America – the land of the brave and the free. It’s is a big place. It’s place full of big ideas, big cars, big personalities, big people, big food, big teeth and the big apple. I had the great fortunate of returning the USA and visited it’s southern heartland of Nashville, Tennessee – the home of music row.
Nashville is the home of Country Music, music row, hundreds of baptist churches and the design style, Hatch Print Show. I was there for the Americana Music Conference and Festival. My husband is in a band, and while he and his band performed as Australian guests at the festival, I took advantage of some of the great workshops and seminars on offer, like the ‘Website Slam’, ‘Music Packaging In The Digital Age’ and to hear from the best in the business on how to market country music.
The Americana music scene is what we in Australia call alternative country music, think Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash, Mumford and Sons, and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Its’s a fabulous mix of roots, blues, folk, celtic, bluegrass and anything else that does not fit mainstream ‘COUNTRY’ or pop.
Americana music is what I love, it helps that my husband is also a Americana devotee and that he and his in a band where invited to perform at the festival. Living, travelling and ‘hangin’ with a band is a fairly serious business. You must have a hilariously funny joke at the ready for the long road trips, the ability to digest unrecognisable food, be able to stay awake well past 1.00am (on a quite night) and be immune to swearing – or as they call it in the south, cursing. These are all skills you acquire ‘on the job’.
For two weeks, I emerged myself in everything Nashville’s had to offer. As a designer I was really interested to hunt down some examples of music inspired design and get a handle on the ‘Americana style’.
The ‘Americana style’ is indisputably the Hatch Show Print. The Hatch Print Show is actually a business, established in 1879 to make posters for some of country music earliest stars and it is a tradition that continue’s today. As Americas oldest working letterpress print shops, it attracts thousands of visitors each year and is the design cornerstone of southern style and culture.
I have been a fan of the iconic Hatch Print style poster for ages. With it’s woodblock, rustic, distressed authentic designs and use of typeface, it is a style that’s identified as ‘Hatch Print Show’ and imitated by many designers, including myself, so I was pretty excited to see the print shop in action and smell the ink on paper.
The day I visited, the shop was still on Broadway, (they recently moved to a bigger premises), so I got to experience the shop they had been in for the past 137 years. The presses where not cranking so I hunted through a few dozen pigeon holes of overs, make ready posters, off cuts and out of registration waste piles to find an exclusive. No such luck for me. But what I did come away with was a true sense that Hatch Print are deeply entreated into the historical fabric of country music in America. It depicts an unmistakable, historical graphic, letterpress style, emulated by many. The mono-prints, coloured prints, woodblocks and contemporary interpretations are all artworks in their own right and it was fabulous to experience just a glimpse in history.
Here is a look at the shop on Broadway, Nashville.