Stephen Kellogg was eager to talk about his band's upcoming performance at the GMU student center, a venue where his Northeast-based band has played as part of a relentless touring schedule.
He phoned at 10 a.m., early by rock-and-roll standards, and explained that he didn't sleep well away from his wife and 1-year-old. "I only get a B-minus as a rock-and-roller," he said.
Kellogg and company have built a fan base by logging thousands of miles on the road. "I will grant you that we are more the tortoise than the hare in the approach we've taken," the singer said.
"The Northeast has been our biggest place for the longest, but I think that we do have a pretty legitimate national presence, even if it's [sometimes] 150 people."
Kellogg's childhood was filled with the sounds of his dad's records (singer-songwriters such as Cat Stevens and Jim Croce) and his sister's "big-hair" metal pop (Motley Crue and Bon Jovi). Those influences can be heard in his songwriting and in his band's hardworking showmanship.
As a freshman at the University of Massachusetts in 1995, Kellogg made his first demo for dorm pals. A solo album, "South of Stephen," came out in early 2000, followed by "Bulletproof Heart."
"I was the sole core for a couple of albums," Kellogg explains, but when Keith "Kit" Karlson (bass and keyboards) came aboard, "I knew that he was the next piece." The arrival of Brian Factor (drums) made the Sixers officially a trio. But there's a fourth: Guitarist Chris Soucy has been with the group for two years.
Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers released an eponymous CD for a major label in 2005, but the band has returned to the independent scene. At shows, fans may buy a collectible CD/DVD package, combining tunes previously used for promotional purposes and a live concert video, both of which Universal gave the band the rights to distribute ("Very un-major label of them," Kellogg said).
There's also a recently completed album planned for February release on Everfine Records, the label run by successful jam band O.A.R. "It's the record I've been moving toward since I was born," its writer said with obvious pride. "I've never had a record that mattered so much to me. It's completely from the heart."
Even as he has grown as a songwriter, Kellogg conceded that there's something "near and dear to my heart" about playing live. Known for exuberant, energetic concerts that might include random songs, storytelling and goofy onstage dancing, the band is hitting the road for the next few months, wrapping up the tour in early December with a two-night stand at Jammin' Java in Vienna.
"There are a lot of artists who are put here to change people and shake them up," Kellogg says. "I'm your friend. My goal and the Sixers' goal is we're going to write some songs about stuff that we feel strongly about and we hope it has an impact on your life. But when you choose to come out to a show, I want everyone who comes out to have a great time."
-- MARIANNE MEYER
The Johnson Center is on the Fairfax campus of GMU, off Braddock Road and Route 123. Singer-songwriter Shane Hines will open the show. The program is free.
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