Interview: Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers

The keys to success for Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers are simple and gratifying:

1) Write honest, accessible, and melodic music.

2) Play it live with authentic energy and love.

3) Work really, really hard to get in front of people.

4) Repeat.

I’ve admired this band for these and many other reasons over the last few years.  They are one of the most “real” bands I’ve ever met – working hard to make sure fans know how much they are appreciated instead of working hard to create some kind of mystique.   The Sixers are never shy about sharing their joy in playing together and how excited they are to play for you.

It was a pleasure to sit down backstage with Stephen and talk about my favorite themes – beginnings, transitions, and community around music – before the Sixers’ big show at Seattle’s Triple Door a few weeks ago.  As per usual, here are a couple of my favorite text excerpts followed by the interview in short mp3 clips.  Plus, the Sixers powers-that-be said I could post an exclusive track from their new 1000th show double live record, so check out Mid By Northwest Pop-Up Radio Player for a great new version of “Pedal Steel.” Enjoy!

“If you want to be part of a music community you need to participate in it – you need to go out and meet people and go watch people’s shows.  When you’re ‘networking’ you need to actually watch people play and listen as much as you [talk] – everybody’s eager to show each other their thing [and ask] ‘Who can help me.’ But when you really get community is when you start thinking how you can help people. If you hear an artist in your community that you really dig . . . then you go beat the drum for that artist.” – Stephen Kellogg

“I don’t think you can put too much stock in a music community.  It’s not the responsibility of the community to make you an important artist or a star . . . this whole thing of ‘Well, ya know, the Scene here wasn’t right and that’s why I’m not doing what I want to do.’  It’s not the community’s job to do that.  The community’s job is just to be there, and what you make of that is up to you. You don’t want to just be a Scene-ster that’s always hanging out and just talking.  You’ve got to go out and take chances and see people . . . You can’t expect anybody else to make your thing happen but you.” – Stephen Kellogg

…and the full interview:

MH:  “What is the origin story for Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers?”

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MH:  “Were you ever a Northhampton, MA local band, or was it about being on the road very quickly?”

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On the realities of music communities, especially local ones:

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MH:  “How has your understanding of community around music changed over time with the band’s success?”

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MH:  “What are some inhibitors that you have seen to true music community?”

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MH: “What advice would you give to an absolutely hypothetical person who just moved to a brand new city and wants to do music?”

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Thanks so much to Stephen, Kit, Boots, Sam, and Jessica for being so friendly and generous with their time.  It’s only been a few years, but between a drum set in Milwaukee and a place to crash in Northhampton it already feels like we go way back.  Hell, it felt like we went way back soon after meeting them.  This is one of the special things about both this band’s music and its members.

Stephen said to beat the drum for artists in your community that you really like – and that’s a lot of what I do here on this blog!  For those SK6ers fans who find yourself here, I highly recommend you take a few minutes with this post:  Seattle Bands About Whom I am Geeking, and feel free to drop a comment with a band that SK6ers fans would also really like!

Comments

  1. Dude – what a great article and interview! Really enjoyed it. Stephen is such a sweet guy.

  2. Great article :) I am beyond excited to be seeing this band on Saturday in Rochester!

  3. Great, great interview! Loads of good advice… I’m fairly new to the whole “community” aspect of music. This time last year, I would never have thought of music as a social entity, simply something I enjoyed.
    Getting out, going to shows, meeting the artists/musicians, talking to them, discovering new bands, meeting other music lovers (making friends through it all) – it’s been a whirlwind year, but probably THE most fun year of my life.
    I’m not a musician in the least bit, but I LOVE music, and I’m so grateful that there are people who ARE musical and who pour their hearts, souls and share their lives through their music.
    The SK6ERS are probably my most favorite live show (next to Needtobreathe). I’ve been privileged to see them three times this year, each time is better than the last. :)

    • Hey thanks so much for sharing your experiences Sara! Music is indeed an amazing and evergrowing love affair. So many bands make music that I love, but these guys make music TO love, and are so pumped to love it with you!

      • Agreed. SK6ERS are one of the very few bands that can make a family out of their audience. :) Meeting and talking to them has been a blast, they are really fun guys (and Jess is perfectly awesome as well)!

  4. Matt, this is fantastic! Thanks for sharing this…

    I was fortunate enough to see SK6ers twice this month in the same week (Grand Rapids on a Tuesday, Ann Arbor on a Thursday) and I was truly blown away by how genuine they are, and their whole “Team.” They really have their collective act together! Even the people at the merch table recognized me from earlier in the week…

    It’s rare that I’ve seen a band twice on the same tour (Indigo Girls, Swamp Ophelia; Nickel Creek, This Side) and I was hoping I wasn’t setting myself up to be disappointed. Ha! Whatever my expectations were going in were far exceeded – they played a different set list & told different stories those nights. The constant was the connection they made with the audience.

    The world will be a better place when everyone has seen Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers…

    • Dave, I agree 100% on all counts!

      • Peter Hamel says:

        Matt, what a great interview……I have been following the Sixers for 4 solid years now…their music is absolutely inspiring….not only that…they make a whole-hearted effort to connect with their friends on a personal level…a trait that many bands have forgotten.

        Personally, the Sixers helped me out this year in a very personal way…they allowed me to get up on stage and propose to my now fiance..furthermore, they sang “Diamond” while we danced on stage…the moment in our lives will never be lost….as well as the impression it left on the 34 family and friends I purchased tickets for to come and share in the moment with us…we just got the video back this week, and truly shows how much the band really cares about their fans….

        Again..thanks for the great interview…keep up the good work

        • wait, is that what I hear before “Diamond” on the 1000th show CD?? That’s you?!

          • Peter Hamel says:

            No..we did it at the Madison show on October 1st….I had been planning to do it for quite some time..then it happened at the 1000th show….i am happy for that couple, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from doing it as well…jessica, stephen, boots, kit, and steamer were a tremendous help…it was awesome

  5. This is just so great. I’m such a big fan of these guys not only for their music, but for the awesome people they are. I’m such a nerd when they are around after shows…I’m still pretty much star-struck by them. Their shows are always entertaining from Goose dancing in his underpants to SK telling ridiculous stories about the other guys. And it’s always so awesome that they stick around to say hi to the fans after the shows. I just want to give them all a hug and say thank you for touring and writing and playing. I don’t think I can explain how much their music is a part of my life. I’m just so thankful that I walked into an empty gymnasium to get out of the rain while visiting a friend at DePauw University and walk into their show. As corny as it sounds, I think it was fate.

    Awesome interview. I love hearing them talk about their music. It just reinforces the fact that it means so much to them and that all of their music has a genuine meaning and purpose behind it. You don’t find that around very often these days.

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