PLAYLIST: Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster Has a Set of Short Stories for You

The Oxford, Mississippi singer-songwriter shares the tracks that inspired his new literary new album, Constant Stranger.

On Friday, Water Liars frontman Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster will release Constant Stranger, his solo debut. The fourteen-song collection is populated by the kinds of wanderers and drifters you’d expect from a Southern singer-songwriter as steeped in his tradition as Kinkel-Schuster is, but there’s an intermixed tenderness and ease to Kinkel Schuster’s writing that refuses to pity the subjects of his songs. Like Bruce Springsteen on Nebraska, Kinkel Schuster spares us the nobility of suffering and instead tries to forge a way through, producing a sharp set that’s unsentimental without sacrificing empathy.

While in the past he’s cited literary influences—including the one-time bard of Kinkel Schuster’s hometown of Oxford, the late Barry Hannah—we asked Kinkel Schuster to tell us about the songs that were bouncing around his head as he worked on his new album. It includes a few musicians whose sturdy songwriting seems, like Kinkel Schuster’s, to exist outside of time—Angel Olsen, Steve Gunn, Ryan Adams—as well as a clip from William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops, a work designed to do just the opposite: disintegrate.

Below, Kinkel-Schuster writes about how these songs have affected him.

I’m a firm believer that for most (if not all) creative people, just about everything that moves us through the course of our days and nights in some way joins that part of us that is driven to create, like adding rings to a tree. With that thought in mind, I’ve created this playlist as a sort of (seriously abbreviated) gathering of rings on my creative tree, representative of songs and sounds that have moved me over the years and up to this minute.

When I wade into the weeds of any recording project I usually make a conscious effort to not listen to anything aside from the work that we’re trying to focus on over that short burst of time. Maybe it’s not the best idea but it’s how I’ve always leaned and sort of grown set in my ways. So, all this to say, the making of Constant Stranger was in some way guided and shepherded by the songs you find here, even if I hadn’t heard them yet. I hope you find them as moving through your days and nights as I do. 

Constant Stranger is out September 30 via Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum.


We won’t spam you. Promise.