Baybeats Festival Interview with Ken Stringfellow – 2006

E: You’re into songwriting, producing, arranging, singing, performing (with different instruments too)…What aspect of music-making gets you the most excited and why?
KS: Two things I don’t get to do often are: collaborate at sort of an equal level with other artists; typically I’m working with people as a producer who are less experienced (hence they have me come and share what I can from my experiences), or with people who are way beyond my level and aren’t really looking for me to write things with them (REM, Neil Young…this kind of thing). So the idea of collaborating with someone who’s more like me in terms of experience is something I’m very motivated to do. In fact, it’s what I seek to do in Paris now. The second thing would be to compose music for a film, working in close contact with a director. I don’t want necessarily to become one of those film score people, but again make more of a collaboration, with a visual artist.

E: You’ve founded, co-founded and worked with so many bands… What has going solo been like?
KS: The secret is that even though I am typically the only musician onstage when I perform as Ken Stringfellow, I still have the audience, and as much as we create the experience together, they are like my band for the night. I react to them, they react to me; it’s a bit riskier than having musicians, who would be more my comfort zone, onstage, but the people in front of the stage each night come in so many shapes and sizes, it’s a brilliant risk to take in trade for the miraculous feeling I get when a solo show goes well.

E: You’re touring quite a bit this month right up till your visit here for BayBeats as part of The Posies, Big Star, with Jon Auer and yourself (solo)… We know you’re versatile and obviously a multi-tasker, but do you ever get confused with your different musical identities and sounds?
KS: Not at all! I seem to bring up the right things at the right time–each situation has its own personality, and they’re all quite distinctive…

E: What inspired you to name your 1st solo album This Sounds like Goodbye?
KS: That record’s a bit pitiful, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself in those days (that was 1997 when I made that, much has changed). The record was written as a suicide note. I’m glad I didn’t carry it out. I guess exorcising those feelings through music helped me say goodbye to them.

E: Your lyrics read like personal poetry that’s visual and intimate… How much of it is inspired by your life experiences?
KS: Too much! I am working on telling more novella-like stories. I have said enough about myself. When I can tell a story imagined about someone else’s life…from a perspective other than mine, it’s a great relief. I mean, I have to live my story everyday.

E: What music do you listen to that none of your fans could ever guess you’d like?
KS: King Diamond?

E: If you ever HAD to do one cover song, what would it be?
KS: I have been contemplating for some time covering “Girls It Ain’t Easy” by the Honey Cone which is sung from the perspective of sisterhood, a sympathetic shout out to women about the B.S. men put them through, from this excellent soul singing trio of women. I thought it would be great to sing it from a male perspective, to say “I know what men can put thru women through, and I’m sorry about that!”