By Jason Keil   Published Oct 29, 2003 at 5:17 AM

{image1}John Sieger's upcoming album, titled "Her Country: The Songs of Michael Feldman," is a continuation of a fruitful songwriting relationship that began over 25 years ago in Kenosha.

Feldman, who currently hosts the public radio show "Whad'Ya Know," has managed to keep his skills as a sharp lyricist a semi-secret, but his name has managed to pop up on a few of Sieger's albums, including "Salty Tears," which Sieger recorded for Warner Brothers nearly 20 years ago with his band Semi-Twang.

"We've had quite a streak," Sieger says, "It's great to know someone with access to the English language. To me, the lyrics don't need music because they're so good. He has allowed me to say things I would either never think to say or would never have the balls to say."

The pair met in 1971 when Feldman, an English teacher at Tremper High School in Kenosha, was chaperoning a dance with his wife while Sieger was playing with his band the Starboys. Five years later, Sieger was dating Feldman's by then ex-wife, and the situation the radio host found himself in would prove to be the inspiration for lyrics of a sad yet witty nature, with the guitar player setting them to music. The collaboration grew into a strong bond, and the trio remains friends to this day.

While Feldman remains visible as a radio host, Sieger's tremendous talents continue to elude recognition. With, he says, no other marketable skills to fall back on, Sieger has not only worked as a solo artist but also with such acclaimed bands as the R&B Cadets and the aforementioned Semi-Twang. He continues to work the musical trenches to make a living in music.

"I'm not really qualified to do anything but breathe and write songs," he says as he stares as his stained hands, "I have managed to pick up a couple of skills. I can paint now."

Sieger is an excellent songwriter in his own right. Artists like Etta James, Dwight Yoakam, Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads), BoDeans, Flaco Jimenez and Robbie Fulks have covered his material. Soon, Nashville began beckoning to him like an ice cream cone in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

"I started getting drunk on Warner Brothers and thinking they were sincere," he recalls. "I left because I was working at Office Depot wearing the red shirt of shame and that horrible black belt they make you wear. I really felt like I wasn't in music then. It was tough to be one out of thousands of songwriters. I think I might have made a thousand dollars in the six years I was playing."

Learning from his experiences, Sieger moved back to Wisconsin, where he tries to teach others what he has learned in his popular songwriting clinics at Interstate Music in New Berlin.

"My first assignment is to write a bad song," he says, "That way they get that out of their system. I try to teach my students not to mystify the process too much. No matter who it is, no one is a conduit of creativity."

Sieger, however, has managed to find many outlets for his creative energy. He may be taking his self-produced album "Seedy," a collection of songs inspired by the events of September 11, off the shelf and finally unleash it upon the world. He is also still plugging away at a collection of short stories, titled "Empty Calories." However, Sieger is not one to see his projects as glasses half full.

"With 'Seedy,' it's me learning how to produce myself. With 'Empty Calories,' I don't know. I keep thinking I'm a writer."

With his talents with music and the written word, he even has time to blossom as an artist, designing the album's cover.

"At one point in my life, I was trying to decide between art and music. I thought, 'I really could lose a lot of money in music, so let's go with that.'"

With his creative hands everywhere, it's easy to see why Feldman wrote the song "The Dreamer," a track on the new album, about Sieger. Able to look at the world with "his eyes open in," this songwriter is pleased his new album, but continues to remain weary of success.

"I don't feel I'm such a great success. I like to think that everything I do is one piece that I'm working on. I feel like I've been doing quality work for a long time, but success is a funny term for me.

"I'm very proud of this record. I would like to go back and fix things on this record. But I'm good at letting go, too. I'm all about warts and all."

John Sieger will be performing songs of "Her Country" with The Skeletons Thurs., Oct. 30 at Gil's Café, 2608 N. Downer Ave. For more information, visit