"He did a lazy sway . . . To the tune o' those Weary Blues. " --- Langston Hughes

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Apr 2, 2008

Q&A: (Stephen Kellogg)

As the frontman of a well-oiled, American roots rock ’n’ roll quartet, Massachusetts native Stephen Kellogg is no stranger to the road.

The singer/songwriter/ guitarist and his sidemen, The Sixers — drummer Brian “Boots” Factor, bassist and pianist Keith “Goose” Karlson and guitarist Chris Soucy — are so at home on the bandstand that they spent exactly nine days recording the tracks to their latest album, “Glassjaw Boxer.” That’s not to say they don’t like being at home, spending time with friends and family, but it just so happens that the group, in recent memory, has traveled the country, and in fact, racked up nearly 300 shows in a year.

Kellogg said his biggest regret is feeling like he hurried through a project that usually takes a bit more time; nonetheless, the result is an untreated collection of songs with a style evoking a kind of musical realism, which is to say most of the songs on the album don’t disappoint when played on stage. The songs’ recorded textures as heard through an iPod or stereo are easily recreated when played live because they don’t stray into a world of slick productions.

Mike Daly, of the band Whiskeytown, produced “Glassjaw Boxer,” which features guest contributions from Caitlin Cary (also of Whiskeytown) and Marc Roberge (O.A.R.), among others.

The Beach Reporter recently sat down with Kellogg and talked about his work.

The Beach Reporter: You spend a lot of time on the road … so is the road for you a lonely place?

Yes. Next question (laughs). No seriously, I think any place can be a lonely place. Being at home can sometimes be as lonely as being on the road. It’s really just about balance, so the answer is absolutely it can, but I think it’s also a really, really fun place when you have the right balance.

The vocal harmonies on the album are in the style of a band like Counting Crows. Tell me a bit about your band singing backup vocals.

Well, we have ‘Boots,’ who sings a lot, and Keith. We’ve got three really different voices, but I kind of like those harmonies when you can hear those different voices. In more conventional pop music, you tend to hear the singers singing with themselves, so it sounds like you hear five versions of one person. I kind of grew up on Crosby, Stills and Nash and I love Counting Crows, so that’s been a facet of the band we’ve really tried to develop, and with our next record I hope to feature it more.

I really like the compositional qualities to your song ‘Father’s Day.’ Tell me about that. Do you happen to have a daughter yourself?

I do, two little daughters — two very young, very sweet little girls. There was some speculation (as to whether the song should go on the album) because we have a fair amount of fans that are not at that age when they are having kids. But I thought, ‘Everyone comes from a family,’ and at some point you have to be who you are. That’s where I’m at and that’s what we’re singing about.

There are quite a few songs you co-wrote with Daly. Tell me about your musical relationship with him.

I like Mike. He is a hard working, energetic, optimistic guy and understands what it’s like to be depressed for no good reason (laughs). He has a sense of humor. I was a big fan (of Whiskeytown), one of my favorite albums of all time is ‘Pneumonia.’ He played a lot of the instruments on it, and I knew of him before I met him. So, we got together and wrote a song on the last record, and just stayed in touch and remained friends for a long time. Working with him is very casual, very fun. (For this album) he flew out to my house for a week and sat around in my living room while I played him 20 songs. We then talked about which ones would work. He asked me what is the record about and I wanted it to be about family (that’s the big change that’s happened in my life, the focal point, why I’m doing what I’m doing) and friendship. He’s not a ‘Hey-play-this-song-that-I-wrote’ kind of guy, but instead a ‘Help-you-finish-your-unfinished-song’ type of guy.

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