Bloodshot Records

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Bloodshot Records
Bloodshot Records logo
Founded1993; 31 years ago (1993)
FounderNan Warshaw
Rob Miller
Eric Babcock
(former partner from 1993–1997)
Country of originUnited States
LocationChicago, Illinois

Bloodshot Records is an independent record label based in Chicago, Illinois, which specializes in alternative country music.[1][2]


Bloodshot Records was founded in 1994 by Nan Warshaw,[3] Rob Miller,[4] and Eric Babcock,[5][6] who knew each other from jobs in the music industry and from being active in was then a burgeoning underground country-roots music scene.

Warshaw had been promoting, booking, and managing bands for years and also worked as a publicist for the band Killbilly, which released a record on Flying Fish Records, where Babcock worked.[7] She was well known around Chicago as a punk raconteur. Her reputation was confirmed when Kurt Cobain's diaries were posthumously published in 2002 included this mention: "Call Nan Warshaw" appears on his to-do list.[8]

Miller moved to Chicago in 1991 from Ann Arbor, Michigan where he helped to produce shows for a local promoter and DJed on a local radio station.[7] He met Warshaw in 1993 at Crash Palace (now Delilah's), a local punk bar where Warshaw was a DJ spinning country records on Wednesday nights.[7]

While having drinks at a bar, Warshaw, Miller, and Babcock made a wish-list on a cocktail napkin of unheralded Chicago bands and musicians they loved[9] — who all had a thread of old school country running through their music. That cocktail napkin list became 17 songs from 16 bands recorded for a self-funded first release in 1994 under the Bloodshot Records label titled For A Life of Sin: A Compilation of Insurgent Chicago Country.[10] The album included artists such as The Bottle Rockets, Freakwater, The Handsome Family, and Robbie Fulks, as well as The Sundowners,[6] a country music trio that started in the 1950s. The record was self-distributed and sold on consignment in stores and, selling out its initial pressing of 1,000 copies.[7][11] The success of the record left funds to do another compilation.[7][12][13]

Bloodshot Records was initially run out of Warshaw's apartment in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago and later the business moved into her Warshaw's basement. In 1997, singer and Bloodshot Records artist, Kelly Hogan was the first paid employee, working as the label's publicist.[14][7] In 1999, the label moved to its current location on West Irving Park Road.[15] Both Warshaw and Miller worked supplemental jobs to keep afloat. Miller was a carpenter painting houses and Warshaw was doing publicity work.[4]

Growth of the record label[edit]

Following the compilation format of the initial album release, Bloodshot organized record release shows in multiple cities with four or five bands on each night's line-up. The shows drew press coverage for the new label and the bands/artists, which for some was their first recording and opportunity to play multiple-band shows.[7]

A year later, in 1995, the label released their second compilation album Hell Bent: Insurgent Country Volume 2. The album included bands from all over the country, and Bloodshot continued to put on events showcasing the bands involved with the making of the record.[7] Although well received by critics, Bloodshot had very tight financial constraints, and worked under the model of not starting a new project until the prior project had paid for itself. Also challenging was establishing Bloodshot's brand, a mixture of country, punk, and folk that had no precedent.[16][17] The name of the music genre was a point of contention, with some grouping the unique, hard-to-classify singer-songwriter music under the alternative country and some grouping it under the Americana label.[18]

In 1997, co-founder Babcock left Bloodshot, eventually relocating to Nashville, where he founded Catamount Records.[19] After Babcock left, ownership of Bloodshot was split fifty/fifty between the two other founding partners, Warshaw and Miller.

