia’s first record on Bloodshot, 2011’s Indestructible Machine, received a positive review here, but with a few caveats, including a rebuke of the idea that she was the next Loretta Lynn as asserted by some, as well as a concern about an underage artist singing so many songs about getting schnockered. Now we know that day drinking during Bloodshot functions could have played a role in the sexual harassment.
A lot of the pressure put on Loveless was because her potential was so great. This came to fruition when her song “Everything’s Gone” was named Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year in 2014. Bloodshot Records and its artists have been perennial contenders for many end-of-year lists and accolades, here and elsewhere, including Justin Townes Earle earning an SCM Album of the Year previously, and distinctions from the Americana Music Association. Saving Country Music’s 2018 Album of the Year is Sarah Shook’s Years, and like Loveless, Townes Earle, Ryan Adams, and Neko Case before her, you get the sense that Sarah Shook could be one of the next big things in independent country music coming out of the Bloodshot camp.
That is why the news about the harassment Lydia Loveless faced was so disturbing. There are many horses from the Bloodshot stable running in midstream at the moment, from Sarah Shook, to the Vandoliers who just released an album on Friday, February 22nd, to Jason Hawk Harris who just signed with the company recently, and on from there. Of course you can never forget or gloss over the actions of this Bloodshot-associated creep who harassed Lydia Loveless, and it’s easy to second guess the actions of both owners, and if they could have been more vigilant at the time to stamp down the harassment.
But the implosion, or even significant downgrading of Bloodshot Records in the independent country space due to the actions of one non employee could have great negative implications beyond the label. Yes, in this day in age, it’s fair to question if artists even need a record label, or if more streamlined, stripped down outfits such as Thirty Tigers couldn’t take up the slack. But getting signed to Bloodshot Records gave artists a street cred and validation that frankly no other emblem could convey, at least before the controversy. The label has definitely had its down years over the last quarter century, and their misses with certain artists. But when you see that Bloodshot Records just signed and artist or just released a record, you pay attention.
It does appear that co-owner, and now primary active owner Rob Miller worked significantly to address the situation as soon as he was made aware of it. Though some would love for Nan Warshaw to divest herself from her life partner over the issue, that’s easier said than done, and difficult to demand from the outside looking into a personal relationship. Warshaw has walked away from the company due to her actions, and has made the effort to take responsibility.
In this #meetoo era, not every case is the same. The issue surrounding Lydia Loveless is not a he said, she said situation. From the statements of both Lydia and the Bloodshot owners, we can pretty much guarantee the sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior occurred. But how much do we want to hold Bloodshot Records to account for the actions of one non employee? If the harassment had been revealed years ago, it probably would have been no more than a footnote, right or wrong. How far should this by proxy blame go? This all came out because of the revelations about Ryan Adams. For years Jason Isbell has been a close friend of Ryan, and many forget that it was a scheduling conflict that kicked Ryan out of the producers seat for Jason Isbell’s breakout record Southeastern, and put Dave Cobb in that position instead. This is how even the slightest stitches in time can go to shape history. Does Jason Isbell owe us a statement due to his friendship with Ryan Adams? Would we all-of-a sudden regard Southeastern different if Ryan Adams had been the producer? Or is this patently unfair to Jason Isbell?
It is a good thing that Lydia Loveless came out to tell her story, to protect women in the future, to shine a light on just how deep this harassment can go, and to remind independent music that it’s not insulated from these cases. But it would be a shame if this situation was the eventual demise of such an important independent country music institution as Bloodshot Records, especially for the important legacy they’ve sown over 25 years, and very specifically for their current artists, including ones with records in the pipeline, who have no culpability in the matter whatsoever. When the Vandoliers released their new album Forever last Friday, Bloodshot didn’t do anything to help promote it, probably either because they’re too busy re-assessing things at the company, or they didn’t want to get pounded on social media by posting anything that would give detractors a forum to chime in.
Bloodshot artists including Lydia Loveless, Sarah Shook, the Vandoliers, Jason Hawk Harris, and others deserve to not have their career arcs impacted, or their legacies sullied by the reprehensible actions of a life partner of one of the co-owners of a record label. Instead, hopefully lessons can be learned by all independent labels, and we can get back to the business of helping to save country music by taking the power over the music out of the hands of corporate overlords and corrupt individuals, and putting it back into the hands of artists like Bloodshot Records has done for 25 years, despite one huge, but (hopefully) isolated, lapse in moral judgement.
February 26, 2019 @ 10:10 am
Your last paragraph says it all. Yes, hopefully lessons have been learned and hopefully this was an isolated lapse. But until we see how they move forward, for me at least, it’s too early to make a judgement either way.
I have a (maybe irrational) suspicion that this wasn’t isolated at all. Predators rarely prey on one or two or even a few. In an industry when women struggle to get opportunities, it seems like the atmosphere encourages this kind of abuse (as well as silence from victim). I worry (again, maybe irrationally) that what we have already learned is only the tip of the iceberg (and not just at Bloodshot).
