After many attempts to nail down an interview with Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy, I finally got him! Every time I requested Myles when the opportunity came up, I got Mark Tremonti or Slash, which is not a bad thing by any means, but sometimes you just want to talk to one of the hardest working singers in rock today.
For those of you living under a rock and unfamiliar with Myles Kennedy, Myles exploded onto the music scene in 1990, but it wasn’t until he put together The Mayfield Four when his career really started to take off. With The Mayfield Four, Myles released the CDs Fallout in 1998 and Second Skin in 2001. It was also in 2001 when he made a cameo as a singer named Thor in the movie Rock Star with Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. In 2002, The Mayfield Four broke up and Slash contacted Myles to front Velvet Revolver, which he ended up declining. But in 2003, when Mark Tremonti and the remaining members of Creed came knocking on Myles’ door, he accepted, and Alter Bridge was born in early 2004. Luckily for Myles, there were no hard feelings with Slash after he turned down his Velvet Revolver offer because they ended up working together in 2009 and Myles would also become the singer of Slash’s solo band. I mean, talk about hitting the music lottery!
Well, it’s 2017, and Alter Bridge has announced that they will be hitting the road in support of their latest CD, The Last Hero, featuring the hit single “Show Me A Leader” and the latest single, “My Champion.” The CD is Alter Bridge’s highest charting CD since their debut, One Day Remains. Joining Alter Bridge on this tour will be Nonpoint and my old singer Ray West’s new band, Weapons Of Anew. The tour hits the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Feb. 4 and the PlayStation Theater in NYC on Feb. 9, and Myles called me right before he left for the Shiprocked Cruise to talk about everything from the new CD, the tour, Slash and songwriting. Here’s how it went down:
So, every time I’ve asked to speak to Myles, I’ve gotten Mark Tremonti twice and Slash twice, which by no means was a bad thing, but thank you for allowing me to speak to one of my favorite singers in rock today!
Oh, that’s very kind. Well, I apologize for that. I’m assuming it was probably because we were touring. When I’m on tour, generally I don’t talk much just because of that crazy high singing. (laughs) Talking kind of burns me out. I start getting flat when I sing. So, it’s good that I get a chance to speak with you while I’m at home. Thanks for your understanding.
Can you believe that Alter Bridge is celebrating 13 years together? I mean, you’re one of the busiest singers in rock, the years must’ve just flown by…
It’s crazy and yeah, they have flown by, actually. I guess there has to be something said about time flies when you’re having fun. It’s just been a blink of an eye and it’s hard to fathom, but I’m grateful nonetheless.
There’s this question I always wanted to ask you when I got the chance to interview you…Do you feel that your cameo in the movie Rock Star gave your career any boost at all or do you think that just being the hard working singer that you are really boosted your career?
Probably the singing and songwriting approach more than anything. The Rock Star, a lot of people didn’t even know that was me. It may be a good thing. (laughs) It was certainly a fun experience, but yeah, I think more than anything that I love making music and creating and getting to play for people. Maybe that’s what’s helped me along all these years.
Now, was it bittersweet for you to have The Last Hero hit the Top 10, your highest chart debut since your first CD, One Day Remains?
Yeah, it’s totally crazy! We were pretty surprised by those first week sales, and I guess for whatever reason the record is resonating with people and so, it’s been a good thing.
Now, when I talked to Mark, he told me had files upon files of riff ideas and so do you. Is The Last Hero a mish-mosh of both of your ideas? Do you have the same amount of input in the songwriting with Slash when you’re in writing mode?
So, it’s a different process with Slash. Slash will usually have a music bed ready to go and then he presents it to me, and I’ll put a melody and a lyric over the top of it. But occasionally, if hear something, I’ll ask, ‘Can you change this chord here, so it helps the melody do this?’ He’s always open to that. Whereas with Alter Bridge, Mark and I tend to write separately and stockpile riffs and ideas and melodies and then we get together and we put them together. With a song like “Show Me A Leader” is a good example of that. So, that Spanish intro is something that I wrote when I was on the road touring with Slash, and then Mark had that “Show Me A Leader” chorus, and then the rest of the song in between all of those parts, I think we kind of assembled in the room together with the rest of the band and Elvis [producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette), and the interesting about the melody, that sing-a-long melody right before the chorus, that was taken from a song I’d written for somebody else and never submitted it because I liked that melody so much, and thought, ‘Hmm, I can hear that maybe in Alter Bridge!’ So, there’s just kind of a hodge podge of ideas that made their way onto this one song that became our first single.
You recently released your second single off of The Last Hero called “My Champion.” Where does this song come from?
So, I believe the genesis of that song was Mark’s intro riff, which was one of the first things he sent me and it was very hooky and it caught my attention, and then we just needed to build the rest of the song. I think a lot of that was written when I stayed at Mark’s house and we kind of separated and went into different rooms trying to come up with parts, and he also had what was the pre-chorus, and while I was staying at his house, I came up with the actual chorus and brought it in for the rest of the guys, and it worked and we’re off to the races. Ultimately, once you have the chorus and the verse and some sort of a riff, you’re pretty much on track. Then it’s just a matter of arranging it, but certain parts allude you and you have to chase them down.
