Myles Kennedy wears a number of musical hats, as the frontman of hard rockers Alter Bridge and lead vocalist in the group Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. Now, Kennedy can add solo artist to his résumé, as he released his debut solo album, the stripped-down Year of the Tiger, earlier this year.
The singer-guitarist has been out touring in support of Year of the Tiger, with a new fall leg running from mid-November through mid-December. He also has commitments touring with Slash and, come next year, writing and recording Alter Bridge’s new album.
Heavy Consequence caught up with Kennedy discuss Year of the Tiger, reconvening with Slash in the midst of Guns N’ Roses’ mega-successful Not In This Lifetime tour, and what lies ahead for Alter Bridge. Read our interview with Myles Kennedy below:
On his debut solo album, Year of the Tiger, and how he feels about his fans’ response to the album
I guess if it could sum it up, pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t sure how people would react to something that was different from what they had heard from me previously. I’m known as a hard rock singer. I sing with bands where the music is riff-based. It’s generally meant to be played at loud volumes, so making a record that was as introspective as this was and singer-songwriter based and stripped-down — I wasn’t sure how people would react. So, I had to set that concern aside. That was paramount for me when I stated this whole process, I wanted to make a record that I needed to make, get things off my chest lyrically and musically, and it’s a side of myself musically that I love. I spend a lot of time with acoustic guitars, and that’s been the case for a couple of decades. I really wanted to take this opportunity to try something different.
On playing stripped-down solo shows verses his live experiences with Alter Bridge and Slash
It was interesting, because it was obviously very stripped down. The first two tours in the States and Europe were just myself and acoustic guitars, playing the songs. It was almost like I was busking on a street corner, which is something I used to do in the ‘90s and fairly enjoy. When I first started writing songs, I would play wherever I could, at coffee shops or wherever, so having that background really helped.
Once you’ve done it enough in the past, it’s like getting on a bike after not having ridden on a bike for years. Everything falls into place. It was interesting and actually really fun. It was a different experience for me and for the fans.
On how it felt to get personal on Year of the Tiger
It definitely felt vulnerable! There were times in the writing process when I was like, “Am I really sure I want to put this much out there?” Once record was done, I was excited as the release date grew closer, but I remember thinking, “Man, what is going to happen here?” It may have been cathartic and a great experience, but now that was going to be put out into the world, I was having a few second thoughts. Once it came out, I was pleasantly surprised, and one thing I’ve learned is that if you do something truly from the heart and you’re as honest as you can be, generally, that will be a positive and the fans will react to that.
On the Year of the Tiger song he most enjoys playing live
I think the one I really enjoy playing the most and one of the most challenging songs is “Haunted by Design.” It’s a challenge, and I like that. It keeps me on my toes. It’s such a cool feeling when I watch the fans sing along and clap their hands to the song.
On the writing process for “Haunted by Design” and meaning behind the track
That song was written back when I was consuming a lot more coffee than I allow myself now! (Laughs) I had about half a pot of coffee, and I was getting really anxious and picked up a guitar, and that riff happened. It had a Mississippi John Hurt vibe, and my wife walked by and said, “I like that! It sounds like Mississippi John Hurt!” I liked it, too. I thought maybe this was something I should chase down. What’s interesting is that when I first demoed that song, it had a real country vibe, so much so that I wasn’t sure whether it was too country for this record. When I sent it to my drummer Zia [Uddin], I was sheepishly sending it, and he loved it. I played it for a few more people, and they liked it, as well. That’s the beauty of having some people to play things for before you actually record. It helps you gauge what fits and what doesn’t work. As a songwriter, you spend so much time lost in your own music that it’s hard to have a perspective.
Lyrically, that song is about shutting those voices off in your head. Those anxious voices that can be a hindrance at times and something I’ve certainly struggled with in my life, especially after drinking too much coffee. (Laughs)
On the emotional song “Turning Stones”
Once again, I wasn’t sure about that one, and my wife, when I started playing the demo, really gravitated towards it. She just loved the lyrics and that image of picking up stones on a beach and turning stones to see what was underneath and that analogy for life when you’re trying to move forward. When she likes something, I know it’s something I want to continue to chase down. There’s definitely a mid-’80s Paul Simon influence on that track. It’s something I had never tried before, so that was a lot of fun and a real challenge.
On whether he plans to release another solo album in the future
Yeah. I would love to do another one. I think this was such an amazing experience, not just making the record but also touring and getting to take this approach stylistically. It was very good for me mentally as an artist. I felt like it was something I needed to do for so long, and now that I’m getting ready to step back into Alter Bridge, I feel like I got this out of my system and feel fresh and invigorated. I definitely want to do this again.
