Grateful Web's Sam Holloway had a chance to catch up with Boots Factor, drummer/mandolin/banjo for Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers who answered a few questions during their recent stop at the Fox Theater in Boulder, Colorado.
Grateful Web: You guys are only a few weeks into your "Celebrating Five Years" tour. How big a milestone is five years for you?
Boots: It's a milestone in that many bands don't stay together for 5 years. We've accomplished a lot in this time and we're recognizing all that we've done, but we still see a lot of milestones to reach in the future…
GW: Aside from the tour, how have you been celebrating this anniversary?
Boots: We've been drinking bottles of champagne before and after the show. We embrace spiritually and physically… Just kidding. We talk about it a lot and always make note to appreciate the longevity.
GW: Have there been any instances along the way (over the last five years) when you thought you weren't going to make it?
Boots: Well, you always wonder what you'd be doing if you weren't playing music, and I'm sure those thoughts have crossed our minds, but I don't think we can think of a better job to have other than playing music. We've been following our own path, so when you're doing what you love, self doubt does reach you, but you quickly come to the conclusion that this is what is meant to be…
GW: Speaking of not making it, I read that at one point along the way you guys had a near-death experience involving a particularly harrowing airplane ride. What happened exactly?
Boots: Well, we were all pretty freaked out on this twin propeller plane and we said that if we made it through without a crash, and we got a record deal we'd go skydiving. The logic is beyond me, but at the time the pact made sense…
GW: Something like that has got to make you reexamine your priorities. Did anything change for the band after the airplane incident?
Boots: Incidents like that definitely put things in perspective and maybe on a subconscious level things got more serious when we got our first record deal and more of our time was dedicated to this band.
GW: Just about every press release I read about you guys mentions the dichotomy between the Rock and Rolling Sixers and the Singing-Songwriting Stephen Kellogg. This makes it sound almost as if there are competing forces at work here. To what extent is that true, if at all, and how have you managed to strike a balance?
Boots: Well, people tend to expect that with a bombastic live show that leaves everyone with a fun experience can't involve a meaningful message. I think that's the dichotomy you might be referring to and in a perfect world it would be one in the same. But reviewers and people who write about the band like to dissect what the essence of our band is. The truth is that it's an energetic, fun live show with a meaningful message. Dichotomy or not, that's what it is!
GW: I've always thought that the distinction of being a "singer-songwriter" is a little odd, given how many rock bands are fronted by someone whose role it is to sing and write songs, but who aren't considered "singer-songwriters". Thom York or Radiohead for example. In your minds, how do you make this distinction?
Boots: I think the singer songwriter has become a genre of music labeled to folk artists, who were the first to write and perform their own songs. You had rock and rollers who would do covers or perform songs from other people (from the Brill Building or whatever). Today, you have rock and rollers performing their OWN songs, so technically they are "singer-songwriters", but are a far cry from the sound of the folk artists that started it all. It basically all became meshed after Dylan went electric!
GW: You'll be playing several shows around Colorado, beginning in Boulder, then a few nights in Aspen, and then in Denver. A lot of musicians complain about our thin air, but we all kind of take our atmosphere for granted. Is it really that hard to breathe up here? How do you manage?
Boots: Yes it is! I'm answering these questions in Aspen and the venue we're playing at has an oxygen machine in the green room! But the longer you stay here, the more you get acclimated, but yes – it is hard to breathe and sing when you get up here…
GW: Earlier this year, you guys played at the first annual Mile High Music Festival, Denver's first and only major music fest. What did you think of our first attempt?
Boots: We thought it was awesome. It was extremely well run and you got the vibe that the attendees and the artists were having an amazing experience. I know we did…
GW: Not many of us travel around the country as extensively as rock bands do. Given the current political fervor leading up to Election Day, would you say that you notice the political climate in any particular city as you pass through, or is that not something you pay attention to?
Boots: We do. We just played Boulder and we definitely saw the Obama t shirts and you could easily get into a conversation with people about the election. There is definitely election fever around this country and we think it's great. We just hope the outcome is what's best for this country...
GW: What do you make of this election season? Do you think it's truly the most important election of our time?
Boots: Definitely for our generation. Every election is important, but it's up to us to decide if we want another four years of this bullshit or we want to make change and take a shot of having someone who could really lead us in international diplomacy. Our country needs a facelift and I think there's only one person who can do that…
GW: Alright, back to the real business. After the "Five Years" tour is over, what then? Anything exciting to look forward to?
Boots: We'll be taking some time off, but then hit the studio for our next record, which we're all really excited about!
GW: Well thanks again for agreeing to speak with us. Best of luck on the road, and don't be a stranger around Boulder!
Boots: Great questions, this was fun to be a part of!!