You know what I always loved about you guys? In your songwriting, you always have those bridges connecting the second chorus into the solos or the third verse and choruses, Alter Bridge nails it every time. When my band studies how bands write great songs, Alter Bridge is always at the top of the list when it comes to arrangement.
Thank you very much! That is good to know. That bridge or the middle rager, as they call it, that can be a pretty important part. I like to look at the bridge as the summit of the mountain. It’s like you get everything and you build it up to that bridge and hopefully, you can deliver there. A lot of times a bridge is a simply second chorus. It’s kind of how you look at it.
My band calls it a “vacation” because it’s a vacation from the song…
YES! I like it! I like it!
Not only are you blessed with an amazing voice, but it seems that you’ve been blessed with two of the best guitar players in the industry in two separate projects. How does one manage that?
You manage it just by being grateful, and realizing what you get to do. And also, at the time, you assimilate what each of them have in your own style. I started off as a guitar player myself, so it’s been really awesome getting to play in bands with these, essentially, icons because it helps my own playing. So, I’ve been really, really, really lucky with the path that I’ve had as an artist. I don’t take it for granted.
Will we ever see a reunion with The Mayfield Four?
You know, probably not. I think that everybody has gone on with their lives at this point. It’s certainly a period in my career that I’m extremely proud of. That second record, Second Skin, in particular. That’s something I’ll always be grateful I had the opportunity to document. It was a very interesting time in my life and I got to make music from it. It’s something that still resonates with me today.
How much of The Last Hero will we be hearing at the live shows here in Philadelphia and NYC? And how much of the set will be filled with Alter Bridge classics?
We’ve really been trying our best to be more balanced with the set list. In the past we played a lot of songs off the Blackbird record. So, with this tour cycle, we’re pulling between five to seven tracks off of the brand new record and trying to do between two to five songs off of other records, but trying not to lean quite as heavy. We love that record, but the fans are like, ‘Enough already. We’ve heard these songs on the last tour. Play some of the other ones.’
What are your favorite songs to perform live?
I really enjoy playing “The Last Hero” live. It’s a very difficult song from an arrangement standpoint, there are a lot of things to remember. I love playing “Blackbird.” I think “Blackbird” is the defining song for Alter Bridge. So, those are very fun parts of the set for me.
Our mutual friend Eddie Trunk has pointed out on numerous occasions that in Europe, Alter Bridge is a stadium act, but here in the States, the band is a large venue act. Why do you think that is? Because I’ve seen you guys live a few times and you sound amazing!
Thank you! That’s a really good question. I think for rock ‘n’ roll in general in the States is a different climate. It could just be that it’s so spread out. There are so many different markets here. I don’t know. There’s a very finite amount of bands that can play arenas in the United States. But the beauty is that there are enough fans of at least what we do to make it so we can go out and tour. It’s not like we’re playing really small clubs. I hate to say it, but from a financial standpoint, we wouldn’t even be able to break even and be able to pull it off to where we’d be happy from a production standpoint and all that. So, at least we have it in the United States to where we can go out and do a tour and put on a show that we feel will save the fan base, and we’re happy with that.
With Slash still out on the GNR run in 2017, have you guys been writing for a new Slash and Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators CD? That lineup kicks ass too! I’ve seen that band in PA and at the Rock Carnival two years ago.
Well, there was before everything. I don’t remember when we did that, but it was quite a while ago before the Guns reunion. There’s definitely stuff that exists. I’m not sure how it’s gonna play out. I’m always just kind of always thinking about this specific moment, so as far as what I’ve been up to, I’ve been writing a lot. I have a solo record recorded and I’m working on a second solo record. So, if the Slash and the Conspirators thing comes up in the near future, there will be time to do that. If it doesn’t happen, then I have various other projects I’m working on as well. We’ll just see how it plays out. In the music business, there obviously are a lot of different factors, but I’m not going anywhere. (laughs)
One last question for you, Myles. Are we ever going to hear this solo CD or even this project with members of Led Zeppelin? That had to be a dream come true!
That was like the ultimate Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy camp! But there was nothing officially recorded with that. So, there will never be something officially released. They were more jams than anything. We got together and spent time in the room together jamming their back catalog and there were two songs that they had or riff ideas that I sang on top of, but that was about it. Nothing was officially recorded. The solo thing was something I started years ago, and then just didn’t have time to finish. So, once it was finished last year and mixed and everything, then I started writing another one. Just because I feel like songs have a shelf life for me, so I was curious in my downtime here while I was at home in between tours, what will happen if I wrote a whole new batch of material, so I’m just doing that and just trying to stay busy, and we’ll see which one ends up being released. These songs aren’t riff-oriented like Alter Bridge. With this approach, I wanted to approach more like a singer-songwriter would and some of my favorite albums have been just a guy and a guitar like Robert Johnson or Chris Whitley. I wanted to attempt something like that. The first one I recorded was a bit more produced with layers and guitars, and with this new thing I’m working on, I’m doing my best to keep it very stripped down and organic and raw. So, we’ll see what ends up happening in the end, but you will hear it! Fo sho!
Catch Myles Kennedy and Alter Bridge with Nonpoint and Weapons Of Anew at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Feb. 4 and the PlayStation Theater in NYC on Feb. 9. The Last Hero is available now. For more on Alter Bridge, visit AlterBridge.com.