February 26, 2019 @ 11:16 am
”I have a (maybe irrational) suspicion that this wasn’t isolated at all. Predators rarely prey on one or two or even a few. In an industry when women struggle to get opportunities, it seems like the atmosphere encourages this kind of abuse (as well as silence from victim). I worry (again, maybe irrationally) that what we have already learned is only the tip of the iceberg (and not just at Bloodshot).”
well , unfortunately , I think you’ve summed up things here CeeCee. in the entertainment business , its seems not only to be encouraged but expected that artists be willing to make certain ‘concessions’ in order to further careers . in fact many , many artists have written or commented about this fact . ‘fame ‘ and ‘success’ are powerful aphrodisiacs for so many and in many ways the business condones whatever means result in this desired end . I ‘m not sure how much more I want to comment without sounding like I myself am condoning these practices which I most certainly am not . However as human beings it is not difficult to understand how they come about . And , indeed , many people are , perhaps , mentally predisposed to an exaggerated level of ‘entitlement’ which , again , the business has traditionally done little to discourage .
These are complicated issues and behaviors influenced by so many factors . And they are undeniably WRONG , even if they are not surprising .
February 26, 2019 @ 10:32 am
“Though some would love for Nan Warshaw to divest herself from her life partner over the issue, that’s easier said than done”
Sure. But she should divest herself of Bloodshot Records. Not “step away,” as her press release says. That is meaningless. If she chooses to stay with the harrasser, that’s her business. But if she still has a financial stake in Bloodshot then she remains a problem. If Bloodshot artists make money, if the label makes money, then Warshaw makes money— and her life partner still benefits by association. I can’t see how that arrangement is acceptible.
Unless Warshaw has bowed out already (I haven’t seen a public statement beyond her saying she will vaguely “step away”), she should go for the sake of the label and its artists.
February 26, 2019 @ 1:35 pm
In situations like this everyone wants a bowl of blood, and I get that. But you also have to weigh the collateral damage affecting artists very directly, including Lydia Loveless. Nan Warshaw has been a co-owner of the company for 25 years. She’s not just going to walk away from her life’s work with nothing to show for it. Perhaps Rob could buy her out, but he’d need the money to do it. Perhaps someone else could buy her stake, but this could take time. Meanwhile The Vandoliers just released a record, Jason Hawk Harris has one on the way, as do other artists who are contractually obligated to work with this company. I agree if Bloodshot want to move forward, pursuing to resolve Nan’s stake might be a good way. But I just don’t want to see these innocent bands adversely affected by this situation just because we feel the need to make a firm moral stance. Nan Warshaw also has the right to be gainfully employed, to rehabilitate herself in the public image, and be forgiven.
February 26, 2019 @ 3:03 pm
The long and short of it is this: Bloodshot Records has a zero tolerance policy for sexual harrassment. Nan Warshaw, personally, has no such policy, as evidenced by her choice to stay with and cover for her life partner. (I am basing my judgements on the public statements made by both of Bloodshot’s owners as well as Loveless’s statement.) Every artist who signs with the label and every person buying a record from the label will have to take that into consideration when they make their choice. Neither the bands nor the fans should have to deal with that, but they will as long as Warshaw remains. But that is on her. I’m not terribly concerned about her public image. I don’t expect her to walk away from her business— but it is the only ethical choice I think she has from here.
February 26, 2019 @ 11:09 am
Bloodshot’s reputation is still intact with me. I hope Nan steps away for good. She’s shown a remark lack of good judgement… personal and professional.
Although, I haven’t listened to Ryan Adams in a decade, nothing in that NYT article was revealing to me. I always knew he was a jerk and capable of harassing women. And if people are ok listening to Michael Jackson (which I am not), then Adams is a Sunday picnic.
February 26, 2019 @ 11:24 am
I’ll reserve judgement till the accusations have been proved in court.
February 27, 2019 @ 6:28 am
What a brave hot take, you tip your fedora to the ladies, too?
February 28, 2019 @ 9:33 am
Why reserve your judgment when everyone involved, including the accused pretty much agree to all of the facts?
February 26, 2019 @ 11:37 am
Not an employe, so not a Bloodshot problem. The exec’s remarks were on point. And the harasser guy was a creep, not a criminal.
None of this excuses bad behavior on any side. This is all part of the prolonged adolescence of American life. Professional, respectful adults don’t act this way. Below the criminal threshold, they should be shunned. Above it, charged and litigated.
And who was it who said revenge is a kind of wild justice.
Seth of Lampasas
February 27, 2019 @ 6:14 am
He grabbed her ass. That’s a criminal act.
February 26, 2019 @ 12:23 pm
i Always thougt that Lydia Loveless has paved the way, sonicwise, for Sarah Shook…
February 26, 2019 @ 3:27 pm
Oh, for sure. “Indestructible Machine” could easily be a Sarah Shook record, and when I listen to Shook, I find myself wishing that it was Lydia Loveless singing.
February 26, 2019 @ 1:49 pm
They took action and left it up to Lydia to decide when she wanted to make it public. Seems to me they handled the situation well. Far better than a lot of places where women are told to suck it up and not make waves.
February 26, 2019 @ 1:53 pm
Trigger- you’re beyond a shadow of a doubt the most level headed writer I read- you need your own website- LOL- 😉
I don’t agree with all your thoughts, but, by God you are articulate, level headed and objective.
