Stephen Kellogg claims that when he was growing up, his musical interests were divided between his father's record collection, devoted to '70s singer/songwriters like Jim Croce and Cat Stevens, and his sister's rock & roll discs, dominated by hair metal acts such as Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe. In a curious way, Kellogg's music represents a meeting point between these two styles, with songs that delve deep into the personal but make room for love and celebration, while the music, which is intelligent and intimate, is also full of rock & roll passion and electricity. Kellogg's earliest work (as summarized on the compilation The Early Hits 1992-1997) found a middle ground between contemporary singer/songwriter material and easygoing roots rock, while his work with his band the Sixers, best heard on 2007's Glassjaw Boxer, beefed up the arrangements and added elements of heartland rock (he has often cited Tom Petty as a personal favorite). After returning as a solo artist with 2013's Blunderstone Rookery and 2016's South, West, North, East, Kellogg's sound opened up even more, with rock, folk, Americana, blues, and roots rock all part of his sonic recipe.
Stephen Kellogg was born in Westchester, Pennsylvania, and he began playing music in high school, singing in a hard rock band known as Silent Treatment. After graduating from high school, Kellogg enrolled at the University of Massachusetts in 1995, where he studied communication and theater, but his passion for music traveled with him, and he began performing on weekends with friends Darian Cunning, Tim Edgar, and Tim Newton. Kellogg also started working on his songwriting during this period, writing and recording solo acoustic demos (some of which received informal release, including 1994's Invest in Us and 1995's Rain Summer). When he graduated from college, he found himself working at the Iron Horse Music Hall, a celebrated venue in Northampton, Massachusetts, which inspired him to take a serious shot at making music his career. Kellogg began playing gigs anywhere and everywhere he could, and in 2000 he self-released his first proper album, South of Stephen, financed by his day job selling newspaper advertising. A second LP followed in 2002, Lucky 11, which boasted a more pop-oriented sound, and Kellogg's busy performing schedule was helping him make a name for himself in the Northeast.
However, Kellogg's fortunes made their biggest change when he put together a band to accompany him on-stage. The Sixers -- comprising Brian Factor on drums, Keith Karlson on bass and keyboards, and Chris Soucy on guitar -- added a new fire and enthusiasm to Kellogg's concerts, and they helped make his 2004 album Bulletproof Heart his breakthrough release. Thanks to heavy touring, Bulletproof Heart became a strong seller at shows and in independent record stores, and the band's growing fan base caught the attention of Universal Records, which signed the group to their Foundation imprint and released Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers in early 2005. Early copies of the album were packaged with a bonus EP, One Night in Brooklyn, recorded during a 24-hour session with a handful of friends, including former Whiskeytown members Mike Daly and Caitlin Cary.
While their self-titled record fared well with fans, Kellogg and the Sixers soon parted ways with Universal, and for their next studio album, 2007's Glassjaw Boxer, the group partnered with the independent label Everfine Records, best known as the home of popular jam band O.A.R. (Kellogg would also tour frequently with O.A.R., and he co-wrote "Caroline the Wrecking Ball" for their 2014 album The Rockville LP.) Released in 2009, The Bear saw the group move to Vanguard Records and crack the Billboard Top 20 for AAA (adult album alternative) via the single "Shady Esperanto & the Young Hearts." Kellogg and the Sixers were also named the Armed Forces Entertainers of the Year in 2010 for their efforts performing for American troops. 2011's Gift Horse showed both remarkable consistency and a willingness to expand the group's signature heartland sound into new and increasingly emotional territories. Kellogg and the band also reinforced their reputation as road warriors, touring most of the year as he shared stages and sometimes vocals with the likes of Rosanne Cash, Josh Ritter, and Sara Bareilles.
In 2012, Kellogg announced that the Sixers were going on hiatus, and the following year he delivered his first solo album in a decade with Blunderstone Rookery, which featured guest performances by Travis McNabb and Annie Clements from Sugarland, Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek, and Jerry DePizzo from O.A.R. In 2013, Kellogg was invited to give a talk as part of the TEDx Concordia University Portland Program on the subject of job satisfaction. In February 2016, Kellogg returned with another solo project, South, West, North, East, which included material from four sets of sessions (each with different musicians) recorded in Nashville, Atlanta, Boulder, Woodstock, and Washington, D.C. The making of the album became the subject of a short documentary by filmmaker Peter Harding, <I>Last Man Standing. In 2017, two songs co-written by Kellogg were featured on Where We Left Off, an EP by <I>American Idol winner Nick Fradiani; the same year, another tune he co-wrote, "Got Soul," became the title cut on a Grammy-nominated album by blues steel guitarist Robert Randolph. 2018 saw the release of Objects in the Mirror, a set of fresh songs recorded in a single week in Nashville with producer Will Hoge. Kellogg became a published author in 2020 with the appearance of his first book, a collection of essays called <I>Objects in the Mirror: Thoughts on a Perfect Life from an Imperfect Person. He also delivered a new single in May 2020, "Love Me as I Am." ~ Mark Deming, Rovi