Man and music: an inseparable pair

Man and music: an inseparable pair

by David Morain

We’re about five minutes into the interview when I started thinking that Justin Kinkel-Schuster might be the next big musician to come out of Iowa. After five more minutes, I knew it.

Since he started playing guitar at the age of 14, Kinkel-Schuster has penned over a hundred songs, been a part of two bands and recorded four CDs. The first two CDs were made when Kinkel-Schuster was still in high school back in Greenwood, Ark.

“We formed a band called Funnel,” said Kinkel-Schuster. “It was me and a couple buddies just goofing around. By the time we were seniors, we were pretty decent.” After following his older sister, Ellie, to Simpson, Kinkel-Schuster didn’t take long in finding a new band, The Downstairs, to play with.

“I started playing with Craig Kaufman a couple of weeks into classes,” said Kinkel-Schuster. “We played with the whole band about four days after we first jammed.” Last year, The Downstairs performed on campus a few times as well as at the House of Bricks in Des Moines. The state of the band is in question right now according to Kinkel-Schuster.

Kinkel-Schuster added, “We’re not really The Downstairs anymore. We’re not sure where we’re at.”

The Downstairs did not practice together very much last year. Kinkel-Schuster attributes this to having two band members not being from Simpson.

“We pretty much had to wean ourselves onto the songs I wrote,” explains Kinkel-Schuster, “so I had this great backlog of songs.”

Kinkel-Schuster, now a sophomore, took his songs and decided to try playing on his own. Over the summer, he borrowed a couple of microphones and a mini-disc recorder from Rich Ramos assistant dean / student activites and recorded a CD. The album, his first solo effort, is a 13-track masterpiece containing covers of Elvis’ “Love Me Tender”, Paul Westerberg’s “Even Here We Are”, and the Old 97’s “Valentine”. The other 10 songs are Kinkel-Schuster originals, slow-paced acoustic sets combining flawless chord progression with heartfelt lyrics reminiscent of Radiohead and Dashboard Confessional.

“A couple of people have told me that one of my songs sounds like Simon and Garfunkel,” said Kinkel-Schuster. “Of the two, I’d definitely be Garfunkel. I used to have his hair. But I like to think of myself as an original and let people draw their own comparisons. Trying to compare myself to someone is like shooting myself in the foot.”

Kinkel-Schuster will be selling his new CD ($5) at his acoustic concert Friday, Oct. 11, which will be held at 10 p.m. in Dirlam Lounge. It will be the first time he has played at Simpson without The Downstairs.

“I like playing loud music in a band,” said Kinkel-Schuster, “but right now I like having it be me and the guitar. I think people can relate more to solo sets. You can connect with an audience better than when you’re yelling over amps.”

Whether it’s in a band or solo, Kinkel-Schuster said that playing his guitar is what he wants to pursue in the future.

“I don’t want to do anything but music,” he said. “It’s the one thing I really love.”