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Always Meet Your Heroes, with Nathaniel Murphy

Rhett and Zach are joined by Irish-born, Chicago-based Instagram guitar star Nathaniel Murphy (known to many by his handle @ZeppelinBarnatra) for a conversation about meeting your heroes, picking styles, and where Murphy’s mysterious social media moniker came from.

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This episode starts off with Zach and Rhett catching each other up on their 4th of July festivities. Rhett’s was classic: he treated some visiting European friends to fireworks off a dock, barbecue, smoked wings, more fireworks, and a bunch of beer. Zach, meanwhile, was knocking on doors to tell neighbors to knock off the mortar shelling in the middle of the night. To each their own.

Then they’re joined by Nathaniel Murphy, the Chicago-based guitarist who has racked up nearly 400,000 followers on Instagram with jaw-dropping videos of solo guitar work. Rhett doesn’t mince words—he says Murphy is “one of the best players out there.” Murphy’s videos break people’s brains, they say: no one can work out how he’s playing all the parts by himself at the same time. Plus, Murphy works full-time now with Chicago Music Exchange, where he brushed shoulders with Noel Gallagher and Carlos Santana within a few days of one another this summer.

Murphy shares how he came to the U.S. to coach soccer for nearly a decade before being hired to do video demos for CME. He was busking downtown Chicago, too, and within a few years, CME brought him on full-time to cut videos. When it came time to join Instagram, he registered with his infamous handle, ZeppelinBarnatra. Murphy breaks down how the moniker came to be when he entered a contest to win tickets to Led Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion concert. Murphy names his favorite all-time guitar—Noel Gallagher’s Gibson J-150, which Gallagher recently signed for him—before the crew reflects on how to behave when meeting your guitar heroes.

That leads to a discussion of U2’s The Edge, whom Rhett and Murphy defend from detractors. They also agree that Teles are the most versatile guitars out there, but Zach, ever the contrarian, dissents: “To me, there’s a reason why all the dudes that played Teles back in the day switched to Les Pauls,” he shrugs. Murphy talks about his current favorite players, like Justin Derrico, Stephen Taranto, and Michael Romeo, then the trio dissect different picking techniques and go long on Blue Chip pick manufacturing processes.

Rhett, who groans that he has the touch of a blacksmith when it comes to guitar playing, praises Murphy’s sensitive playing. But even Murphy, with his prodigious playing, says he gets overwhelmed watching other players’ styles. In guitar playing, as in life, the grass is always greener.