By 1999, its fifth year in business, Bloodshot had released 60 records. That year, the label released another compilation, Down to the Promised Land, with 40 unreleased track on two CD that included every artist and band on the label.[20]

In 2000, Bloodshot released Ryan Adams' record Heartbreaker, and the popularity of the record created a more stable financial base for the label. allowed Warshaw and Miller to dedicate themselves full-time to running the label, move to a bigger office space in the northwest side of Chicago, and begin to hire employees. The full-time Bloodshot staff eventually grew to six.[1] Singer Kelly Hogan was the first paid employee, working as the label's publicist. The Chicago twang, country, and punk scene, often described as a sort of an anti-Nashville, continued to expand, often led by various projects involving The Mekons' Jon Langford.[21]

In 2014, Bloodshot released their 20th-anniversary album, While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records.[15] The album is a two-CD set with 38 artists that include Andrew Bird, Blitzen Trapper, Superchunk, and Diarrhea Planet covering songs by some of Bloodshot's stable of artists (i.e., Ryan Adams, Old 97's, Cory Branan, and Justin Townes Earle).[22] Bloodshot spent the year celebrating their success at surviving during a period when most independent record labels were going out of business.[7]

In November 2019, Bloodshot celebrated its 25th anniversary by holding a concert/party and issuing another compilation album.[23]

Chicago community and SXSW[edit]

Bloodshot had close ties to the Chicago community[24] and particularly to the Hideout, a bar and music venue.[25]

Starting in the mid 1990s, Bloodshot hosted a free barbecue-and-music day-long showcase at both Austin, Texas' SXSW and New York City's CMJ music festivals.[26][27] The annual SXSW shows have often been anchored by performances by The Waco Brothers.[28]

Sale of Bloodshot[edit]

In January 2019, Bloodshot artist, Lydia Loveless, accused Warshaw of attempting to cover up sexual harassment by Warshaw's long-term domestic partner, Mark Panick.[29] Warshaw issued a public apology to Loveless, while also announcing she was stepping away from the label. A month later she announced that she was not just stepping away, but resigning, with Miller to continue the work of running the label with Warshaw still retaining 50% ownership.[30] In mid-July 2020, after an internal audit, Bloodshot Records staff issued a statement further accusing Warshaw of long-term negligence in regard to royalty payments and accounting.[30][31]

On October 19, 2021, Miller posted a message on the Bloodshot website saying that the office is permanently closed, and said "Regrettably, it is time for this phase of Bloodshot Records to come to an end". [32] Just three days later, on October 22, 2021, Exceleration Music announced that it had purchased Bloodshot from Miller and Warshaw.[33][34]

With the sale of Bloodshot, Dave Hansen, a principal with Exceleration said "Bloodshot is a vitally important part of American music history, a genre-defining label founded on passion and vision, dedicated to bringing a unique set of artists from its musical orbit to the world." Warshaw said, "This passing of the torch ensures that the legacy of nurturing and celebrating unique indie music will live on."[33]

In early 2023, Bloodshot, under Exceleration, announced that it had signed new contracts with several artists, including three who had previously worked with Bloodshot, and would shortly start releasing new recordings again.[35]


Some of the early artists who started out on Bloodshot went on to sign with larger major record labels, specifically Old 97's and Ryan Adams.[36] Ryan Adams had one of the label's best-selling albums with the 2000 release Heartbreaker, having sold almost 500,000 copies.[9] Neko Case had a licensing deal with Bloodshot Records in the United States and Mint Records in Canada before she signed with ANTI-.[37]

Under Miller and Warshaw, Bloodshot included a diverse roster of artists, including the late Andre Williams, who wrote "Shake a Tail Feather," faced challenges, and then had a career renaissance making records at Bloodshot.[38] Bloodshot includes bands and projects by several members of The Mekons, including Jon Langford, Sally Timms, and Rico Bell.

‡ denotes active Bloodshot artists[when?]



