11/2 Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster

Show Info:

Saturday, November 2nd
Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster
with Spencer Thomas
$10 adv / $12 door
7pm door / 8pm show

Tickets on sale now at The Record Exchange or online at


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What does a songwriter who has mined darkness do when he
finds a measure of contentment?

This was the challenge that faced Fayetteville, AR songwriter
Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster when writing his new album ‘Take
Heart, Take Care.’ A songwriter who had success with Water
Liars and Marie/Lepanto (his collaboration with Will Johnson of
Centro-Matic) and has earned acclaim from NPR, Billboard, NY
Times, and Paste Magazine now took time to reassess his writing
process. Kinkel-Schuster, who everyone calls Pete, says, “I had,
more than anything else, good things to say, and ironically I was
unsure of how to say them. I’d spent so long yawping at perceived
darkness both real and imagined, internal and external, that I was
in a sense starting from scratch, learning to express something
good in a way that didn’t feel cheap or silly or disingenuous to

“It took a long time, relatively speaking,” he says, continuing, “It
involved a lot more patience and consistency.” He is talking about
songwriting but could be talking about the work of showing up for
life. He lists the means that helped with the latter, all as if still
unfolding: “Learning to stop making the same mistakes over and
over. Moving to Arkansas. Meeting my partner. Finding peace and
stability at home but being able to keep working. Finding a
balance between all of these things. Being sober for a number of
years and working on upkeep.”

This balance of which he speaks comes through in ‘Take Heart,
Take Care.’ Characters are drawn to and away from other people.
They seek both risk and comfort. In the album opener “Plenty
Wonder,” he sings of the concept, allowing himself “Plenty wonder
in this world still to be found.” The notion of balance comes up yet
again when singer and songwriter Julien Baker reacts to the
album. She says, "’Take Heart, Take Care’ is a beautiful

intersection of grit and tenderness. Pete’s lyrics are immediately
intimate; brutal enough to swear at you, but familiar enough to
dispense gentle wisdom in its plainest form. This record is an
appeal to the essentially human, a perfect balance of poetry and
candor, full of soul-feeding truth and heart-breaking honesty."

Several songs look back at a younger self with curiosity. “Friend
of Mine” belies the camaraderie of youth; “Cut Your Teeth” is
about seeing abrasiveness around us but then finding and
cherishing “a deep and gentle welcome place inside” and
remembering the journey that brought you there and the
maintenance needed to keep perspective. It also powerfully
alternates from fingerpicked acoustic guitar to hails of overdrive.

“Name What You Are” may be the most autobiographical song
here (a medium in which Pete does not usually traffic). “It’s being
quietly amazed at the places and conditions you put yourself in
and why and what that meant at the time and what that means
now having more or less dedicated your life to it.
The atmosphere of ‘what the hell’s going’ on but it not mattering
as much as that you’re simply doing it. For lifers in terms of
making music, I would hope it might pretty true.” Yet the
fingerpicked guitar and melody is more about the reflection back
than the manic activity remembered. When asked about the song,
Pete quotes Harry Crews, “Survival is triumph enough.”

Several songs, such as “Take Heart, Take Care,” are in the
second person as if speaking directly to those out there who can
identify with his earlier, darker experiences. He sings, “Time, time
is the mender, whose strange mechanics, yet untold, bid us rise
entwined together.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and novelist Forrest Gander notes
how this technique makes the listener lean in, saying, "You'll
notice a little delay in the timing as the tunes of JPKS' "Take

Heart, Take Care" back-eddy while he leans into and opens up
the song's long vowels. It's almost as though the singer were
pausing for a friend—that's us—to catch up, to keep him company
just before he turns to dive into the reprise. In fact, friendship is a
recurring theme in this album. The second song is ‘Friend of Mine’
but other lyrics remind us ‘to keep it close’ so that what counts
doesn't go ‘asunder.’ Pete's 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."

The intimacy that Gander and Baker observe comes of both form
and function for Pete: a desire to keep things simple aesthetically
but also the limitations of time and money. His bandmate in
Marie/Lepanto, Will Johnson, taught him by example how to build
a record by yourself; Pete followed this method, playing all of the
instruments except keyboards. “Will is a hero of mine and I’d
grown to admire his way of working. We made the Marie/Lepanto
record in 3 ½ – 4 days and looking back, I was taken aback that
we were able to do that. I take a lot of cues from Will,” he reflects.
It freed him. The effect is cinematic yet direct, wind across the
plains at times, humidity you can feel at others, and the
occasional glimpse of a promised coastline, all of it from a view
always in motion.

The sounds also provide a backdrop of a complicated world for
Pete to approach his type of makeshift, hard-won providence. The
underlying message is of hope, to others as well as himself. He
states, “Here I’ve fumbled my way, as always, and of necessity,
into a collection of songs that hold a light to the joys and comforts
of life not given up on, those that appear over time as we are
looking elsewhere, to surprise and delight us when we need them
most. Sure, it’s me, so there are glimpses of and nods to the dark,
but the dark is not winning anymore. I simply mean to
acknowledge its presence. To me, that’s the most fundamental

job of songs, of stories, of all art—to be allies, friends,
companions, when we need them most and it’s my hope that
these songs can do that work in a world that seems to need it.”

So what does a songwriter do when he finds contentment? He
tries to pass on what he knows in hopes of helping the next

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