Myles Kennedy on Being a Guitarist First, a Songwriter


Get ready – Alter Bridge’s power-packed lineup comes to the Stone Pony Summer Stage on August 2.

With the festival season winding down for the summer, Alter Bridge is kicking off the second leg of their Pawns and Kings Tour with a 20-city jaunt in August, which does consist of a festival caliber bill with longtime friends; Sevendust, who recently released their 14th studio album Truth Killer, and recent tour-mates Mammoth WVH, Wolfgang Van Halen’s band… Yes, that is the son of the late guitar legend Eddie Van Halen, and he and his band has been picking up some incredible momentum the past couple of years. This tour makes a stop at the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park on August 2, only the second date of the tour. 

I was able to sit down with the brilliant and powerful frontman of Alter Bridge to discuss the upcoming tour, the Pawns and Kings album, and all things Myles Kennedy. What a great and talented guy he is. (And, yes, I did let Myles know that he was my favorite part of the movie, Rock Star, starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston.)

How did it feel to finally get back out there and be in front of fans again after we were locked down for almost two years? 

It was great! I forgot about that kind of rush. I think I was a little bit – perhaps, probably – a little nervous just because it had been a little while and I didn’t know whether everything was still going to work. Is my voice going to work? Are my fingers going to work? To be totally honest, I kind of enjoyed the downtime. I got a lot of writing done and I got to kind of just wake up in my own bed, but it was great to get back out and experience live music again.

How did Alter Bridge survive the pandemic? I know there were solo projects from you and Mark Tremonti, but how did the band create and write a new record for a 2022 release while being miles apart?

I think one of the good things about the dynamic in this band is if you were to ask either one of us, me or Mark, what we enjoy more than just about anything in the universe, it’s writing. So, we’re always kind of keep chipping away, putting ideas together, and saving it for another time. In that sense, it’s good because you never feel like you’re showing up with nothing. You always know your partners are doing the same thing and you don’t feel like it’s all falling on your shoulders, which is really awesome, and I think having that awareness helps you relax and it helps you create better. Because when you take pressure out of the equation, you’re going to be more effective. Once we decided we were going to make another record, we had our Dropbox and we just uploaded demos to each other. It used to be more fragmented. We’d send each other voice memos. “What do you think of this riff?” But with this record and Walk the Sky, we would show up with things more polished, and I think part of that was because of lockdown during the pandemic. We knew we weren’t going to be able to get in the same room, so you would spend more time and just have so much more time to sit there and mold things. I think that’s good in some ways, but I also think that there’s something to be said about leaving something open ended and then getting in the room with everybody and go, “Ok, now let’s arrange it and see what happens. Let’s chemically see what happens,” so it really depends.

Alter Bridge is seven albums in! Did you see this project going this far? And do you see any signs of slowing down for Alter Bridge?

I did not. If you would have said, 20 years from the band’s birth, January 2, 2004, that we would have a few decades under our belt, I would have been pleasantly surprised. It’s just because I think of how hard this business is and I know the chances of bands lasting this long are… it’s tough… even if you can have one successful record. To say that we’ve been doing this now for 20 years and we’ve got seven records – it’s a good thing, that’s for sure!

I’m about to expose one of my many flaws, but I’ve always been a bit of a glass-half-empty kind of guy, unfortunately. Even though lyrically I try to be Tony Robbins, “Go get ‘em!” I think some of that is because I write that way to help inspire myself and to remember to be more positive. And so, I feel like I’m getting better with age. I’m getting to not be quite the Prince of Darkness that I once was.

Speaking of flaws, I’ve been listening to Pawns and Kings a lot lately and I literally love every song on it. I tried to find flaws, but, to me, it’s flawless. It has everything that I love about Alter Bridge from your Godly voice to Mark’s mind-blowing riffage to Scott and Brian’s signature grooves. Do you feel this record is getting the recognition it deserves? Because I think it could be one of your best records to date. 

I feel like it is getting the recognition because we’re hearing that enough from people and fans that they really seem to like it and that’s great! It’s certainly one of my favorites. I like Fortress a lot and I like Blackbird, too, but I’m proud of this one, as well. Look, you hope that people will enjoy it, but what’s interesting is because we did such a different process on this one. It was kind of a leap of faith because we didn’t utilize our prior formula in the sense that we get in the room and the way we kind of put it together like a puzzle; like “Does your verse go with my chorus and your riff go with my bridge?” and blah, blah, blah. This was because we were coming out of lockdown. It was, “Here’s the demo, here’s the song I’m bringing in,” and that was kind of a new way of doing things. We did it a little bit like this on Walk the Sky, as well, but so to hear someone say, “Oh, this is one of my favorites of the bunch,” it’s like, “Ok, good! We landed on a beat!”

