For touring musicians, the road can be a complicated beast. Most of the time, it is exhilarating.
Then at some point, it becomes exhausting.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Stephen Kellogg knows this, and over the past year, he’s had to deal with both the good and the bad on some level.
Last spring, Kellogg was forced to face one of the road’s negatives when the subject of road burnout was brought up by members of his longtime band, The Sixers. Simultaneously, Kellogg adds, there was an overall feeling within the group that maybe it was time to do something else for a while.
“I was surprised in the immediate,” Kellogg recalls, “but it’s not like we don’t communicate and I don’t know where everyone is at in their lives. And then it just became about what to do with the information, knowing that some of the guys wanted to mix it up and have a break. It was more important to me to keep our relationships intact, and I didn’t want to go against that.
“So rather than break the band up and do reunions and all that, I said — after I had a little time to think about it — ‘How do you feel about a hiatus? That’s something you can come back from or not come back from. Go see what you need to see, and I’ll do the same, and let’s see where it leads us.’”
Ironically, once it was clear that a hiatus would be the way to go, Kellogg and the Sixers launched what he describes as “two really fun tours.” “One was an acoustic tour,” he says, “and then we did the big electric tour where we played two-and-a-half, three hours per night.”
Around the same time, the Connecticut-based Kellogg came to the realization that he wanted to make an album “that had some things that were more tailored to my personal aesthetic that were a little harder to get through when you’re working as a semi-democracy.”
That album is Kellogg’s upcoming solo effort, Blunderstone Rookery, which he recorded in his current hometown of Bridgeport. A hiatus may be in effect, but all of The Sixers do appear on the new album “in varying degrees,” he says.
“The big thing is that [bassist and keyboardist] Kit Karlson co-produced it with me, so he’s really involved,” Kellogg adds. “He has been and probably will continue to be my biggest musical collaborator. He was the first guy to join The Sixers — it was me, then him. He was the one who really wanted a road break.”
According to Kellogg, he had The Sixers in mind when touring-related concerns inspired him to write the song “I Don’t Want to Die on the Road.”
“It was almost like my song to them: ‘I don’t want to die out here, either. I don’t want to burn out on the road,’” Kellogg says. “The part that’s probably not really in the song but that I feel is: ‘I don’t want to die out here in some place I don’t know, but I’m going to keep going on the road.’ When it’s good, it’s so damn good: I’ll never be able to divorce myself from that. The feeling of connecting with an audience is sublime.”
Since late April, Kellogg has been connecting with fans at solo acoustic shows across North America.
“I don’t know if this is a cool way to roll a record out or not,” Kellogg says about hitting the road for an extensive tour that wraps up two days before the album’s June 18 release via Elm City Music. “When the record comes out, we’ll be doing lots of neat things, but it’s not the stuff you would normally do that kind of pushes a record along. So this is going to be a slower process, I think, and my hope is that the record will stand on its own legs.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Stephen Kellogg on tour (schedule subject to change):
* May 17: Mississippi Studios — Portland, Ore.
* May 18: Royal Room — Seattle
* May 30: Dakota Jazz Club Restaurant — Minneapolis
* June 1: Seven Steps Up — Spring Lake, Mich.
* June 2: Space — Evanston, Ill.
* June 3: Flying Mango — Des Moines, Iowa
* June 5: The Red Cat — Birmingham, Ala.
* June 6: Eddie’s Attic — Atlanta
* June 7: The Evening Muse — Charlotte, N.C.
* June 8: Ashland Coffee and Tea — Ashland, Va.
* June 10: Jammin’ Java — Vienna, Va.
* June 11: Tin Angel — Philadelphia
* June 13: New Hope Winery — New Hope, Pa.
* June 14: Rockwood Music Hall — New York
* June 15: The Linda — Albany, N.Y.
* June 16: Clearwater Festival — Croton on Hudson, N.Y.