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Hope, Redemption And Peace: Stephen Kellogg And Blunderstone Rookery

Thursday, 11 July 2013 Written by Huw Baines

Songwriters have always found comfort in a plucked string or reflective lyric. It's their thing. On 'Blunderstone Rookery', which gets its UK release on August 12, Stephen Kellogg has continued the tradition, pressing a difficult year onto 12 inches of wax and exploring loss, change and personal responsibility along the way.

In November 2012 he and his band, the Sixers, went their separate ways after a three hour show at Webster Hall in New York. Earlier in the year he had lost his grandmother and mother-in-law, and watched as his family home was gutted during the process of renovation.

“The stuff I was going through is the same kind of stuff that most people go through but on this record, more so than any other record I've made, it felt so damn challenging,” he said. “It felt like everything was happening at once. There's a lot of catharsis in being able to put it into the songs. Some of the songs are uplifting and it was great to have an outlet to remind myself that this would pass, that it would get easier.”

The album's title is a reference to the spiritual home of the title character in Charles Dickens' classic novel David Copperfield, a major influence on Kellogg during the writing process. As part of his first UK tour in July, he went as far as to stop by Blundeston, Suffolk, to play a show at the Plough Inn and visit the Rookery itself.

“David Copperfield is a book I've read a lot and a book I turn to a lot for answers,” he said. “I think it's incredible. Some people have the Bible, and I feel like I have this book to help me along. I was reading it last year and as all this stuff was happening I found so much comfort in this fictional character.

“Blunderstone Rookery, his home, was a place that started out happy and became unhappy. I feel like he goes back and makes his peace with it. That, to me, was a great metaphor for what I was doing with the songs, dealing with a lot of stuff that was difficult for me. Ultimately, the ideas of hope, redemption and peace are in the music.”

By their very nature solo records are personal affairs and on 'Blunderstone Rookery', Kellogg found room to once again offer more of himself through his lyrics after nine years fronting the Sixers.

“It's a little harder to speak for a whole band,” he said. “Even though I was the front guy in the Sixers, there were definitely certain things that I would have been inclined to hold back and not want to speak for everybody.

“I've always been into writing from the personal side of things, but I do think that one of the differences on this record is that I only had to account for myself. There are certain songs – like The Brain Is A Beautiful Thing or Thanksgiving – where I just took advantage of that to dive in and be a bit more direct about my worldview.”

Kellogg loves his wife and kids and works hard. He's a solid dude who plays, in his own words, American rock 'n' roll. To many that tagline comes with a certain weight, a responsibility to address the blue collar concerns that go unnoticed by the upper echelons of society. On Blunderstone Rookery, Kellogg has settled further into that role, following up a recent TED Talk on job satisfaction with further musings on the challenges of providing for a family and working life.

“It wasn't something that I realised or thought was going to be in my music,” he said. “My vision of rock 'n' roll and professional musicianship was not unlike a lot of other kids. I envisioned something a little bit grander, it not being quite so much work. It was only through having a family and being around year in year out that I realised that this is my job, and this is what I'm doing. Some months you make it, and some months you don't.

“When I found myself there, I finally found things that were worth writing about. I always loved writing, but before that you sort of row without purpose a little bit. Some of the early parts of my career, I was casting about for that. It's come up and it fits, it feels like it matters to people who are coming out to the shows, and everybody wants to feel like what they're doing matters. It's been an accidental thing that's really fit well and given my life more direction. I understand so much more now what it means to go out and work.”

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