On how he keeps coming up with fresh, new ideas for his solo music, as well as Alter Bridge and Slash
I try to always be aware, whether I’m watching a movie or in a conversation with someone or sitting around, just being aware of the little concepts that I can try to tap into later on. I write that stuff down in my phone and save it for a rainy day when I’m writing. It’s about keeping your antenna up and trying to tap into whatever you are feeling at the time. I feel strongly about the fact that you want to have experience about what you’re writing about, so it can be authentic. I can do the storyteller approach to a degree, but the story I’m telling has to have some understanding on an emotional level, so that when I’m singing it, I can draw on something.
On how he’s evolved vocally throughout his career
I think just the sheer repetition and the amount I’ve toured has helped. I was trying to figure out how many shows I’ve played in the last decade, and it’s well over 1,000 shows. Just doing something so much, you’re hopefully going to do things to help improve your game. What’s interesting is that just yesterday, someone said they saw the [Alter Bridge] DVD Live at Wembley from 2011 verses [the new] Live at Royal Albert Hall and commented on how my voice has changed. They said, “What are you doing different?” Slash brought it up recently on tour, too. A big part of that is that I kept having these chronic sinus infections, and a doctor discovered I had a deviated septum, so once I got that taken care of, I felt like I had a new instrument!
On whether he was pleasantly surprised to get that call from Slash to reconvene in the midst of Guns N’ Roses’ successful reunion tour
I think that for me, just seeing how great that [Guns N’ Roses reunion] was received didn’t surprise me, because as a fan, I had hoped for that for a long time. I thought I would sit back and not really think about it and focus on my own need to create, and that’s where the solo record came from. With that said, I felt like we had unfinished business. What ended up being on Living the Dream, 80 percent of that was in the can, because we started writing that during World on Fire tour. There was so much that had been put into that writing process, so it was nice to know we could reconvene and eventually release it.
On the timeline for writing, recording and releasing Alter Bridge’s new album
We’re going to try to get into studio in April of next year and release it around third quarter. [Guitarist] Mark [Tremonti] and I have talked about a few ideas that we’re going to exchange via technology, so we’re slowly getting started on it. We’ll see how it all goes. We’re both busy, between him touring with [his eponymous band] Tremonti, and me with my solo band and Slash, so we’re both on road constantly. It’s hard to find writing time.
On whether his solo work will possibly influence Alter Bridge’s new album
I worked on a few songs that I felt would really fit well with Alter Bridge, and they still have a little of that stripped-down element. You can take that and shift your mentality as you’re arranging, and you can rock out the track more and make it better fit that Alter Bridge world. I’m not as worried about that, because most important is that the song itself stands on its own.
On his upcoming holiday plans
I’m sure we’ll try to figure something out. Usually when I get off the road that time of year, I’m home for Thanksgiving and Christmas and make it a point to be home. I spend time with my wife and our dogs and go see her family and my family and keep in family oriented. When you’re going all the time touring, you really embrace the idea of being home and spending time with loved ones, because that’s such an important part of who we are.
On his overall plans for 2019
Next year might be the busiest year I’ve ever had, which is a good thing. I’m trying to figure out how that’s going to work logistically, because January through a good portion of the spring, I’ll be out touring with Slash, and then I’ll go into making records with Alter Bridge. Then, there will be more touring on the Slash side of things, and then Alter Bridge will start touring, so next year is going to be a lot of frequent flier miles for me.
Our thanks to Myles Kennedy for taking the time to speak with us. His solo album, Year of the Tiger, is available at this location, and the next leg of his solo tour kicks off in November 13th in Chicago. See the dates below.
Myles Kennedy Fall 2018 Tour Dates:
11/13 — Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
11/14 — Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall
11/16 — Council Bluffs, IA @ Horseshoe Council Bluffs Whiskey Roadhouse
11/17 — Kansas City, MO @ Harrah’s Kansas City Voodoo Lounge
11/19 — Cleveland, OH @ Agora Theatre
11/21 — Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall
11/23 — Hartford, CT @ Webster Theater
11/24 — Asbury Park, NJ @ Asbury Lanes
11/27 — Warrendale, PA @ Jergyl’s
11/28 — Wilmington, DE @ The Queen
11/30 — Raleigh, NC, Lincoln Theatre
12/1 — Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage Theater
12/3 — Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
12/5 — Orlando, FL @ The Beacham
12/6 — Destin, FL @ Club LA
12/9 — Lubbock, TX @ Jake’s Backroom
12/14 — Spokane, WA @ The Fox Theatre
12/16 — Seattle, WA @ Moore Theatre