Do you have a favorite song on this album? In fact, what is your favorite Alter Bridge song to sing live?

Oh, jeez. What is my favorite song on the record? I don’t know, it kind of fluctuates. I’m happy with how “Fable of the Silent Son” turned out even though we haven’t played it live yet, but that one was definitely a chore to put together and I feel like we landed on our feet with that one. And my favorite song to sing live? Hm… I don’t know. I’ve always been pretty partial to “Rise Today” just because I love that melody in the chorus and, overall, it’s so positive. Once again, I’ve always had kind of a soft spot for that one. It’s one of those fun crowd sing-a-long songs when we’re nearly two hours into our set and my voice is starting to get tired. It’s like, “Ok crowd, you take it and sing!” If you come see us, you’ll notice as the night goes on, it’s more and more of, “Hey, I want to hear you folks sing!” [Laughs]

You’re bringing the second leg of your Pawns and Kings Tour to the Stone Pony Summer Stage on August 2 with an amazing lineup including yourself, Sevendust (who you guys are very familiar with), and Mammoth WVH (who I’m really excited to see live). Are you worried at all that by the time Alter Bridge hits the stage, the fans might be exhausted with a lineup like this?

Exhausted? I know I’ll be exhausted by that point! I’ll be sitting here dozing off during this thing. “Why does Myles keep putting the mic out and letting the crowd sing? What the hell is wrong with that guy?” You know what? We’ve done a run with that lineup and the beauty of it is it does force you to be on your game; the fact that you just have to follow one of those bands, let alone both of them. I feel like the fans really like that combination, as well. It seems to work. Sometimes you do tours and you’re not sure how it will work chemically, like, “Is this chocolate gonna work with this peanut butter?” That’s a bad analogy, but it really is about making sure that all the bands complement one another… and I feel like this works. Same with the whole Mammoth camp. Obviously I’ve played with Frank now for a decade with Slash and Conspirators, but as time has gone on, I’ve gotten to know Wolfgang more and more – and all the guys for that for that matter. There’s isn’t a bad apple in this bunch, which is great because it just takes one to kind of drag the whole mood down. He’s just wonderful, and the Sevendust guys… I mean, it’s amazing for as aggressive and as heavy as their music is, and I’m fascinated with how, just as people, when you hang out with those guys, just how chill they are. That Southern charm is something else! Also, Wolfgang, vocally, we’ve been doing this now since we started in Europe last year – November or something, or late October – and he’s one of those rare talents where all the boxes are checked. I don’t want to build it up too much, but he’s pretty damn impressive.

You’ve been blessed to call two of the most amazing guitarists in hard rock history, Mark Tremonti and Slash, your guitar players. As an accomplished guitarist yourself, you know it can’t ever get any better than that. I mean, where do you go from there? You would literally have to sing for Led Zeppelin or something to top that, which I know was on your plate at one time.

Yeah, for me, it’s kind of one of those scenarios where I feel like the boxes have been checked in a lot of ways. I’ve done everything that I just kind of hoped to do and then some. I think at this point, it’s just a matter of trying to maintain a certain altitude and just riding it out as long as I can. As a guitar player, I think that’s been one of the really great things about the journey: that I play with great guitar players who also have the same passion for it that I do and the same drive. Other than the talent, other than what they can do on the guitar, I think that is what makes it special – and not just them, but also the rest of the band members. I feel like with Alter Bridge (and Mark and I are very aware of this), we are fortunate enough to stand on the shoulders of one of, in our opinion, the best rhythm sections in rock. They just don’t get the credit. Scott’s pocket and Brian’s feel as a bass player? I remember the first time I heard them in ’98 and really figured out what they had. I was on tour with Mayfield Four. We were playing with those guys and we were in San Diego and I was watching those guys. We were playing clubs back then and I just went out during their soundcheck and it was just the three of them jamming and I was just like, “Oh, that pocket, that rhythm section has something that’s so compelling.” A lot of Alter Bridge is that rhythm section. It is that feel. If one of those guys weren’t in the equation, I think it would sound and feel a lot different.

While on the topic of Slash, has there ever been an idea of doing a Slash, Mark Tremonti, and Myles Kennedy collaboration?

No. I mean, we’ve never really talked about that. It’s a great idea, though. I like where you’re going.

Is there a new Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators record in our future? I love your work on that stuff, as well.

Thank you so much! No, there’s nothing in the pipeline. Everybody’s been pretty damn busy! 

Well, can you at least go out with The Conspirators?

As far as just getting to hang with those guys, I would love that! But not having Slash in the equation… that would be odd.

Who is Myles Kennedy listening to today and who would he like to collaborate with?

