IN A CITY that has as many musicians as it does trees, Krist Krueger is one of the most prolific. Under the Southerly moniker, and in conjunction with OPB Radio, Krueger wrote, recorded, and released a song each week for 22 weeks. It was the second time he'd undertaken such a project.
"Part of the purpose for the Song-a-Week series was to showcase that I don't really write in one style," says Krueger. Another part is the rush that comes with the immersion in creativity.
What's more impressive and more important than Krueger's schedule is the thread of quality that ties together his work as Southerly. Songs are not dashed off. They are all rigorous, composed, and fully realized studio executions more Beatles than Daniel Johnston.
Although he does not embody their sound, Krueger admires songwriters of the old Nashville; he sees himself as a throwback songwriter of sorts. Lyrically, he moves beyond self-centric truths to create characters, fictional settings, feelings, and nonsense; in this mold Krueger is timeless, rather than timely. His newest recordings sound akin to when indie pop bands of the '90s were swooped by major labels, who afforded them real studios and new instruments to produce all kinds of big, crystalline, and cavernous sounds. (Krueger records at home.)
There is a balance. For all the thousands of hours cooped up in the studio, Krueger has spent countless time on the road. And although his work varies greatly—from dusty folk to forceful pop to waltzes and almost baroque movements Krueger is stretching out somewhere new on his latest EP, Champion of the Noisy Negativists: It has no words.
"What inspired it initially was the passing of my friend Jeff Hanson," explains Krueger, who met Hanson via local label Kill Rock Stars. Through touring and working together, the two found kindred spirits. "It's a tribute, in a sense," Krueger adds. "But mainly it was a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with the loss and helping me cycle through those emotions."
The decision to go without lyrics doesn't make the record any less affecting. It's what happens when a songwriter who's penned some 200 tunes starts telling the story through instruments alone.