Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster
“Take Heart, Take Care is a beautiful intersection of grit and tenderness. JPKS’ lyrics are immediately intimate; brutal enough to swear at you but familiar enough to dispense gentle wisdom in its plainest form. This album is an appeal to the essentially human, a perfect balance of poetry and candor, full of soul-feeding truth and heartbreaking honesty.”— Julien Baker, acclaimed singer-songwriter
“You’ll notice a little delay in the timing as the tunes of Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster’s 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”. 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.”—Forrest Gander, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and novelist
“Take Heart, Take Care shows once again why JPKS is one of my favorite songwriters working. This record’s my favorite of 2019 so far.”—Willy Vlautin, acclaimed novelist and singer-songwriter of Richmond Fontaine
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 me.”
“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.
Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster // “Take Heart, Take Care”
“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
You’d hear this a lot growing up. And while I always toed the line, I also knew it had to be bullshit. So far as writing songs and making music were concerned, I never gave it any heed, and for a long time writing and performing songs was blunt catharsis for me – “cheaper than therapy,” as the saying goes. It was a way to channel and even, perversely, to conjure sadness, darkness, death, substances, and stupid, wrongheaded love, among other things my younger self found romantic and necessary to slog through.
For the first time, writing these songs and making this record, I found myself in an unfamiliar place. 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 me. I remembered something I’d read as a teenager, a quote of Michael Stipe’s, something to the effect of “Happiness just sounds dorky.” While a part me will always feel that’s true, there is another part of me now that knows that this is bullshit, too.
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.
If you are lucky enough have something good to say, say it. Please. We’ll thank each other, now and later.