Bloodshot Records began its life as a label by releasing compilations of tracks not released elsewhere.[39]

  • 1994: For a Life of Sin: A Compilation of Insurgent Chicago Country
  • 1995: Hell Bent: Insurgent Country Volume 2
  • 1996: Nashville, The Other Side of the Alley
  • 1997: Straight Outta Boone County
  • 1999: Poor Little Knitter on the Road: A Tribute to The Knitters
  • 2000: Down to the Promised Land: 5 Years of Bloodshot Records
  • 2002: The Bottle Let Me Down
  • 2002: Making Singles, Drinking Doubles
  • 2003: The Slaughter Rule (Original Movie Soundtrack)
  • 2004: Hard Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson
  • 2005: For A Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records
  • 2006: Bloodied But Unbowed: The Soundtrack
  • 2007: Just One More: A Musical Tribute to Larry Brown
  • 2011: No One Got Hurt: Bloodshot's 15th Anniversary @ The Hideout Block Party
  • 2014: While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records
  • 2019: Too Late to Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots[23][40]

Bloodshot Revival[edit]

Bloodshot Revival/Soundies: A series of historic transcription acetate recordings that were leased to radio stations for airplay but never sold at the time of recording.[41]



The label planned to release a 10th anniversary DVD (Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records' Life In The Trenches) in 2004, but it was not released until late 2006.[42][43]

  • 2006: Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records' Life In The Trenches – 10th Anniversary DVD