Paul in Kentucky
February 26, 2019 @ 4:53 pm
The whole situation is sad, gross, and absolutely disappointing. Back in the day, if it was on Bloodshot, I bought it. Devil In A Woodpile, Trailer Bride, Meat Purveyors,and so on…Lots of good memories. I’m also a huge Lydia Loveless fan,and that all started for me with Indestructible Machine. Guess why I bought it? Yep. Bloodshot. I always wanted my band to be on that label, but now I’m grateful that prayer was unanswered. S*#t.
Great article, Trigg. Sad, but very well written.
February 26, 2019 @ 6:06 pm
“Does Jason Isbell owe us a statement due to his friendship with Ryan Adams?” – That’s something I’ve thought about too, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer. But, given that Jason is very pro-social justice (as he should be), it does seem like somewhat of a double standard when he calls out politicians for their wrongdoings while his musician friends get a free pass.
February 26, 2019 @ 7:00 pm
Someone asked Isbell about the situation on Twitter, he said he believed the allegations.
February 26, 2019 @ 7:21 pm
Good to know.
February 26, 2019 @ 7:14 pm
Isbell did briefly comment on Ryan Adams’ situation on Twitter.
February 26, 2019 @ 9:25 pm
Fair minded people and outlets like saving country music take a I don’t know what happened attitude because I wasn’t there and wait for actual facts to materialize and remain neutral until then. I don’t believe nor disbelief either side but await the facts freedom requires fairness in my opinion! I appreciate you Kyle for being a true journalist in tough situations like these!!!
February 26, 2019 @ 10:05 pm
I think they handled it well. It was supposedly done for a few years and hats off to them for only commenting on it after Lydia came forward allowing her to deal with it when she was ready. As of now I’ll still support the label.
February 27, 2019 @ 1:16 am
This is the real world, it sucks.
Would you rather have no bloodshot and less quality music in the world or the situation we have?
Never liked Ryan Adams.
February 27, 2019 @ 7:51 am
Day drinking did NOT cause the sexual assault, this kind of thinking and rape apologist bs harms women and especially women in this industry. Do better.
February 27, 2019 @ 9:42 am
Bad comment. Nobody here is saying the sexual assault is in any way Lydia Loveless’s fault. If Blooshot Records or its associates were drinking during the day during the functions when Lydia Loveless was sexually assaulted, or were even supplying Lydia with alcohol—who was a minor at the time—this is most certainly an important element to this story. This is why LYDIA LOVELESS mentioned it in her statement about her experience. By alluding that someone is imprinting the guilt for the sexual assault on Lydia because of the day drinking that was taking place is a dangerous, misguided notion, and your comment goes way further asserting this notion than anything included in this article.
February 27, 2019 @ 6:35 pm
Alcohol, particularly heavy drinking, certainly tends to magnify sexual urges and reduce judgement and inhibitions.
Shame on this maggot for imposing himself on this young lady.
I don’t have any use or respect for his girlfriend either.
February 28, 2019 @ 2:21 pm
While you rightly note that Bloodshot isn’t always pleased with SCM, I’m sure they’ll be happy to read that this article is at least a bit dishonest to their benefit. Lydia Loveless did not, “put up with it in private.” Lydia Loveless specifically says she went to Rob Miller. That fact isn’t even mentioned in this article.
You also fail to mention that Nan’s response was “she couldn’t help it if people threw themselves at Mark.” So while you’re splitting hairs about Mark not being an employee at least do the victims the courtesy of mentioned the OWNER was told and blamed the victims for their own harassment. The only thing worse than gaslighting victims is doing it a second time in print.
February 28, 2019 @ 3:38 pm
This is another bullshit, irresponsible comment similar to the one left by “RapeApologistsAreToxic” above that completely distorts the facts of the situation in attempt to make this article some sort of an attack on Lydia Loveless, which is isn’t, and was never intended to be, and isn’t being taken as such by anyone except individuals who crave it to be. Lydia did NOT come out publicly about the harassment, not in anyone’s assessment, included Lydia’s, and this is corroborated by her statement, as well as the statements of the two Bloodshot owners. She said she did not come out publicly for fear of her career, which is completely understandable, and why these situations are so serious. Speaking to Rob at Bloodshot is NOT making a public social media post, NOT reaching out to a member of the media, and in no way constitutes a public broaching of the subject.
“You also fail to mention that Nan’s response was “she couldn’t help it if people threw themselves at Mark.”
This is incorrect. The statement from Lydia Loveless was published entirely and unabridged on this site on February 18th, along with the statements from both Bloodshot owners:
That original article was then linked to within this article for context. Posting Lydia’s entire statement once again here would have been redundant, and unnecessary. This was not a report on the abuse Lydia Loveless suffered, it was an addendum to it. It’s also worth pointing out that Saving Country Music was the FIRST outlet to report on this story. Nobody is “gaslighting” anyone, aside from individuals who so much want to characterize this article as something that it isn’t, likely due to hatred for this website.
December 16, 2019 @ 3:37 pm