February 27, 2018 Interview – Myles Kennedy
No matter how hard a task may appear, never give up. Keep on showing persistence and chances are it will lead to great things. Sound advice, right? Well, this is the life lesson collected by Rock Vocalist/Songwriter Myles Kennedy. Famously known today as the voice of the internationally successful Hard Rock outfit Alter Bridge, Kennedy has traveled a long road to reach the top of the mountain.
Dedicated to the art of music, he has achieved more than he could have ever imagined fronting Alter Bridge, but also partnering up with other legendary musicians through the years, including Guns N’ Roses’ Slash. Now taking on a new challenge, Kennedy offers listeners Year of the Tiger, his first-ever solo album set for release on March 9, 2018. Recently, we caught up with the musician to talk his journey, the personal story behind Year of the Tiger, future plans for Alter Bridge, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Beginning your career in Rock-n-Roll nearly 3 decades ago, you had early success with your band, The Mayfield Four, then joined Alter Bridge, to go on to even bigger success. Through years of writing, recording, and collaborating with other musicians, how would you describe this incredible ride?
Myles Kennedy – Man, I don’t even know how to describe it other than I am kind of surprised how it all turned out. (Laughs) When I first started playing music I couldn’t have fathomed in my wildest dreams that it would end up at this point. It was one of those deals I loved music so much, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Originally, I was playing in some local bands, I was teaching guitar, and then after doing that for a while I thought, ‘Why don’t I try and write my own songs and then I will try and make my own record, then I will get in a band with people and we will make a record together.’ What’s the next step after that? Well, let’s try and get a record deal. It was just kind of baby steps and looking back on where that has taken me, the constant baby steps and constant resetting the goals; I guess it is a testament to the idea if you really love something, work hard, there is a certain kind of determination, you might be surprised at what can happen at the end of the day. I feel very fortunate, grateful, and I certainly don’t take any of this for granted.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly has taken off! Your life as a part of Alter Bridge has really been amazing. Nearly 15 years and 5 records in, what has your time in the band been like?
Myles Kennedy – It’s been great! Initially, the first few years definitely had their ups and downs. They were coming from being one of the biggest bands, in the U.S. in particular, then decided to disband and start over with Alter Bridge. It opened up doors and made things easier for us, but at the same time it also made other things challenging. Obviously they had a massive fanbase, there were people that missed that, wanted that, and I was the new guy, constantly having to prove myself or whatever.
Once we got through all that, we could focus on making music, and we started to feel like we were developing our own fan-base who are extremely supportive and passionate. Then we were kind of off to the races and worked hard to define what we wanted to be as a band. Fifteen years later, here we are, and things are looking really good!
CrypticRock.com – It really has been a fantastic run. As per Mark Tremonti, you are actually a very good guitarist beyond an exceptional vocalist. Were you keeping your guitar skills a dirty little secret for a while?
Myles Kennedy – (Laughs) I guess I didn’t know they didn’t know I played guitar that much. I heard him tell that story before and it’s kind of funny. I just assumed that he knew, but I wasn’t going to go in there and be like, ‘Alright, I am the singer and I also want to play guitar and the leads.’ I wasn’t going to be that guy because Mark is an extremely accomplished guitar-player. There is also a part of me that has always appreciated bands where the focal point in one part during certain parts of a song is on one guy and then it shifts to another; opposed to it’s all about one person all the time where they are lead vocals and play lead guitar. I think it’s fun for the audience to have that shift.
As the years have gone on, the common thing Mark always says is, “You put so much time to learning and playing this instrument, I just think it’s a shame if it is not showcased every once in a while,” which I really appreciate. I think that really highlights a lot about his character, that he would be so selfless to want that for somebody else.
So yeah, I play a lot more lead guitar than I used to in Alter Bridge and it’s a lot of fun. We trade off, even live, we have dueling guitars sometimes. I really enjoy it because I love playing the guitar.
CrypticRock.com – It also makes for a great live show. You are now set to release your debut solo album, Year of the Tiger. Is this the record that was completed and shelved? Furthermore, how exciting is it to finally have it see the light of day?
Myles Kennedy – What happened was the first record was completed, I finished it a few years ago. After stepping away for a little while, getting some perspective, I decided not to release it. Basically, it is sitting on the shelf. The record that is coming out is not that record; I decided at the end of 2016 to write a brand new record. I spent about 6-7 months doing that, and now it’s coming out! I wrote about 20 songs, picked my favorite 11 or 12, and now it’s happening. I am pretty stoked.
CrypticRock.com – It is a very diverse record. It is also a very natural progression with colorful instrumentation. Was it your objective to make a very full-sounding album?
Myles Kennedy – I think the primary goal for me was to make a record that was acoustic-based and very organic. Also, I didn’t want to make a record that was like a Hard Rock record. I think that is part of the reason I didn’t release that first album when it was all said and done; there were too many sonic characters that were similar to things I had done in the past. I really wanted to take the opportunity with this to try some new things, explore some different instrumentation, and really just have fun with. When it was all said and done, I feel like I achieved that objective with this record.
