INTERVIEW: MYLES KENNEDY of Alter Bridge, October 2016

When you are offered a chance to speak with one of your favorite vocalists and lead singer for for two of your favorite bands, how do you say no?  Quite simply, you don’t!  I was offered a little time with the dynamic Myles Kennedy and I jumped at the chance, as it is always fun to be able to discuss a new disc with someone so involved in the process.  With The Last Hero out recently, I was able to get some insight from Myles regarding the writing process, songs destined for the setlist, and so much more…

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Toddstar: Hey, Myles. Thank you so much for taking time out for us, man. We really appreciate it.

Myles: My pleasure, Todd. How are you doing?

Toddstar: Good, yourself?

Myles: I’m great. Doing wonderful. Thanks.

Toddstar: Awesome. You’ve got to be riding a high. The Last Hero. The thing’s out and it’s the latest and greatest to come out of your head and heart, man.

Myles: Well, thank you, thank you.

Toddstar: Tell us a little bit about this release.

Myles: Yeah. It’s album number five. Hard to believe we’ve been doing this for over a decade, but very happy that we’re still in the game and people are still into what we do. We’re really grateful for that. Yeah, we just wanted to kind of continue with the evolution of the band from a songwriting standpoint, from an arrangement standpoint, and take everything that we’ve learned in the past about kind of how operate, I guess let’s just say how to utilize each other in the best ways creatively and just continue to move forward there. I feel like we did it on this record, so we were pleasantly surprised. You just never know how it’s going to turn out at the end of the day. Once we got the final mixes in and listened to the whole vision of the record, it was something we were proud of, so we’re happy.

Toddstar: I love the disc. Listening through it, especially songs you go to “Twilight” and things like that where in my mind that song almost sounds like it could’ve been plucked from the debut, it’s nice that you guys have grown and matured as a team, which still kind of in my mind jumping back to that sound when you guys were fresh and crisp and new together.

Myles: Right. Well, it’s interesting that you say that because when we were making the record, our producer, Elvis [Baskette], brought that up, that with this record it almost extracts elements from all of our previous efforts. You take a song like that which kind of hearkens back to the One Day Remains era. You could take a song like “You Will Be Remembered,” which has a bit of something that we might’ve done on Blackbird. It just goes on. I think there’s a little bit of something for the fans of each previous record. If a fan is like, “Oh, AB III is my favorite record,” well, there’s a track on this that kind of is reminiscent of that. At the same time we have songs where we try to continue to push ourselves, where it doesn’t really fit into any of those previous works. It’s kind of like a good snapshot of the past while still trying to be aware of the future.

Toddstar: That’s a perfect quote to cover this album, I believe. Looking back over these songs, Myles, are there any songs that as you guys were developing them were just so hard to get completed from start to finish? Any that you guys just had to finish because they meant that much to you but fought you guys tooth and nail along the way?

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Myles: Yeah. For me, there was. The most difficult track was “My Champion.” Even though from a song structure standpoint it’s a very simple song, but I knew that it had qualities that were special. I spent a lot of time fine tuning the lyrics and the melodies as well. I wanted to make sure that the vocal parts held up with the music parts as far as the quality. I remember spending a lot of time on that one, rewriting it over and over again. That was one of the few songs where that happened. Whereas “Twilight,” that was pretty quick and painless. That didn’t take too long. A lot of times as a songwriter, if that happens you’re very grateful because when you start to kind of go down the wormhole and have a song elude you, you start to panic a little bit because you don’t want something to get lost. You want to retain the things that you loved initially about the song without the song getting stale on you from overworking it.

Toddstar: Well, you mentioned “My Champion.” Even in my review I mentioned that your vocals on that song to me really stand out. Is there something about that song that really struck home with you? Is there something when you perform or sing that song that really just grabs your personally?

Myles: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s just the overall feel of the song. It has a very anthemic, kind of universal feel. The content of it is something that I could definitely relate to. It was basically inspired by a lot of things that I heard growing up as a child, kind of words of encouragement. I was a small kid. I was a real late bloomer, so when all my friends were basically hitting their teens and growing up, I wasn’t. I was staying like, this little kid. It’s kind of funny now when I look back, but back then it was hard. You want to be able to hang with your peers and keep up with your friends. A lot of words of wisdom that I would hear from role models I basically tried to sum up in the song. Yeah, it definitely resonates with me. I guess I should say it resonates with the 13-year-old in me.