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Maurice, Raphael (November 14, 2014). "While No One Was Looking: Twenty Years of Bloodshot Records". The Bluegrass Situation. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  2. ^ Loerzel, Robert (April 12, 2014). "How Bloodshot Records has lasted so long (One hint: Lydia Loveless)". Crain's Chicago Business.
  3. ^ "Meet an FMC fan: Nan Warshaw of Bloodshot Records". Future of Music Coalition. August 20, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Chamberlain, Dave (April 11, 2002). "So you wanna start a record label? Bloodshot Records shares the inside information on starting—and keeping—a music business". New City Chicago. Archived from the original on February 10, 2003.
  5. ^ Chipps, William (September 17, 2009). "Bloodshot Records: An Indie Music Label's Take On Sponsorship". Archived from the original on October 7, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Dickinson, Chris (June 3, 1994). "Fledgling Country Label Opts For 'Life Of Sin'". Chicago Tribune.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Karpowicz, Katie (November 20, 2014). "Bloodshot Records Celebrates 20 Years: An Oral History Of Its Beginnings". Chicagoist. Archived from the original on October 5, 2015.
  8. ^ Guarino, Mark (December 10, 2020). "Will Bloodshot Records stay in the saddle?". Chicago Reader. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
  9. ^ a b Kot, Greg (December 28, 2014). "Bloodshot duo hits 20 without compromise". Chicago Tribune.
  10. ^ Dickenson, Chris (June 3, 1994). "FLEDGLING COUNTRY LABEL OPTS FOR 'LIFE OF SIN'". Chicago Tribune.
  11. ^ Lee, Zimmerman (May 11, 2007). "Rebels with a Cause: Bloodshot Records' "Insurgent Country"". Goldmine Magazine. Vol. 33, no. 10.
  12. ^ Finn, Timothy (October 12, 2000). "Country Confessions: Oh, it's country time again for industry". The Kansas City Star. Archived from the original on January 18, 2001.
  13. ^ Smith-Lindall, Anders (October 11, 2000). "Sweethearts of the Rodeo: Chicago transplants Neko Case and Kelly Hogan carry the torch for 21st-century twang". City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul). Archived from the original on February 4, 2001.
  14. ^ "KELLY HOGAN, Bloodshot Records". Bloodshot Records. Archived from the original on December 26, 2008.
  15. ^ a b Dickinson, Chrissie (November 17, 2014). "Celebrating 20 years at Bloodshot Records: Venerated Chicago indie label toasts 2 decades of music with special release". Chicago Tribune.
  16. ^ Margasak, Peter (June 15, 2000). "Bloodshot Eyes the Future". Chicago Reader.
  17. ^ "Bloodshot Records Week: Rob Miller on 10 Years Since Heartbreaker". The Line Of Best Fit. September 14, 2010. Archived from the original on December 20, 2012.
  18. ^ Wener, Ben (July 29, 2001). "Americana, what art thou? Pop: The word has replaced alt-country and No Depression as the new label for roots music – but does that mean it's a real genre?". The Orange County Register. Archived from the original on August 5, 2001.
  19. ^ Kot, Greg (January 30, 2004). "They might be Bloodshot, but not tired at all". Chicago Tribune.
  20. ^ "DOWN TO THE PROMISED LAND: 5 YEARS OF BLOODSHOT RECORDS". Bloodshot Records. Archived from the original on December 31, 2008.
  21. ^ Kot, Greg (January 16, 2000). "You Call This Country? Chicago's Crowd Is Maverick, Direct – And True To The Honky-tonk Spirit". Chicago Tribune.
  22. ^ Sullivan, James (November 14, 2014). "Bloodshot Records Celebrates 20 Years of 'Insurgent Country' With Double Album". Rolling Stone.
  23. ^ a b Vitali, Marc (November 7, 2019). "Chicago's Bloodshot Records Celebrates 25th Anniversary". WTTW. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  24. ^ Margasak, Peter (January 7, 2015). "Where is Bloodshot Records going now that 'insurgent country' has outgrown it?". Chicago Reader.
  25. ^ Kot, Greg (September 21, 2017). "Hideout revives block party as small but potent". Chicago Tribune.
  26. ^ Bishop, Robert (March 29, 2001). "Split Decision". The Pitch. Archived from the original on February 18, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2013.
  27. ^ "Bloodshot Records Week Interview: Elia Einhorn (Scotland Yard Gospel Choir) interviews Jon Langford". The Line Of Best Fit. September 15, 2010.
  28. ^ Sisario, Ben (March 18, 2012). "Seeking Comfort, and Innovation, at South by Southwest". The New York Times.
  29. ^ Bernstein, Jonathan (February 18, 2019). "Lydia Loveless Alleges Sexual Misconduct by Domestic Partner of Record Label Head". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  30. ^ a b Guarino, Mark (December 10, 2020). "Will Bloodshot Records stay in the saddle?". Chicago Reader. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
  31. ^ Minsker, Evan (July 24, 2020). "Bloodshot Records Co-Founder Responds to Artists' Unpaid Royalty Claims". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  32. ^ William, Christopher (October 19, 2021). "Influential Indie Label Bloodshot Records Shuts Down After Two Years of Turmoil". Variety. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  33. ^ a b Willman, Chris (October 22, 2021). "Bloodshot Records Bought by Exceleration Music, Which Vows to Promote Troubled Indie Label's Catalog". Variety. Archived from the original on October 22, 2021. Retrieved October 27, 2021.
  34. ^ Guarino, Mark (October 22, 2021). "Bloodshot Records is bought by Exceleration Music". Chicago Reader. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
  35. ^ "New Bloodshot Re-Signs Lydia Loveless, Jason Hawk Harris, More". Saving Country Music. March 10, 2023. Retrieved March 12, 2023.
  36. ^ Strauss, Neil (June 17, 2001). "MUSIC; A Future So Bright, He's Already Seen It". The New York Times.
  37. ^ Hill, David (August 23, 2001). "A Special Case: Neko Case has yet to make the Opry, but her reputation as a new country pioneer is grand". Denver Westword.
  38. ^ Knight, Meribah (November 20, 2010). "A Soul Singer's Life of Highs and Lows Soars Anew". The New York Times.
  39. ^ "Label Spotlight: Bloodshot Records". plug in music. August 11, 2008.
  40. ^ "Too Late to Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots". Bloodshot Records. 2019. Archived from the original on April 28, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  41. ^ "Bloodshot Revival at Bloodshot Records". Bloodshot Records. December 5, 2013.
  42. ^ Carlozo, Louis R. (November 7, 2006). "Bloodshot DVD celebrates label that's insurgent". Chicago Tribune.
  43. ^ Perlich, Tim (October 26, 2006). "Bloodied but unbowed". Now (Toronto).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]