Trapper Schoepp

Trapper Schoepp

I wish I was a trapper’, Johnny Cash sang on Neil Young’s Pocahontas. Well, on March 10th, I met ‘Wisconsin boy’ Trapper Schoepp in the apartment he rented in Maarssen, The Netherlands with his bass player Esten Bennett and drummer Nick Lang. Coffee was brewing, musicians were still waking up after their Amsterdam show the night before. Even still, it wasn’t easy to match their energy going into this session. They were ready. More than ready, to pay tribute to Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash and to play Devil’s Kettle from Schoepp’s stunning latest record Siren Songs – which he recorded at the famous Cash Cabin. Watch them cover No Surrender and Long Black Veil and read Trapper Schoepp’s guest essay below.

“Like seeing and hearing James Dean screaming beat poetry down a low-lit beach side boulevard.”

“I’ve grown up with war on my television for much of my life. Started with 9/11. And when I watched the look on my school teacher’s eyes as those buildings were falling, I knew the world would never be the same. I didn’t know why but their fear was so contagious and tangible. It’s still hard to explain the complicated feelings we all had that day. A few years later, the first man who ever took me fishing, was deployed to the Iraq war and never came back. Many in my hometown must still be wondering what he was fighting for? We as a country still haven’t landed on a consensus for what it was we were truly fighting for.. Was it freedom? A democracy world tour feat. high-powered artillery? Oil? Justice? WMDs? Peace? We didn’t find any of that and ironically left the place much worse off than when we found it.

For better or worse, Bruce Springsteen has been the father of my country since I was 16. When I heard Born to Run for the first time on the radio, it was like seeing and hearing James Dean screaming beat poetry down a low-lit beach side boulevard on methamphetamine. It was fast, furious, full of piss n vinegar and spiraling out of control – just like me those days. And he looked good. And he didn’t do drugs? Wears a cross necklace! This man is too good to be true! That’s the Bruce Springsteen we see onstage but all of us have wars internally and externally.”

“Wherever you go, there you are. So when I say it’s about war, I mean the war that started with Romeo and Juliet, Cain and Abel, David and Goliath, and now — the war on our TV sets with the KGB, Ukraine, the USA military–industrial complex, two U.S. ‘politicians’ who should’ve take their bow long ago and the genocide in Gaza. And on top of that, we can all hardly afford a carton of eggs? If there ever was a time for it, and some real change, it’s right about now.”

We must sing with the spirit of Pete Seeger in 1964. We sing this for the soldiers lost and as a plea for peace. ‘Like soldiers in the winter’s night with a vow to defend. No retreat and no surrender.'”

“The Johnny Cash Family unknowingly took a risk on a Wisconsin boy with not much to lose.”

“Late in the pandemic, the Johnny Cash Family unknowingly took a risk on a Wisconsin boy with not much to lose. My agent in Nashville and my manager had all but pulled the plug. The music industry seemed bleak at best and I felt like I was one of those at the bottom still hopelessly clinging on. But nonetheless, I was determined to say something and it had to be said at a sacred space. I packed my bags for Hendersonville, TN and arrived at Johnny Cash’s historic CASH CABIN on my birthday, May 1 to record my new album Siren Songs…”

“Considering the Pagan roots of the May Day holiday, I see my birthday as a time for rebirth. And it was time to get reborn. We had 14 songs to record in 7 days and nights at Johnny Cash’s historic and semi-private CASH CABIN. Yes, I think it can be easily done! Through a series of Hail Mary passes, we got an all-star group together consisting of my brother and bassist Tanner Schoepp, pianist Patrick Sansone (Wilco), mando/violin man John Jackson (The Jayhawks) and drummer Jon Radford who played with my all-time favorite modern songwriter, Justin Townes Earle (RIP). Johnny’s grandson, Joseph Cash, sneaked in with occasional vocals, guitar and laughter.”

“We had all the ingredients and a prime location, but would it suck? We had good songs, Johnny’s old instruments, June’s ol’ Steinway piano and a state of the art recording studio run by engineer Trey Call and sidekick, Joe.” 

“No bullshit. four or five takes and we’re out.”

“All the pictures, taxidermy, CASH gold records, microphones and instruments…Seemed to be left in place since Johnny’s passing. It’s a time capsule but still very much in the now. Even all the classic microphones are set in the same places. They just found something that worked and stuck with it. Which is why it was so easy and effortless to record Siren Songs there. And it shows in another song Devil’s Kettle – which is inspired by a Minnesota waterfall that Al Capone would use to dispose dead bodies in…Anyway!”

“It was so easy at the Cabin. We instantly felt at home. In HIS home and I’d say we got it right. I created my own living room space in the ‘fish room’, an isolation room reserved typically for vocal takes. Because I was working on a nautically themed album, Siren Songs, I had insisted that this be the case. So we plugged up and played. And we played. And we played. All live. No bullshit. 4-5 takes and we’re out. What’s the next song?  We didn’t have the time to think too much. And sometimes that’s for the best.”

“And that is the way they used to do it. There was a sign up in my booth that said: “REMEMBER, IT ONLY TAKES 3 MINUTES TO MAKE A HIT RECORD!” I believe the album is light years beyond anything we’ve recorded in the past but artists always say that about their recent releases right? 🙂 . Whatever you say, Cowboy Jack Clement!” 

“Of course the best stuff about the Cabin I can’t share or I’ll have Johnny’s ghost on my ass, but I will say, we forgot just one song to record at the Cabin and it was Long Black Veil.”

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No Surrender (Bruce Springsteen)
Tidal | Apple Music

Long Black Veil
(Johnny Cash / Danny Dill & Marijohn Wilkin)
Tidal | Apple Music

Trapper Schoepp

Apple Music


Filmed & edited by Matthijs van der Ven.
Audio recorded & mixed by Matthijs van der Ven.

Maarssen, The Netherlands

Esten Bennett (bass, vocals)
Nick Lang (drums)

There is no better way to discover music than watching great musicians cover the songs they love. The Influences has been producing these videos ever since 2008.

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