Toddstar: That’s awesome, though. You guys have had, like you mentioned, four previous albums and a lot of touring behind you to cultivate a set list. Looking over the track listing for The Last Hero, are there any songs that you think will slip so seamlessly into an Alter Bridge set that might even become staples?

Myles: Yeah. Yeah, I do. I think a song like “My Champion” will probably be one of those songs. With a lot of the other material you never really know until you start playing it live and seeing how people react in the audience. I have high hopes for a few of the songs that they’ll be mainstays because that certainly makes your job a lot easier when you’re putting the set together, if you know that you have songs that work as opposed to just throwing something out there where it’s like, 4 minutes of the crowd just going, “Okay, let’s get through this song to get to this song that we want to hear.”

Toddstar: Well, debuting a lot of this material is going to be done overseas, I know you guys are kicking off in Spain next week. What’s it like to be kind of launching your latest ‘child’, onto an international crowd instead of something, say, local to you guys?

Myles: Yeah. It’s exciting. We fortunately were able to play a couple of the songs on this last run we did here in the United States, but starting next week we’re really going to start incorporating more of the record, mainly because the record’s been out long enough to where people will know the songs. It wasn’t that we wanted to keep anything from the U.S. audiences, but the record for the most part wasn’t out or had only been out for a little bit on our last tour. With that said, you don’t want to play a bunch of new material that people aren’t familiar with. Yeah, I think once we get over to Europe the plan is to start experimenting with the set list a little bit and trying out some of these newer, deeper cuts, and basically seeing how they resonate. It’s definitely going to keep us on our toes because when you’re playing new songs there’s just so much to think about because it’s not second nature yet. Some of these tracks we’ve played for 10 years. You don’t even have to think about them anymore, but when you’re playing a new song you have to be very aware and make sure that you don’t screw it up.

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Toddstar: Sure. Looking back at your catalog with Alter Bridge, Myles, are there any songs that you looking back you think, “Oh, we should’ve done this a different way?” Have you ever thought about stripping some of them back and doing the acoustic side of something?

Myles: We talked about that. We talked about maybe one day doing an acoustic record because a lot of the songs seem to translate well, especially the songs that aren’t necessarily riff-oriented, that are more melodic and don’t have a ton of riffage. I could see that working. I think overall we’re pretty content with how things were tracked. For me maybe vocally there would be things I would change. Not necessarily from a melodic standpoint, but I feel like after doing this for so many years I’ve learned so much about my voice. When I go back and listen to the early recordings when I hadn’t had the amount of experience on the road at that point and hadn’t learned kind of how to use my voice in certain context, that would be the only thing where it’s like, oh, I wish I’d have sung that a little different there. Other than that I’m pretty content.

Toddstar: Cool. Having been a fan of yours since The Mayfield Four days…

Myles: Oh, thank you.

Toddstar: …and even your days when you replaced Marky Mark [laughs], looking back, is there anything you wish career-wise you’d have done different, Myles? Is there anything that you consider a misstep that you would correct?

Myles: Well, that’s a tough one. I think there are always going to be things here and there where I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d have maybe approached this a little differently. When I think back to The Mayfield Four era, I think on that very 1st record that we did I wish that I would’ve written more songs. I wish we would’ve had more time to be a band before we made that 1st record. That was a very fast process. We had basically been a band for just over a year when we went into the studio to make our very 1st record with a major label. I think that I’m happy with that first record, but I think it could’ve been better, just had more time to have songs evolve and have the band evolve more. I guess that would be my only… not my only, but that would be one of the things that I would if I could get in a time machine I would go back and try and add another 6 to 12 months period to that 1st record and to write more.

Toddstar: That’s a great sentiment. I appreciate you sharing that. Myles, you’ve played with some of the biggest in the world, man. You’ve shared stages, you’ve shared recording studios, and you’ve shared the musical world with so many huge people. Who’s still on that list for you? Who out there haven’t you performed with that you would love to do something with?

