Singer/songwriter Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster has garnered acclaim for his latest release Take Heart, Take Care from some notable people. Indie rock icon in the making Julien Baker called it a "beautiful intersection of grit and tenderness. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Forrest Gander was equally as complimentary.
“JPKS’ voice has an easy, unfeigned sweetness tinged with melancholy, and its warmth blows convincingly behind the alternately precise and fuzzy guitar notation that gives the album its definitive sound,” Gander said of the album.
High praise from respectable artists is one thing, but you need to listen to the album to truly understand that everything they’re saying is accurate. The album is a beautiful, honest indie folk portrait that is both sonically pristine and edgy. Much of the lyrics convey Schuster’s newfound sobriety, which has become a focus in his writing and his artistry.
Sobriety has informed Schuster’s music in the best way possible, as is evidenced by his new release. The songs stay with you, and the lyrics make you see the world from his perspective while having the universality to be relatable to anyone’s journey.
Schuster is set to play El-Rocko Lounge on Mon., Sep. 23, and we caught up with him ahead of the show.
How did you get into writing songs and playing?
Schuster: I got into writing songs and playing music in the same way most everybody does; I grew up listening to the music that my mom had around the house, soaking up what I heard on the radio etc. When I was 12 I got my first guitar and immediately started trying to write songs, and I’ve been trying ever since.
Who were some of your influences in that formative period, and did you always know what kind of music you wanted to pursue?
Schuster: My mom was always into cool music, she had Neil Young, James Taylor, Roxy Music, Wilco, Sparklehorse, all before I was in high school. At the same time I started to get really into punk music and alternative/indie stuff. I didn’t really get into folk and country music consciously until later in my late teens/early twenties but one of my earliest memories is of my mom singing You Are My Sunshine to me.
Your lyrics are a big focal point of your music. What’s your songwriting process like and how do you approach lyrics in particular? Do you tend to edit/hone your lyrics over time?
Schuster: My process is always a little bit different but it’s generally the case that I’ll luck into a brief moment or kernel of inspiration that sort of gathers wool in my mind over time until it gradually finds its ultimate form.
What has being sober done the most for you as an artist, and how has it impacted your creative perspective?
Schuster: I think being sober has simply allowed me to keep on working on songs, making records, and touring. If I hadn’t quit drinking I think I’d have quit working with any ethic in this business. And I think (or at least hope) that by just keeping on I’ve been able to try and learn from what I’ve made and hopefully get a little better over time.
As a musician, what keeps you motivated and inspired?
Schuster: Life is both sweet and cool enough and fucked up and psychedelic enough to be endlessly motivating and inspiring to try and make sense of it with songs and stories.