However, Kellogg's fortunes made their biggest change when he put together a band to accompany him on-stage; the Sixers
, comprising Brian Factor on drums, Keith Karlson on bass and keyboards, and Chris Soucy
on guitar, added a new fire and enthusiasm to Kellogg's concerts, and they helped make his 2004 album, Bulletproof Heart, his breakthrough release. Thanks to heavy touring, Bulletproof Heart became a strong seller at shows and in independent record stores, and the band's growing fan base caught the attention of Universal Records
, who signed the band to their Foundation
imprint and released Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers in early 2005; early copies of the album were packaged with a bonus EP, One Night in Brooklyn, recorded during a 24-hour session with a handful of friends, including former Whiskeytown
members Mike Daly
and Caitlin Cary
. While the self-titled album fared well with fans, Kellogg and the Sixers
soon parted ways with Universal
, and for their next studio album, 2007's Glassjaw Boxer, the group partnered with the independent label Everfine Records
, best known as the home of popular jam band O.A.R.
Released in 2009, The Bear saw the group move to Vanguard Records
and crack the Billboard Top 20 for AAA via the single "Shady Esperanto & the Young Hearts," while 2011's Gift Horse showed both remarkable consistency and a willingness to expand the group's signature heartland sound into new and increasingly emotional territories.
In 2012, Kellogg announced that the Sixers
were going on hiatus, and the following year he delivered his first solo album in a decade with Blunderstone Rookery, which featured guest performances by Travis McNabb and Annie Clements from Sugarland
, Sean Watkins
from Nickel Creek
, and Jerry DePizzo from O.A.R.
In February 2016, Kellogg returned with another solo project, South, West, North, East, which included material from four sets of sessions (each with different musicians) recorded in Nashville and Atlanta, Boulder, Woodstock, and Washington, D.C. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi