Ken Stringfellow is a founding member of the band ‘The Posies’ with Jon Auer. Together they have 8 Studio albums, live albums, EPs, found on compilations and collaborations with many great musicians. Both men were recruited to be members of a reformed ‘Big Star” in the 1990’s by original members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens. This pairing put together a wonderful album “In Space” in 2005, which came out just as I was really beginning to learn all about Big Star, and at the peak of my earliest writing was shaping up. I first learned more about the Posies when I found and purchased the early 90’s album “Dear 23” which was imperative in helping me overcome a relationship that I was striving for with a woman whom inevitably was not going to work out. I highly recommend this album and the personable songs “You Avoid Parties” “Everyone Moves Away” and “Golden Blunders”. They have brilliant songs, wonderful power pop songs if you’re a Big Star fan and should check them out as soon as you can.
with Ken Stringfellow:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Ken: I have always been an avid reader, I was hyperlexic as a child, and taught myself how to read and write before starting school. After moving on from A.A. Milne and other children’s classics, as a kid I was into history, especially World War II history, and related (I read Almanacs and Encyclopedias, all the Time Life Science/Nature books I could find, various field guides on different animals). In 4th-5th grade I read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion (and the National Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings!) and my 5th grade teacher took me aside early in the year and said: “this year’s curriculum is not going to interest you, you’ve already put into practice everything we’re teaching this year. Your job this year is to write. Write whatever you want — poetry, short stories, essays — as long as you turn in a couple things a week, I’m happy.” This was a huge gift, and I definitely stepped up to the opportunity, I didn’t want to let him down. I wrote poems, science fiction..even the odd Limerick!
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Ken: I probably found the most satisfaction in Pynchon, there’s a lot to chew on, I love that he mixes high concept with dreadful dad jokes… that’s right up my alley! A lot of my work is ‘serious’ or emotionally charged in such a way that humor doesn’t always fit, but humor is very important to me. PKD is another big influence, I love the twisting of reality that the characters are continually trying to decode, and again there’s a lot humor mixed in. One of the most brilliant writers, who nailed high comedy — even slapstick — in prose was Trsitan Egolf, absolutely one of my favorites. I can’t downplay the role of Monty Python’s Flying Circus as an influence, too — extreme, surreal irreverence is mightier than the sword.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/artist/musician?
Ken: Music just drew me in, from the earliest stages of my life…I don’t think I ever ‘wanted to be’ an artist or writer, I didn’t think in those terms, but I surrounded myself with inspiring music and literature at all times… eventually words and music started to express themselves from within me. Very derivative at first, but over time, I found my voice.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Ken: Well, my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Pittis, mentioned above, was absolutely pivotal.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/music & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Ken: We moved a lot– every year and a half on average until my parents’ divorce when I was 9. I lived in a lot of ‘nice’ suburbs — Westchester Co., Grosse Pointe, North Shore Chicago… where the emotional undercurrents were as turbulent as the veneer of decorum was blasé. That disconnect was something very traumatic, especially how it was realized at home. But, at the same time, the constant need to rebuild my circle of friends, and the continual uprooting of my life prepared me for a life of travel, and that’s a huge part of my life now, bringing what I do to as many places as possible, and sharing my art and thoughts while experiencing the thoughts and art of the people I meet. I’ve performed in just under a hundred countries around the world.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Ken: In some ways the travel, and exchange of ideas, the shrinking of the globe to my eyes…even though it’s not particularly known or celebrated (you can review a record; it’s hard to review or even see a lifetime of steady travel and exchange of ideas unless you’re the one living it!) might be the most meaningful…it’s small, but the world doesn’t just move by virtue of the big movement leaders — it’s also moved in every tiny interaction that everyday people participate in. The choices of how to recognize, honor, respect people or not are made, consciously or in ignorance, every second.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Ken: Swimming, hiking, being surrounded by nature.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/song/writing of yours or others? Or name a piece of artwork that means a lot to you.
Ken: I’m going to skip this one, I am never able to boil things down to an essential element… I’m sorry about that. editor’s addition: adding a great interview with Ken with Magnet on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWtTMEd0gAI
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Ken: Joe Puleo, who is an elite track and field coach who has also written books on the sport, asked me to bring to life some lyrics he’d written (not being a musician at all) in honor of Gabriele Grunewald, a champion runner who continued to compete even as she was being treated for the cancer she eventually succumbed to. The resulting song — with music composed, performed, sang, engineered and mixed by me — is quite moving, and I’m very proud of the technical side of it, too. We ended up doing an EP of this material, with Joe contributing the lyrics and me turning those words into songs and executing all the music. Look for “Stringfellow Imagines Puleo” on your streaming!
Not sure this interview will be posted in time, but my band the Posies has an online show July 24 live from my studio in the Seattle area. 6pm Seattle time live and also streaming for 24 hours. Tix and info: https://knct.club/3xRg6jV
Please follow me on Instagram, @kenstringfellow as well – it’s now the best place to know about what I’m up to.