The Current's Guitar Collection: Natalie Schepman of Joseph, Rockbridge SJ

Watch Joseph perform an acoustic version of 'Fighter,' featuring Natalie Schepman's Rockbridge SJ guitar. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
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Natalie Schepman of Joseph describes her Rockbridge SJ Guitar
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Joseph recently visited The Current studio to perform songs from their new album, Good Luck, Kid. After the session, Joseph's Natalie Schepman took some time to tell us about the guitar she plays.

Natalie Schepman: This guitar is really special because our manager manages Amos Lee, and he plays Rockbridge Guitars, and he suggested to me to try it out and I got to meet [Rockbridge Guitar Company co-founder and guitar builder] Brian [Calhoun] and hang out with him, and he puts his heart and soul into it. You can just feel it. Beyond that, he is a phenomenal inlay artist. So he asked me, "Do you want some kind of inlay?"

I was like, "This is above and beyond…"

So I asked for the three roses: representing Portland, Oregon, we're the Rose City, and also representing the three of us. What ended up happening from that is those roses ended up becoming this sort of visual theme, and we made this banner that was around for our trio. Basically, because he cut out each of the pieces, he sent me all of the photos — it's meticulously detailed. We ended up using that as a template for this fabric backdrop that Allison and I made, and we just mapped it out and cut out all of the pieces and put the roses on this big banner. And then those roses ended up carrying over into the design for this Good Luck, Kid album because we had these jackets made with the roses on it.

I just love [Brian's] work. If you go to his website, he has this stunning Star Wars guitar that he made — it's beyond; it should be in a museum.

And then also — there's a lot about this guitar! — that strap is my father-in-law's. My husband was at their house, and my father-in-law is famous for always sending us home with things like vinyl, and he's a total vinyl guy and Deadhead. [My husband] Chris just saw this beautiful strap in some box, and he was like, "Dad, what is this about?" And he was like, "Oh, I was just going to give it to Goodwill." And Chris was like, "I think Natalie would love to use it!" It's really special to me, it reminds me of [my father-in-law] Stephen.

So that's the story of the guitar!

With respect to the roses design on the guitar and on the backdrop, have people noticed?

Yes, a couple of people have. We're not being overtly, "Oh, see this, this and this?" But there are a couple of people who have seen. I love when people notice that stuff and pick up on that.

And it was a cool carryover because the backdrop was for our trio shows, which we did the last couple of years after touring I'm Alone, No You're Not, and then carrying it into this new visual felt like a cool bridge.

Did you visit the Rockbridge workshop?

Where he makes the guitars is in Charlottesville, Virginia. And he originally — I'm trying to think, he told me the story: he met Dave Matthews and they become friends, and I believe he was already making guitars at that point, but then Dave helped — Dave plays his guitars, and it's really fun to see him playing them because they're all beat up and worn in, it's not precious at all, which I love.

But we got to hang out with Brian, both in Seattle when we were trying out the guitars at first, Chris and I, and so sweetly, Dave came and had coffee with us and was just so warm and wonderful. And then when we opened up for Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds in Mexico, Brian came to that as well. So he's been so good and he'll text me and be like, "Do you need any setting up?" He's so attentive, and it's honestly a luxury that I actually know the luthier. It's really special.

And he also recently, so generously, just asked me how it was going. And I was like, "you know, the neck is feeling kind of thick for my hands." And he totally thinned the neck for me — I know, so good! Truly Cadillac experience. It's so amazing. He's so great.

You first tried out a Rockbridge guitar in Seattle; what about it struck you?

We were in this really big, amazing acoustic space, this old church kind of space. It was really the warmth and the feel of it as well. There's something about it. And you know, I always listen for how long it will ring out on a certain chord, or the overtones and how it all fits together. It just felt really silky to me, just warm and silky.

It's modelled after a Super Jumbo sort of feel. I think Brian does call it an SJ.

I've had it for two-and-a-half years probably. It's new, but really coming into its own and warming and wearing in really nicely. It gets better and better.

Joseph's sound is so defined by the vocals of you and your sisters and your guitar playing. When you tried the guitar, did you try it out alone or with the others?

It was all by myself. And those spaces can be really intimidating, especially for me because I've only been playing guitar for 10 years now, which, for being 32, that's less than a lot of my friends who've been playing forever.

So when I go into those spaces of gear and people who know their stuff, it can be intimidating. And I'll be the first to say, "I don't have language or vocab for this; can you walk me through this?" Because people can get very big-doggy.

Chris, my husband was there, and Brian was there, and they were just cracking jokes and making it fun and easy and I was able to ask questions. It was really great.

When writing, do you write on this guitar or is there another instrument you use?

We have a song on our EP called "All" that I wrote on that guitar in our kitchen. Also, "Good Luck, Kid," started out on the Rockbridge I believe.

I had a friend tell me — I was stuck with writing — and he was like, "You should just play one note at a time instead of your regular chords," because you get so fatigued of the voicings that you're used to. And he was just like, "Why don't you just try one note and see what happens," and that really opened everything up. I was like, "Oh! I can do so many more things."

External Links

Joseph - official site

Rockbridge Guitar Company - official site

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  • Joseph sing their truth in The Current studio Joseph's second album, 'Good Luck, Kid,' out now, features the song, 'Fighter,' which explores how conflict itself may be necessary to move past it. 'Not saying your truth just makes you further apart from each other,' Joseph's Natalie Schepman explains. Joseph visited The Current for a session as their tour in support of the new album is getting underway.

4 Photos

  • Joseph perform in The Current studio
    The guitar belonging to Natalie Schepman of the band Joseph rests on its stand in The Current studio. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Joseph perform in The Current studio
    Natalie Schepman of Joseph performing in The Current studio. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Joseph perform in The Current studio
    The guitar belonging to Natalie Schepman of the band Joseph rests on its stand in The Current studio. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Joseph perform in The Current studio
    The guitar belonging to Natalie Schepman of the band Joseph rests on its stand in The Current studio. (Nate Ryan | MPR)