Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers | Satisfied Man

 “The feelings don’t change; you just learn to deal with them better.”

 

 

 

When I called Stephen Kellogg to interview him recently, he wasn’t who answered the phone.  It was a woman – perhaps someone who works for him or even his wife.  She pleasantly asked if I was calling for an interview, to which I stumbled some sort of confirmation of that fact, and she told me he’d just be a minute. I could hear a voice in the background that I guessed to be Kellogg, coming closer to the phone. I heard him say, “It’s great to hear your voice too.  I’ll call you back after this.” I felt briefly guilty that I was interrupting, but when his voice came over the phone, it was friendly and congenial.

 “It’s my mom’s birthday,” he shared conversationally, leading into a 25 minute discussion of what makes Kellogg tick – and his family is at the forefront.  He’s in his mid-30s, married to his high school sweetheart, and has 3 daughters who are obviously the loves of his life.  You could see Kellogg being in the front row at dance recitals and eventually grilling boys who show up at the front door to take one of his daughters on a date.  You could even, really, imagine him driving a minivan.  He exudes happiness at his home life, and it seems clear that he’s still a “satisfied man,” as he claims in the song of the same name from the band’s second album, The Bear

 Unlike some musicians who seem to either tell us nothing about their personal lives, or overshare on the gritty details that fill grocery store checkout magazines, Kellogg has found some sort of perfect medium.  There is never a doubt that he loves the women in his life – his wife, Kirsten, and their three daughters, ages 6, 4, and 11 months.  He sings about it, talks about it, and makes it clear that no matter how much time he spends on the road, they are the core of his life. The big question is, then, how does he cope with leaving them?  While this question could be asked of any musician who has family, given how much of Kellogg’s music is spent covering his adoration for them, the question seems more poignant somehow.

 In order to get to the bottom of the mystery, I asked if his daughters getting older has made it harder or easier to tour.  He says it’s both, really. Now they can articulate feelings of sadness, but they can also understand that music is his job.  He tells me he tries to make sure that, since he can’t give them massive quantities of time, he makes sure that the time they spend together is special.  He also tries to help them understand why he does what he does. “I make sure they know that I love it,” he informs me.  He doesn’t love leaving them, of course, but he does love his job.  He wants them to know that if you find something you love and you can have it be your life’s work, you should go for it. Right now, they love being on stage with Daddy.  His two older daughters, Sophia and Adeline, joined the band on stage a few months back for a song. “They come up with little dance routines,” he explains.  They immediately wanted to know when they could do it again, but he told them that like any good performer, they needed to make sure they had some new material to present. 

 Kellogg himself has new material – SK6ERS released Gift Horse in mid-October of this year, and have already toured some to support it.  I asked him if touring is, indeed, still fun.  He says he gets excited to tour now, but it hasn’t always been that way.  A few years ago it felt like more of a burden, and as he puts it, “Having a drink of whiskey every night isn’t going to make your life better in the long run,” but now the jubilation at getting out there and playing is evident.  On this tour, SK6ERS will be co-headlining with Jon McLaughlin. Graham Colton was scheduled to open but has since backed out, due to a schedule conflict.

 Given that there are years when the band plays upwards of 300 shows, which amounts to playing an average of 6 days a week, I had to ask how they keep it together and continue to show the type of performance they do on stage every night.  I said, laughingly, that I had siblings so I couldn’t imagine keeping that close of quarters for that long.  He answered, earnestly, “We’re like siblings, but we’re like siblings that had really good parents.”  They have their differences, but they work them out.  He also says they spend a disproportionate amount of money at Whole Foods – and that one of them actually has the Whole Foods app on their phone so that in a pinch, they can find the closest one.

 That said, I wondered how it felt for him be the focus of so much attention during a show – or when being interviewed.  He said that the biggest challenge with that is feeling like he’s not sure he deserves the adoration, and that dealing with that has always been hard.  I asked him if, as the band’s career has spawned more albums and a larger fan base, if the feelings have lessened.  He seemed to consider this for a moment, before he told me, “The feelings don’t change; you just learn to deal with them better.”

 It can be hard to imagine, from the point of view of someone who appreciates the band’s music and the effort that goes into it, why Kellogg would worry. It becomes clear, though, that he sees himself as someone who has ability – he doesn’t outwardly doubt his skills – but also as someone who knows how great it is that he can do what he does for a living.  He, like most artists it seems, has a large amount of music that has never been released.  I asked him for a ballpark percentage of what had been released and he mused on it for a moment and said about 25% of what he had written had been released.  He then said with a laugh, “Though if we’re talking about good music I’ve written…” He summed up his collection of unreleased songs by saying, “If a piano fell on my head, there would be enough to make a pretty massive box set of B-Sides.”

 While the show at The Duck Room will probably get rowdy – this is not a band known for sitting quiet and sedate on stage – we can only hope that a piano will at no point come crashing down on any of the band members. Gift Horse continues with the band’s habit of greatness, and seeing the songs performed live will no doubt only serve to provide more depth to them. They will be fresh off of their anniversary shows in NYC the weekend before and we can expect to see, as always, impassioned rock music with touches of folk, pop, country, and more than a little bit of heart. | Teresa Montgomery  

 Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers will be at The Duck Room on November 29th, co-headlining with Jon McLaughlin. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 DOS..  

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