CrypticRock.com – You certainly did. Much of the songs tell a story and are quite thought-provoking. What served as an inspiration for the lyrics?
Myles Kennedy – It’s basically a concept record. It basically documents a period in my family’s life when my biological father passed away and essentially what happened after that; how my mother, brother, and I had to start over. We ended up leaving where we lived just outside of Boston and started a new life; that is what Year of the Tiger is all about.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, so this is extremely personal. Clearly, all the music you write is personal to you, but was this difficult to put down on paper?
Myles Kennedy – Sure, it was really difficult. I tried it in the past, I tried to touch on some of this theme, but I could never quite do it. It was too challenging. It’s interesting because the title-track, “The Year of the Tiger,” was just a melody and the very first part of that lyric was something I had sitting around for quite some time. I didn’t even know what it meant, I was doing some task around the house and it just came to me. I didn’t know what the year of the tiger was, I just liked the way it sounded.
When I started working on this record, I pulled that from the archives, did some research, I checked on the Chinese zodiac, and it was the year my father passed away. It was almost like the universe was telling me, “This is what you are going to write about with this.” Enough putting this off, here is the genesis of this album, so here we are.
CrpticRock.com – That is pretty wild how that all worked out subconsciously like that. You are actually partaking in select shows in South Africa and Europe, then hit North America come May. As far as your solo show, you have done so much through the years, that in mind, will this be a concentration primarily on the Year of the Tiger?
Myles Kennedy – I think for this first go-around it’s going to be kind of a retrospective. I will do material going all the way back to Mayfield Four, Alter Bridge arrangements, and Year of the Tiger. It’s going to be fun because what I want to do is kind of experiment with some of the arrangements, try and do things with a little bit of a twist here and there. Just have fun with it.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds like it will be very interesting. It will also be exciting to hear some North American dates announced. Now the burning question, can we expect to hear some new Alter Bridge music in the near future?
Myles Kennedy – Yeah, the plan is to reconvene in 2019. We’ll, hopefully, get to do what will be our sixth record out next year.
CrypticRock.com – Alter Bridge fans will be happy to hear that too! Working with everyone from Slash to members of Led Zeppelin, what are some of the most important things you have learned?
Myles Kennedy – I think I have noticed certain traits with some of these people who have had amazing careers. There is a certain work ethic that is very obvious. Like when I am with Slash, he is so focused and desires to be as well rehearsed as possible, he strives for that perfection. It is the same thing with Alter Bridge, Mark is very dedicated to his craft. I think the idea of having a certain amount of talent is very important, but, ultimately, what separates the men from the boys is having that work ethic. It’s that constant striving for perfection, no matter what.
If I were to tell any young person, with anything in life, not just with music, you have to ask yourself, “How bad do you want it?” If there is a goal you are heading towards and you have dreams of great things, you have to ask yourself, “What are you willing to sacrifice to get there? How hard are you willing to work?” That is something, as the guy that has been around the block a few times, I’m definitely always reminded of.
CrypticRock.com – That is a great life lesson. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have the worth ethic, determination, or passion, you are not going to get very far.
Myles Kennedy – It’s very true! I knew people growing up that were way more talented than I am as a musician, just natural ability. For me, maybe I was too dumb to know better, I just couldn’t stop, I had to make music. That work ethic is so crucial.
CrypticRock.com – Without a doubt. You obviously keep your voice in great shape. That can be difficult when you are on a lengthy tour schedule like you have done through the years. How do you go about keeping yourself healthy physically and mentally?
Myles Kennedy – I try not to push too much. I am very lucky I studied initially with a great vocal coach. There was a certain amount of push back from me when my manager at the time suggested I take some lessons. I said, ‘Oh man, I don’t want to sound like a trained vocalist.’ I just wanted a certain vibe to come through. Then I started to notice as I would tour a lot, my voice would start to breakdown and get tired. Once I learned a certain technique that helped prolong my voice, that was the main thing.
The other part of the equation is to take care of your instrument. Don’t smoke, that is a real bad one. Be careful how much you drink and party, because it’s not like a guitar-player where you can put it on a stand and enjoy yourself; as a singer, your instrument is with you at all times. So if you have a few one night, wake up the next day and have a show, you might pay for the fun you had the night before.
CrypticRock.com – That is also very good advice. Everything in moderation, right? Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
Myles Kennedy – I do like Sci-Fi. Horror, my wife is the big Horror fan, she loves them. I am more of a Sci-Fi guy. Probably one of my favorite films of all-time, which is a little bit of Horror and a little bit Sci-Fi, would be the first Alien (1979). I really love that movie. Probably one of the more recent ones that I gravitated towards was Prometheus (2012). Even though when I first saw it in the theater, I didn’t love it; it was one of those movies I kept going back and watching over and over again. Now it’s probably one of my favorite movies, I really dig that movie.
CrypticRock.com – Awesome. What did you think of Alien: Covenant, which came out in 2017?
Myles Kennedy – It wasn’t one of my faves. I don’t know, there was just something about it, maybe I need to watch it again. If I had to choose between Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, I probably would lean toward Prometheus.