A highly-regarded fixture in the Americana indie music scene for decades, singer songwriter Stephen Kellogg continues to leave a poetic footprint that resonates with fans around the globe.
“Whatever given song is sounding like, I feel like there is something that distinctly feels American in the music that I put out,” says Kellogg, from his home in Monroe, Connecticut. “It is hard to quantify. The thing that I know is always going to be in my music is a focus on the lyrical element. The music is always there to support the lyrics. I have a point of view and I want to share it. Lyric driven Americana is how I quantify my music.”
Influenced by Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens and Bob Seger, Kellogg’s raw edgy vocals and heartfelt lyrics can be compared to Bruce Springsteen, an artist for whom Kellogg has nothing but admiration.
“There are so many songwriters that take a page out of Bruce’s book, and you always hesitate with any comparisons because it’s easy to say, ‘He’s no Bruce,’” says Kellogg. “No songwriter wants that because there is no other Bruce. When I look at what Bruce Springsteen is about and the way he presents his work, it definitely resonates with me because it comes from a place I can relate to. It’s taken me a long time to realize this. We all have a reason for making the music that we make.”
“For me it’s about saying things that I feel need to be said,” adds Kellogg. “Saying things that I don’t want to take to the grave with me. It’s about the legacy whether I’m remembered in any circle beyond my family or not, it’s about saying what you needed to say. For some people that’s melodramatic, but for me, that’s the whole point. When I’m making the music, I have this lofty ambition and goal that I’m shooting at. I want to tug on the heartstrings and I’m glad when people are hearing that, and I want to sing passionately. I know that I don’t have the greatest voice and I’m not the greatest musician. I’m well aware of these things. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’m doing it to the best of my ability. What I’m offering you is that I am going to be passionate, and I am going to go for big things wherever possible. That’s what I’m selling. I’m not selling my guitar playing. I’m not selling my singing. I’m sure as hell not selling my appearance.”
Kellogg and his band “The Sixers” signed with Universal records, releasing their critically acclaimed debut album, “Glassjaw Boxer” in 2007. Their follow-up album, “The Bear” (2009) yielded the single “Shady Esperanto & The Young Hearts” making Billboard’s Top 20 for AAA (Adult Album Alternative).
That same year, they were named 2009 Entertainers of the year by Armed Forces Entertainment, performing at military installations throughout the Middle East.
A long-time fan favorite in the music festival circuit, the band has appeared at the Telluride Blue Grass Festival, Lyons Folk Festival and the Mile High Festival, as well as opening for David Crosby, James Brown, George Thorogood and Dar Williams, among others.
Following nine years of constant touring and recording, Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers went on hiatus in 2012. Kellogg has since moved forward with his solo career.
Kellogg’s latest release in 2016, “South, West, North, East” showcased his diverse talents on a variety of musical influences and genres.
“I did the record in a different part of the country with different groups of musicians and different co-producers,” says Kellogg. “The south one was done in Nashville. Those were kind of the southern rock treatment. Then the west we did out in Colorado and I was thinking of those as the cowboy songs and the folk side of what I do. East, we put a few drum machines in there, sort of poppy for me. It was a chance to do the different kind of genres that I tend to operate in, and not feel that I had to make that decision on this record, so that’s why it’s so long.”
“I’m trying to be more open to not needing to write about what I have lived, but things that maybe I just believe to be true,” adds Kellogg. “The lion share of what is in these songs have either happened to me or it’s happened to someone close to me where I have been able to sort of observe and have a take on it.”
As a follow-up, Kellogg is in preparations of his next two album releases and the authoring of a book.
“I did a Greatest Hits Live Tour in February with a big band, upright bass, piano everything,” says Kellogg. “We recorded that, and we are going to release it this fall. That will be a two-disc thing. It’s going to be the last CD that I ever print because I think the medium is about to disappear. We’re going to number them and sign them and do a limited pressing.”
“I have a bunch of new songs for a studio album that I will record later this year and release next year. My big artistic project is that I’m about 150 pages into a book which is the most insane project I’ve taken on in my life that I have to fight my way through. It’s not an autobiography or memoir, it’s a philosophy book told through key anecdotes and stories from the road. It’s a non-fiction work that to some degree is about balancing work and family. It’s told through the stories that I told in small circles and things that I feel are worth sharing. You never know who needs this book, but I know I need to write it.”
As with most artists, (perhaps all) the initial fantasy of stardom and the reality of what will be, evolve over time. While Kellogg is not a household name, he has endured, and remains a vibrant member of the music community.
“Artistically, I feel that I am right on schedule,” says Kellogg. “If you ask me about the business side of it, there is room for growth. Like most artists, I wish there was a little more consistency in a career sense. It really feels like feast or famine. I’m certainly not where I wanted to be.”
“When I started the journey, I think I was hoping for something bigger,” adds Kellogg. “You think it’s going to be a little bit easier. You think, ‘I’ll make it, whatever making it means, and then I’ll have no more financial concerns and there will always be people at shows. I think that’s initially what I wanted. What’s interesting is the way that your priorities change. That has all shifted so much. Now I would say that I’m very pleased where it is because I’m here and I don’t think these songs would feel and sound the way they do if my road had gone differently than it did.”