Well, there’s so many different things I’ve been listening to. There’s a jazz guitar player that I’m just obsessed with named Julian Lage who I think is just incredible. I listen to him a lot. As far as rock goes, I keep going back to Devin Townsend’s last record. I actually saw him last night. They were playing with Dream Theater. That tour was outstanding and I finally got to spend some time with Devin and fanboy out about how much that record means to me. I just think it’s brilliant! Not just as a singer, but as an instrumentalist and as a composer. To me, his singing is brilliant, and his compositions are at the same level. He’s about as prolific as anybody I can think of. It’s just amazing how much content he continues to put out. I would love to collaborate with him one day!

Then what else have I been listening to? I’m a massive Steely Dan fan. Once I was at an event – this was a long time ago, about 20 years ago – and Donald Fagen was getting an award for, I think it was ASCAP or one of the publishing entities or something, and I was lucky enough to be able to go. I saw him at the buffet getting some cheese or something. I was trying to do everything I could to not just go up and just fanboy out on him, but I’m glad I didn’t, because they say never to meet your heroes.

My wife always said, “Myles Kennedy has an amazing voice for Broadway!” Has this ever been in your line of sight? I mean I would go and see Jesus Christ Superstar featuring Myles Kennedy.

[Laughs] Yeah! It’s really interesting you should bring that up. That had actually come across the table at one point. Schedule-wise, it just didn’t work out because I was getting ready to embark on a solo record run and all that, but that would be fun. I would say I think it would certainly take me out of my comfort zone My biggest issue is I’ve always considered myself a songwriter and a guitar player first and singing just kind of…. Actually, in fact, Devin and I were talking about that last night about how we started off as guitar players. The idea of being up there in something more theatrical like that? I don’t know if I would. I don’t know if I would look like a fish out of water, because I just remember how I felt initially just even trying to front bands without a guitar, but then to play character, as well… I don’t know. I just don’t know if I’d be compelling enough to people. They’d be like, “Give me my money back! This guy’s nuts!”

Nah, Pam Anderson pulled off Chicago last year! I think you’ll be fine! [Laughs] Now, how does a prolific singer like yourself stay out of the spotlight in a world of social media? You’re like a mystery wrapped in a riddle!

[Laughs] I think maybe some of it is because I grew up with the people that I listened to and there was an element of mystique to them. I started with the social media niche initially. I’d really embraced it back during the Myspace days where I was even responding to as many direct messages as I could. I would write letters back and I would spend all day on it, but then the numbers got a little bigger and my wife was like,”‘You’re spending a lot of time on Myspace. You should be writing songs.” I think that as time has gone on, I’ve come to realize that it was better for me to focus on the songwriting. I think until about, just not really that long ago, I was doing a lot more on Instagram and really being engaging more and whatnot, but it was starting to take away from the craft of what I do, which is ultimately songwriting. I think that I’ve really stepped back because I also think I’m a bit of an addictive personality. The algorithm knows it will get you sucked in. It knows how to kind of play you. Once I realized the algorithm had my number I was like, “Yeah, you’re not gonna get me!” Also, there’s a really great film called The Social Dilemma, and after I watched it three times, I realized I think I’m gonna totally step out of all this, but with that said, I do realize it’s important. I think that I maybe need to find more of a balance because I don’t want to totally just disappear. When I told my manager, I was like, “Ok, I’m kind of off social media.” I could hear him just get deflated. Selena and I, we’re really private people, too. Some people kind of like to put it out there and that’s great and it makes some feel good, and it can also be I think a beautiful thing for people to see, but Selena and I are super, super, super duper private people. We always have been. You know, occasionally I’ll put up a little picture and write something, but I don’t think you’re gonna see what I’m having for breakfast… unless it’s a really good breakfast!

Any chance we’ll ever see The Mayfield Four ever again?

Probably not. I think just because… I mean, I get the luxury of playing with Zia [Uddin] again with my solo project and he’s one of my all-time favorite drummers. I’m so spoiled with drummers. Jeez, over the years I’ve gotten to play with so many great guys with great pockets.

We do occasionally do a Mayfield tune in the solo set and I love that. It’s like getting in a time machine. Having a great drummer is so important for me, because as a guitar player, I feel things where my pocket lies, and it’s funny because both Zia and I kind of lay back. Like if you were to put a grid up, we both kind of lay behind the beat. I think it’s from years just growing up listening to John Bonham and where his pocket was. So Zia and I, I have probably played as many hours with him, maybe as just about anybody, because when we were kids, we were working sometimes six nights a week, four hours a night, playing in cover bands. We would get together, back in the late eighties, and we would play at this place called Gatsby’s here in Spokane. It would be like this: We’d get there at eight or nine, play ’till one or two in the morning, then get up and go to school the next day and do the same thing. We did that for a long time, so his feel is just kind of in my DNA.


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