A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Ken Stringfellow from The Posies, Big Star, solo work and other projects

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.

Other Links:

https://tidal.com/magazine/article/ken-springfellow-5-albums/1-56313

http://www.theposies.net/

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Benjamin Adair Murphy

with Benjamin Adair Murphy:

Bio:
Benjamin Adair Murphy writes blues and country songs. His last album ‘Let’s Make a King’ was named one of the best albums of 2020 by multiple publications. His poetry and lyrics have been published in Fevers of the Mind, Headline Poetry and Press, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, The Good Ear Review, Ophelia Street, and others, and are forthcoming in Rabid Oak and Coven Poetry. His plays have been performed in New York, Boston, and Chicago. He lives in Mexico City. Songs | Benjamin Adair Murphy Songs | Benjamin Adair Murphy

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Benjamin: I started writing songs when I was about 13. Around that time, I was listening to a lot of early Pink Floyd – the records with Syd Barrett. I was also listening to a lot of delta blues guys like Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, and Blind Willie Johnson. That music is haunting stuff, and can stick with you forever – it sure stuck with me…

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Benjamin: I have three equally important influences: Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen. Obviously, all of them are incredible songwriters, but they’re also all artists who kept getting better as they got older. That’s pretty inspirational. John Prine should also probably be on that list.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art/music?

Benjamin: My parents split up when I was in elementary school, and my older brother and I used to spend summers with our dad in Northampton, Massachusetts. Northampton is very hip and expensive these days, but back in the eighties it was pretty run down and had a lot of empty storefronts. My dad rented a tiny apartment above a Mexican restaurant. The place was a dump, but I loved it because it was right across the street from a famous music venue called the Iron Horse. The stage in the Iron Horse is right at the entrance, and on summer nights we used to sit out on our fire escape and watch whatever was happening. Everybody came through the Iron Horse back then – Kris Kristofferson, Stan Getz, Townes Van Zandt…I was able to hear a lot of great music. I didn’t know who half of them were at the time, but their faces, their names, and their songs all entered my consciousness in an abstract kind of way. I was able to get a bird’s eye view of the romantic side of live music, but I was also able to see the business side of working musicians out on the road – loading and unloading equipment and that sort of thing.

Q4: Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?

Benjamin: I’ve lived out of the U.S. for the last 10 years, and I’ve recorded albums in Rome and Mexico City, but most of my songs aren’t really tied to any city or region. I only remember a few instances when my lyrics came out of specific places. I wrote a song called ‘Upside Down: A Spell for Traversing the Land of the Dead’ after seeing a papyrus at the Egyptian Museum in Torino. My last album has a song called “The White Man Gets Things Done” which was influenced by a mural in Mexico City by Diego Riviera of the Spanish conquistadors forcing indigenous Indians to work in the silver mines.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Benjamin: Writing songs is just something I’ve always done. There have been plenty of times when it didn’t make any financial or logical sense to be an artist, and I’ve just pushed on. I don’t really have a single ‘pivotal’ moment, I just have a lot of small moments when I persisted and endured.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Benjamin: I like to go for long walks by myself. I’m happy in the city or in the woods, just as long as I don’t need to speak to anyone for a few hours.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?

Benjamin: I just signed a music licensing deal with a company called Artlist: Let’s Make a King by Benjamin Adair Murphy | Royalty Free Music Album – Artlist.io. It’s a good place for filmmakers to get royalty free music, and hopefully I’ll start hearing my songs in some films or TV shows.  And my new EP will be ready at some point this year, but my producer got into a motorcycle crash a few months ago and hasn’t been able to work on it very much recently.  In the meantime, all my other music is on Bandcamp: Let’s Make a King | Benjamin Adair Murphy (bandcamp.com)

Q8: What is a favorite line from one of your poems/songs?

Benjamin:

I like these lyrics I wrote for a song called ‘Wake Up When the Train Stops’:  Don’t worry about the ride / Don’t worry about your watch / Close your eyes / You’ll wake up when the train stops 

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Benjamin: I’m pretty confident in my own songwriting abilities, and for the most part I instinctively know what works or doesn’t work. I don’t need much help with the writing, but I need a lot of help with every other aspect of music production; the recording, the mixing, the mastering… I don’t have the patience for a lot of that stuff, but I have some friends who are masterful at it. Luckily, I have been able to work with good people, and without them my songs would never leave my own living room.

Poetry/Songs inspired by Leonard Cohen from Benjamin Adair Murphy

Twitter @adairmurphy1

The Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with musician, writer Ron Sexsmith

From http://www.RonSexsmith.com

Ron Sexsmith is an acclaimed singer/songwriter musician from Ontario, Canada. He has been putting out records since the mid 1980’s and signed with Interscope/Warner in the 90’s and began putting out a collection of records that gained attention from not just fans, but other musicians such as Elvis Costello. He has worked with Chris Martin of Coldplay, R.E.M., one of my favorites Leonard Cohen, Ane Brun & many more. He’s had work covered by Rod Stewart, Feist, Emmylou Harris, k.d. Lang, Michael  Bublé , Nick Lowe. His latest album in 2020 is “Hermitage” and should be sought out today. Also, please look for Ron’s book “Deer Life” through Dundurn Press. (2017)

The Last Rider
Ron’s album “The Last Rider” in 2017 (Compass Records)




Hermitage (2020 – Cooking Vinyl)

Q1: When did you start writing & first influences?

Ron: My first attempts at writing songs came in my mid teens which was mostly riff rock with dumb lyrics. Mostly influences by UK bands like the Beatles & Kinks. I didn’t start writing anything decent until I was about 21, and by then my influences were Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot & Dylan, etc.

Q2: Who is your biggest influences today?

Ron: Most of the same people although i’m quite obsessed with Warren Zevon these days.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how that influence your writing/art?

Ron: I grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario in the mid 60’s and 70’s, which was a great time for radio. All the songs I heard were so melodic with such thought provoking lyrics that made life feel quite magical.

Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe if so?

Ron: I’ve written many songs on the road while on tour, etc. So I guess the short answer is yes…

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be an artist/writer/poet?

Ron: When I found out I was born on Elvis Presley’s birthday as I turned seven and promptly fell down a flight of stairs.

Q6: Favorite activities when not writing/performing to relax?

Ron: Walking mostly and reading

Q7: Any recent or upcoming promotional work you’d like to do?

Ron: I’m hoping my tour will happen next year. It’s been postponed 3 times now.

Q8: One of your favorite lines from your poem/song, or favorite piece of art or photograph?

Ron: “In every nowhere town, there are somewhere dreams” from my song “Love Shines”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Ron: Other than my influences, perhaps Mitchell Froom who produced my first 3 records.

10. Thank you for a quick interview.

Ron: My pleasure!