Stephen Kellogg asks promoters to provide postcards for him at every show he plays.
As contract rider requirements go, it's kind of quirky, but not in the "remove the brown M&Ms" league. In fact, the postcard request isn't a new twist on rock star eccentricity in the Internet age — it's a practical necessity.
Kellogg uses the cards to write home to his two little girls from each tour stop. Not that they can read at 4 and 2 years old. But it is a way Dad can stay in touch with his babies now, and they'll be able to enjoy them when they pull them out of the shoebox sometime further down the road.
"That way when they are in therapy when they're older, they can see I tried," says Kellogg wryly.
Fatherhood also makes its way into The Bear, the latest album by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, the band he founded with college friends six years ago in Massachusetts. (Kellogg himself has been making records for twice as long.) It is, by his own admission, a more grown-up disc than previous Sixers albums, filled with songs about his life and the family he gets to see whenever his band's near-constant touring schedule allows.
The personal aspect of The Bear's rootsy pop shines through songs about his high school sweetheart (now his wife) and his aging, '60s-rooted father.
"I have two daughters now and I have an old man. Those songs are straight out of my life," says Kellogg, whose lone eccentricity may be an onstage fondness for kazoos. "I'd say two-thirds of the record is autobiographical. The last third is mostly people close to me. Sometimes I imagine things, but not often."
Kellogg's musical autobiography has become more and more pure over the six years the Sixers have been recording. At first, he says, he was reluctant to tell the whole truth about his life.
"As it's worn on, I tend to be less and less filtered about some of the biography," he says. "When I first started, I'd change things to make them cooler, or what I thought was cooler. I don't do that anymore. If I don't do that, it keeps it more real. Even though I thought I was making it cooler, people like it real."
As he has honed his songwriting, Kellogg says, he has found what he has been looking for since being signed to Universal Records six years ago.
Back then, he was told that the band needed an angle — like the Kings of Leon, whose father was a preacher.
"I was like, 'I'm a regular guy from the suburbs and this was a good job.' I didn't have any kind of angle then," says Kellogg. "I don't know if this is an angle, but I know why I'm playing now.
"My experience is a lot of people's experience, finding a way to put food on the table and pay the rent and take care of the family. I think I have a unique insight into what many of the folks in this country are going through, and have songs about it."