Photo: Daniel Medoza/Recording Academy
Joseph Talk New EP, Tears For Fears Cover, Sisterhood Bond
Allison Cosner, Meegan Closner, and Natalie Closner Schepman, the three sisters from Portland who comprise the folk/indie trio Joseph, exploded onto the music scene in early 2016.
Their sophomore LP, I'm Alone, No You’re Not, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, staying there for two weeks. Soon after, they debuted their single "White Flag" on NPR's "Songs We Love," which subsequently charted on Spotify’s Viral Top 10 playlist within days.
The trio released a new EP on Sept. 8, Stay Awake, and are in their second season of hugely hyped appearances on the U.S. festival circuit.
Joseph sat down with the Recording Academy backstage at Austin City Limits 2017 to share a bit about their songwriting process, where their name comes from, and making the jump from intimate gigs to major festival stages.
You have a new EP out, Stay Awake. Can you pick a song from that album and tell us the story behind its writing and inspiration?
Natalie: One of the songs off the new EP is called "All." It was one of those moments where it's a flash of lightning, and all of a sudden you have a song in your lap. It was after a conversation I'd had with my husband where we were just talking about that moment where you wake up and you already ready feel the heaviness — especially because of the times. It's a brand new day, but you're kinda already in it. Just this idea of, "We're holding all of this, but we carry on." It’s like, "OK, yes, I feel all of that, but I'm going to give you everything I have. And that's kind of the only response."
Similarly, we covered Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," and that song really hit me as feeling pertinent in the moment. We ended up, in all of this, just trying to find some kind of answer. All I can really come up with is: We need to make the most of the things we have, and take care of each other. So we added a verse. It says, "Make the most of freedom and pleasure," which is already in the song. That line really hit me, then "All I know is there is an open door/An open door/A seat at the table/There is enough to go around."
You guys have toured the U.S. festival circuit heavily since breaking out last year. What's been your most memorable tour moment from one of the major festivals you've played so far?
Natalie: At Pilgrimage the other day, we were all having vocal issues, our voices were gone.
Allison and Meegan: Gone.
Natalie: It was crazy because you don't realize how much you rely on that, you know? That's what we are, we're singers. So it's like, it's just not there. There was this moment where Meegan was almost tearing up, because she was like, "I can't." It was crazy because we were really honest with the crowd, and at a festival you don't expect crowds to be intimate with you in that kind of way. You know, you're just supposed to impress them. In that moment we were just like, "Listen, this is a hard moment for us, and we're just going to be honest about that." And they were incredible! They were literally cheering Meegan on, and being like, "You got this!" I felt that presence from them so hard, that was really special, and we got through it. It was one of my favorite sets.
What were some of the formative artists you all listened to growing up that most inspired you to pursue music?
Meegan: Rascal Flatts.
Allison: We all listened to really different kinds of music ...
Meegan: Yeah we did!
Allison: [When we were] growing up, than we listen to now, or maybe than what people would expect.
Meegan: Allie and I listened to a lot of pop country.
Allison: We listened to a lot of pop country, and our dad also tried to show us a lot of jazz music.
Natalie: I listened to a lot of that growing up.
Allison: Yeah, I remember Natalie showing us Daniel Bedingfield. That's like the first — I mean, we grew up in kind of a conservative household — so that was one of the first artists where I was like, "Whoa!"
Meegan: Who was that artist that you saw play live, and you were like, "Oh, I want to do that."
Natalie and Allison: Company Of Thieves.
Allison: I'd never wanted to sing, ever, because that was Natalie's gig. Then my friend was like, "Do want to go to this show with me?" And I never ever went to shows, because I just never really did that. But I saw Company Of Thieves — she's got a different solo project now, it's called Genevieve — but she was just incredible. It was super formative. After that show, I was like, "Oh, uh, I want to sing right now."
I've read that you chose the name Joseph as a tribute to Joseph, Oregon, but also to your grandfather. Can you share a piece of advice or a treasured story about him that best exemplifies his memory?
Allison: We do a yearly beach trip with our Grandpa Jo and our entire family, and every year at this beach trip we always play bingo. And he always gives cash prizes. I think that when we were small, I remembered it being like so much money, and then we were playing it last year, and we each won like, anywhere [from] $2 or $5. And I was just like, "Hey, this is a rip off!"
Natalie: He's always been really wonderful at bringing the family together.
Meegan: And he volunteers a lot. He even drives eyes to people, for transplants.
Allison: He'll just get a call in the middle of the night, like, "Here's this eye, go take it to somebody." And he does it.
What was the biggest or most unexpected you noticed in the transition from small, intimate gigs to playing major festival stages? Besides crowd size, obviously.
Meegan: I think the most unexpected part about festivals is that the vibe is just so different. It's not like everybody just paid to see you. They're there to be entertained, and see a bunch of people. You have to be able to wow the passers-by. So in our more intimate sets, we'll do some more folk trio songs and stuff like that, but in our festival sets we play all our heavy-hitters.
Natalie: Rock and roll!