See You Soon: An Interview With Stephen Kellogg + Ticket Giveaway

Stephen Kellogg

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, or “SK6ERS” as the die-hards call them, are the quintessential all-American band: good people with high-quality music and a moral message. The band’s new album Gift Horse incorporates folksy tunes with lyrics about their gratitude for life’s blessings – and it gives us hope that not everyone in the entertainment business is a jerk. The group plans on hitting up the Majestic Theatre on October 5 (tickets here), but in the meantime, Stephen took a moment to chat with True Endeavors about his Wisconsin connections, crazy tour experiences, and his love for Ian’s Pizza.

So I have to start by asking: You reference Wisconsin in some of your work, like your song titled “Milwaukee,” and also in the lyrics for “Pedal Steel” when you say, “You came to Wisconsin, and they let you in.” Is there any connection between the Sixers and the great Badger State, or is that just a coincidence?

Well no, actually it is – and Madison in particular – is near and dear to my heart. My grandfather was a refugee when Hitler was kind of coming to power but WWII hadn’t started yet. My grandmother’s mother was running a refugee program where each town would take in a family, so that’s how they met. So they met when they were like 14, and they both lived in Madison, Wisconsin. And they’ve given me references that I don’t think I want to know more about – like Picnic Point and how that was a great place for them. And I’m like “Okay, I gotcha, that’s good, thank you.” So, yeah, it’s definitely a family place, a big place in my family’s history. And I still have a few cousins that live out there.

So the band has released several albums since 2004, with your most recent one, Gift Horse, coming out October 11. There seems to always be a progression in all artists’ sound over the years, but how would you say your sound has transformed since you first started releasing music?

That’s a good question. I mean, it hasn’t changed a whole lot. We’re still kind of making music the way we want to. But I think that we know a bit more. I think that the lyrics got a little bit more interesting, which is really a lame answer to an interesting question. But it’s a tough thing to answer because I haven’t ever consciously tried to change the music or anything like that, but I know that I’ve changed so much over the years.

And I think the themes have changed to reflect more of what I think about now, which is a lot more stuff about family and friendships and trying to make something of your life, which is different – I don’t think I was thinking so much about that stuff when we first started. But sonically we’ve never made any conscious shifts, although we put different songs that sound a little different out now and again, it hasn’t really shifted a whole lot for better or for worse.

You’ve said in other interviews that Gift Horse is all about appreciation. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Well, a band like us, we’ve been around now I guess eight years, and I think when you start playing music in the beginning you’re just waiting to “make it,” you know? You’re just waiting for that big thing. And what was cool when we were making this record is we just had this real sense of being so glad that we’ve gotten to play music together all these years and instead of being driven by the desire to “make it,” we were just driven by the desire to just make good music, and happy to have a job, happy that someone hired us and happy that we have fans that want come listen to the music.

So the album that we made was very reflective of that. It was very much about just appreciating our families and our friendships and our job and even our country. We spent a bunch of time overseas in the last couple years playing shows for troops and stuff like that. And you just think, “Jeez, I have the coolest job in the world.” Like, I get to play guitar, meet people and sing and joke around. You just feel really lucky.

After talking to people about the band, I realized they have a difficult time categorizing your type of music because it’s not solely country, but it’s not distinctly a punchy pop either. Do you have a name for it, or do you not try to label it?

Well, I mean, you never totally want to label it, but you do have to be able to describe it. I always describe it as Americana rock ‘n’ roll.

Nice. So it’s always interesting to see what artists are listening to. What was the last song played on your iPod?

The last song that was played on my iPod…what was I listening to this morning? Man, the last song I was listening to on my iPod was a song called “Throw My Love Around” by Jon McLaughlin, who we’ll be touring with. I really love Jon. I’m more excited to just see him play every night more than I am about anything.

That transitions nicely into my next question: so this fall you’re headed out on the road for the “Boys Only (Plus Girls) Tour” with Jon. What’s been your craziest experience so far on the road as an artist? Any good stories?

Well, hopefully I have a lot of good stories…but the craziest? Man, there’s crazy good, there’s crazy bad. There are so many things that go down. There are moments that are sort of impossible to describe but where, you know, your car breaks down and you’re in the desert, and the gig is supposed to start in four hours and you’re five hours away, and only one person has a cell phone that works. And then you go, “Well, we should give up.”

I’m thinking of this one show in Arizona where we hitchhiked with just what we needed to play in the gig, like the guitars, and we left like half the band behind, and the crew, and made it. And we told them to keep the people there, and we got to this gig in Phoenix or something and were like an hour late but we walked up, and they handed us literally like a glass of water and a glass of beer and then we played. And it was probably one of the best shows of our careers.

Things when everything was telling you to give up, and then you didn’t, and you get the reward. And there have been so many nights like that. They happen every tour and every record where all signs point toward throwing in the towel, and you don’t do it, and those are definitely my proudest, bloodiest moments. There’s just a lot of those, and they kind of make one big, collective crazy moment.

So what are Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers planning after this tour wraps up?

Well, since we’ve been in the studio for a long time, and the tour right now goes – we just added some dates – goes ‘til December 31. Next year we’re hoping to go over to Europe for part of it. But mostly just more touring. Right now that’s the thing – we’ve got an album we worked really hard on, and we’ve got to go out and make sure anybody that’s inclined to want to hear it gets to hear it. I’m excited to come to Wisconsin, I’ll tell ya that. And get some Ian’s pizza!

—interview by Kaitlyn Schnell

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WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS:  SK6ERS have closed more than a few shows with their classic tune, “See You Later, See You Soon.”  What are some of your all time favorite “goodbye songs”?  Post a comment with at least two of your picks below, and you might just win a pair of tickets to the show!

Please have your responses posted by Tuesday, October 4 at 8:00 pm.  A winner will be chosen and notified shortly thereafter.

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Related Content: Listen To “Gravity” From Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers

8 Responses

  1. Hit the Road Jack- Ray Charles
    Hello, Goodbye- The Beatles
    Goodbye- The Postmarks
    She’s Long Gone- The Black Keys

    Thanks!

  2. Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved on)—The Robert Plant and Alison Krauss version

    Miles Apart— Yellowcard

    Sweetest Goodbye–Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers

    Maybe— Ingrid Michaelson

    Thank you for bringing them back here!

  3. You got ’em Natasha! Congrats!

  4. […] Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers interview […]

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