A Very Nice Stringfellow – 2002
By Rhiannon Brewer Patrick, Online Athens, 9 May 2002
Ken Stringfellow, one-half of the former power pop duo the Posies, has spent time as a member of Big Star and Saltine, and as an unofficial member of R.E.M. He’ll be in Athens Saturday in support of his latest solo effort, “Touched.”
Ken Stringfellow never had a safety net. He never planned to be anything other than what he is, a sought-after singer/songwriter, musician and producer.
“I never made any other plans. That’s the thing,” he says. “I didn’t really give myself much of an option. I had to do it.”
Stringfellow’s known for being half of Seattle-based power pop duo the Posies. In the early 1990s when the gritty noise of grunge was full-blown, Stringfellow and Jon Auer were going against the grain with their beautiful harmonies. The pair still occasionally collaborates.
Since then, Stringfellow has spent time as a member of Big Star and Saltine. “I do work a lot,” he says. “I’m always touring or recording or producing bands or playing with people. I don’t have any real hobbies or anything because I do what I like to do.”
Most recently, Stringfellow has become practically an honorary member of R.E.M., joining the revered Athens band on tours to fill in on keyboards, bass and back-up vocals — “a little bit of everything,” he notes — and the band’s latest album, last year’s “Reveal” (Warner Bros.).
Stringfellow’s own latest album on Manifesto Records, “Touched,” is a well-crafted, polished set of thoughtful songs. The album features lush vocal harmonies and bright guitar arrangements. Of the album’s songs, Stringfellow says he’s most proud of “The Lover’s Hymn,” a soulful ballad sung in a tender falsetto.
“It’s the song that was the least finished and grew the most,” he says. “It had the most surprises. It brought out some things that I didn’t expect from myself.”
Stringfellow says working with R.E.M. proved to be a valuable learning experience. “I was very impressed by their thinking-on-their-feet abilities,” he says. “They left a lot of things very loose up until the recording time, as far as songs and stuff. They don’t have a script they’re working from, and if someone wants to change their mind about something, it’s just not a big deal.”
Stringfellow says he incorporated that lesson of flexibility into his own recording sessions. “There were songs I didn’t really know what to do with, that I was having a bit of a panic about,” he says. “But I had already made the R.E.M. record by then so I thought, ‘Well, let’s see what happens.’ It all worked out fine.”