Photos by Elizabeth Steen. Words by Rrita Hashani.
Nashville, *long heaving sigh* Music City U.S.A.; the home of so much good music, it can be overwhelming. It can be especially intimidating for the artists. Every relationship can seem like a shallow networking-ship and oh my god if I see another Tinder guy say, “hey i’m sorry we haven’t talked in a while, but you should come to my show” I’m gonna lose it. But there’s hope on the horizon.
Cold Lunch Recordings is a lighthouse for artists overwhelmed and drowning in the Nashville music sea. The three-year-old record label and promotion company crafts shows in Nash of the finest garage/psych/punk bands. Cold Lunch also hosts “Discovery Nites” to help locals find their new favorite bands.
Cold Lunch is made up of a spectacular team of five that do the work of a thousand. “It takes a village, and we really fucking love our village,” says Caroline Bowman, co-founder of the label.
I had the pleasure of seeing one of Cold Lunch’s made-with-love shows last month. Caroline was our gracious host and she introduced me to Megan Loveless, booking/promo grl for the label and perhaps my best friend in another life. I got to ask the two about the label, the scene and the hardships of it all.
Caroline and Megan fill their lives with music. Yeah, everybody loves music but these two LOVE MUSIC!!! Megan, along with Cold Lunch, works at Third Man Records, co-founded and runs her own record label (To-Go Records), created a music magazine (Inoxia Mag) and a platform to help show-goers know where to go (Nashville’s Show To-Go Menu).
“Out of all of those, I really can’t pick a favorite. Each job or project I started in the music scene means so much to me. I really devote a lot of myself to all of these projects. I would have to say I love finding bands more than anything so Third Man and To-Go Records are a huge part of my life. Booking shows is one of my favorite hobbies too so maybe that’s my favorite? I can’t decide!”
Caroline, through Cold Lunch, has found a new passion for graphic design (and her work is amazing). She told us, “[It has] really sparked my creative passion, and allows me to create something that can be useful to other people. Posters, cover art, shirt designs, branding - all of that is in such high demand, since merch and ticket sales are where the money’s coming from for up-and-coming bands. So I love to assist with that.”
Although each grl has a trillion passion projects they’re working on, Cold Lunch allows them to work with the music community in Nashville. “Cold Lunch helps a lot of local bands,” says Megan. “I would say it’s crucial to the scene.”
“One of our goals in creating Cold Lunch was to make an organization that people could look to for good taste and a good time. We have seen the community around us grow so strong and loving and collaborative over the last few years, and there are just so many people doing cool things here. It always warms my heart to see people meeting at our shows or playing a CL show together and ending up on tour or recording a song together. That’s what it’s all about for us. Creating community. And I hope we’ve done our part in that,” Caroline said.
After seeing just one of their shows, it is obvious they have done just that. Compared to other Nashville shows I’ve been to, Cold Lunch has truly conjured a close sense of community amongst the artists and the audience.
It is also clear to me that Caroline and Megan bring professionalism to the scene. They have fun but they also take themselves seriously so that those around them do so, too. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but the two find power in it.
“As a Southern woman, I have two things working against me (or for me, depending on how you see it). I’m a woman and I have a southern accent. I look forward to a time when neither of those matter, but for now, they usually lead people to think certain things when they meet me. But I love being underestimated. It’s one of my great joys in life to surprise people with what I can do,” Caroline said.
“But I love being underestimated. It’s one of my great joys in life to surprise people with what I can do.
Megan shared that the music scene in Nashville is quickly progressing, but that there are still times she is overlooked, “It’s more open minded, but I still struggle with people taking me seriously. I’ve struggled a bit more, too, because I’m a younger woman in the scene and work with a lot of older white men, so I’m not always seen or taken seriously in general in the business.”
Their optimism and dedication is inspiring. When asked who inspires them, the two continue to lift other women up.
Megan literally listed Nashville ladies that help keep her going, “A lot of women who work really hard in the Nashville DIY music/art scene inspire me a lot like Caroline, Olivia Scibelli (Drkmttr & Idle Bloom), Rian Archer (Sugar/Spice Booking), Hailey Rowe-Mabee and Sarah Bandy (Southern Girls Rock&Roll Camp and so much more), Olivia Ladd (music journalist for Nashville Scene & The Boot), Blair Tramel (artist & show promoter), and many more. They all are doing really cool things and work so hard - it keeps me motivated.”
Caroline, too, cited the scene as one of her sources for inspiration. “My circle of friends supply me with a constant flow of creativity, support, and inspiration. We’re all living in this microcosm of music and art, and grinding to pay bills, and still making time and energy to do things that are meaningful and fulfilling to us. It’s beautiful to me.”
She also credited Hayley Williams, front-woman of Paramore and everybody’s unproblematic fave, for her daily inspiration. “I could go on and on about how impactful it was for me at a young age to see a southern girl doing her thang and fronting a band that I will always claim as my favorite. And watching her grow into a business-owner and in general super cool person with strong ideals has really been inspirational to me.”
Caroline and Megan fill their lives with creativity and collaboration so it’s no wonder Cold Lunch is so successful. And they’ve got much more in store. The record label is gearing up for BobFest, a four-day music and arts festival along the Red River in Adams, Tennessee. To keep updated on Bobfest and in the know of their almost weekly and definitely amazing shows, follow Cold Lunch on Instagram.
All of this hard work goes toward connecting people to new friends, new favorite bands, and new venues. That’s what a healthy and communicative music scene looks like— and Cold Lunch is helping Nashville get there.