Q&A: Stephen Kellogg Breaks Down the Sixers' Americana Sound, Play Revolution Tonight

Boston-bred Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers attract affection and attention via the Everyman ambitions of Springsteen, Mellencamp, and Petty. Chock-full of populist appeal, the quartet melds affirmative anthems with the travails of awkward boy/girl encounters and adolescent uncertainty. Passionate delivery, a playful attitude, and a battery of propulsive melodies all...
Share this:

Boston-bred Stephen Kellogg

& the Sixers attract affection and attention via the Everyman

ambitions of Springsteen, Mellencamp, and Petty. Chock-full of populist

appeal, the quartet melds affirmative anthems with the travails of

awkward boy/girl encounters and adolescent uncertainty. Passionate

delivery, a playful attitude, and a battery of propulsive melodies all

have earned Kellogg and his band kudos.

Recent albums Glassjaw Boxer, Bulletproof Heart, The Bear, and the like all hint at the band's prolific prowess, but the web-only release documenting performance number 1,000, Live From the Heart,

encapsulates the live experience. It's riveting, to say the least. Best

to catch Kellogg & the Sixers up close in a club, because

eventually arenas will follow.

New Times was only

too anxious to chat with Mr. Kellogg, as he offered his insights into

what makes the Sixers so special

New Times:

For starters, please give us an idea of your earliest influences and

those that still rub off on you now.


Kellogg: Well, I'm a sucker for harmonies and I think that may of

had its inception in the fact that my dad would come home from work

each day, fix himself a drink and put on Crobsy Stills and

Nash's "Wasted on the Way" and "Southern Cross,"

and then he'd walk over to the record player and play them again...

and so on... At night i would fall asleep to Cat Stevens' Tea

for the Tillerman, and I think when you look at my lyrics,

it's hard not to see that influence. Songs about being better, living

better, being more of the person you aspire to be and less of the

schmo you sometimes are... sad-ish songs, but almost always shot

through with redemption.


So how would

you describe your sound?

Roots rock with

a hint of pop... Or Counting Crows meets John Mellencamp. 


Did you come

from a musical family? Were your parents supportive of your desire to

become a musician?


No one played

music formally -- and there are days where i wonder if anyone still

does -- but music has been a major part of every family party and

it's in the blood. If there is a guitar or a drum set around, you

play it. Never mind that you don't know how, or what the right chords

are... you just play. The Sixers' approach music that way, I

approach music that way and that's why I say it's not very

formal. In recent years I've attempted to "get under the hood" a

little more and learn why things work or don't work. This has been a

rewarding pursuit, but I must say there is still a lot of

mystery in music to me. As for my parents, yes, they are very

supportive. They're music fans...

When did you

know you could abandon any notion of a day job and devote yourself to

music full time, and maybe make some money from it?


That was a very

organic sort of decision. Gigs were starting to pick up somewhat --

not money, but gigs that had some weight in good rooms, etc.-- and I

got this steady offer that I could play four hours a night at a

steakhouse when I didn't have national gigs elsewhere. They wanted

mostly covers but I got in the habit of saying, "Here's an old Tom

Petty b-side," and I'd play my own stuff. That kept the folks

that were good enough to book me happy because they thought I was

playing "hits" they didn't know, and it allowed me to see how my

stuff stacked up. I'm very thankful for that gig.


How would you

evaluate your career so far? Has your success surprised you at all?

What have you learned along the way?


I'm happy for

myself and the guys' modest achievements. We've made a living playing

music for almost a decade and we've seen some pretty heady moments

together. Having said that, I don't think that any of us feel we have

done our best work yet, and that fuels me greatly. I think it's

an important example to set for my children. I know what we've

accomplished and what we haven't, and I'm determined to accomplish

more, because that's what makes life fun. Have I made mistakes? Too

many... and some, multiple times, but what the hell, I'm human, so I

get back on the horse and hold on to the time honored cliche' that

it's the journey that counts.

What's been

the highlight of your career so far? For example, is there anyone

that you've met that gave you that "oh wow" moment?


The highlight so

far was actually more of a fan moment. On stage at the 930 Club in

DC. One night, the crowd just wouldn't let us leave. It was up there

that I felt the most appreciated I've ever felt.. and I know the band

felt that way too. But we've met some cool people too, no doubt about



How did your

current record deal with Vanguard Records come about?

I had a beer

with Stephen Brower, our A&R guy, at South by Southwest a few

years back. I told him I had some great records in me that I was

going to get out or die trying, and Vanguard made us an offer the

following week. We love them, and it really was that casual.

Are you ever

surprised at the way your audiences react? What is the common bond

you see from show to show in terms of audience reaction?

I'm occasionally

surprised by the consistency of an audience reaction to a certain

song; that's when you know you're doing something right. And it

doesn't have to be a song -- maybe it's a little story -- but if you

see people nodding their heads or laughing together, whether you're

in Birmingham, Alabama or Calgary, Canada, you know you're doing

something right in that moment. I'm so into spontaneity that I've had

to learn how to note that when those moments come.

 Can you

give us any insight into your writing technique? What inspires you?

Are the songs as autobiographical as they seem?


Sometimes it

just flows out and there it is. I'm a lyric guy so I tend to just

write a lot. It's mostly about me, but I also write about the people

around me. Watch out if you get too close --you might end up in a

song! I'm inspired by love, in all its forms. When there is love --

or absence of love -- the situations and characters become vivid, so

I end up focusing on that. If it makes me cry or belly laugh or feel

terrified, it's worth writing about. 

As to how that

happens, at this point there are all different ways it can go down,

depending on what I'm doing. But it's still sort of lyrically

oriented. Mark Weinberg, who is producing this new record, has been

great about trying to smoke out some melodys that really match the

lyrical content

What can you

tell us about your next album?


Family, friends,

America... Really! Coming out this year!

And what's


I'm doing a

short solo tour this spring to try out songs and cleanse the pallet

before me and the gang hit it again!

Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, with Jukebox the Ghost. 7 p.m. Friday,

February 11, at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.

Tickets cost $15 to $17. Call 800-745-3000, or click here.

Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind.

KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. Make a one-time donation today for as little as $1.