Myles: Stevie Wonder. That’s a pretty easy one for me. I mean, for me he was, as a singer, where I got a tremendous amount of inspiration from. When I first started to try and sing and learn to sing listening to his songs was…that was cool for me. Just sitting there day in and day would try to sing along with a master. Yeah, he definitely would be one. Gosh, there are so many great artists out there, but yeah, Stevie Wonder would be at the top.

Toddstar: Being from Motown that’s a good one in my mind. Building on that, what’s still out there for Myles Kennedy inside and outside of Alter Bridge? What’s there still for you to prove not only to the world but to yourself? Is there still something you need to prove to yourself Myles, or have you done it?

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Myles: Yeah. No, that’s a great question because I was just thinking about that yesterday. Actually, I was just thinking about that last night at like, 3:00 in the morning when I was writing in my little studio here. I think that I guess the more of the singer-songwriter side of what I do is something I need to prove to myself and develop more because that’s something that has always been there to a point but it’s never been something that I have done a full record of and highlighted that specific thing. I guess if I need to prove it to anybody I need to prove it to myself. I think that that’s a box that’s definitely unchecked at this point for me.

Toddstar: You mentioned it so I’m going to ask the obvious question. You talk about being in the studio writing at 3:00 AM. It’s your own studio, singer-songwriter material, and checking a box. Let’s be honest, you’re one of the busiest guys. I mean, you’re a front man for two huge bands. Is there time out there and is there interest in you coming out and doing solo material, Myles?

Myles: Well, that’s the big part of it, is the time. Because I’ve been extremely lucky to play in these 2 bands that are doing well, there are only 365 days in a year. To try and incorporate another or have another extension of your quote unquote brand, and trying to fit that in, seems like somewhat of an arduous process. I believe that eventually it’ll happen. I think the pace that I’ve been going and the good fortune that I’ve had as far as the success of both bands and who knows how long that’s going to last. Eventually there’s going to be a window to develop that other side, so I just want to be prepared when that day comes.

Toddstar: I know you’re busy so I’ve got a couple more questions before we cut you loose. I joked about the Marky Mark thing [referring to Myles’ role in the movie Rockstar]. When you were first breaking into music, if there was a band you could’ve stepped in and sang for, or played guitar for, I’ve seen you play guitar and you do that quite well, but if there was a band that you could’ve done that for way back in the day what band would that have been?

Myles: Oh, man. That’s a good question. Way back in the day, like when I was first starting? Well, I mean, let’s see. That’s a great question, but it’s a hard question.

Toddstar: Whose posters were on your wall? Who was it you wanted to be when you were just playing around, thinking about it?

Myles: I had a lot of Van Halen posters on my wall for sure. I’d say Van Halen and Judas Priest, and when I was a kid just starting out, Iron Maiden. A lot of those bands were real pivotal in getting me to want to play music. Zeppelin was a big one, even though by the time I got into them, they were no longer. Yeah, definitely Van Halen I think if someone would’ve said in 1983 if you could get up on stage with anybody, Van Halen probably would’ve been my choice.

Toddstar: That’s a great choice. Listen, I know you’re busy so I want to thank you for your time and I want to close with how often do you actually listen to your own music, Myles? Because I listen to you almost daily. Somehow something you’re on, whether it be Mayfield Four, Alter Bridge, or your stuff with Slash, always winds up in my mix when I’m running because it’s great tempo material.

Myles: That’s cool.

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Toddstar: How often do you actually listen to your own stuff?

Myles: Not very often. Believe it or not I kind of have an aversion to listening to myself. I think just because it… You know what it seems like? It seems like audio narcissism. It’s like, I’m going to sit and listen to myself. To me it’s the equivalent of looking at pictures of yourself. You know? It just seems kind of strange, so I try to listen to other artists, but I appreciate knowing that you enjoy what I’ve been a part of. That means a lot.

Toddstar: I really do. Listen, I appreciate you talking with me today and I’m really hoping we can get you up here in Detroit soon after you guys do your European swing. I think dates will start opening up in middle of January after the cruise and hopefully we can get you up here and I can thank you in person.

Myles: Awesome.

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INTERVIEW: MYLES KENNEDY of Alter Bridge, October 2016

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesInterviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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