Photograph by Dan Sturgess
INTERVIEW WITH MYLES KENNEDY BY KELLEY SIMMS
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAN STURGESS AND JAVIER BRAGADO
Just like every musician, artist, and band during this pandemic, melodic hard rockers Alter Bridge had to get creative with its normal band activity after the cancellation of their entire 2020 touring schedule. Alter Bridge, featuring vocalist/guitarist Myles Kennedy, guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall, and drummer Scott Phillips, has released a new seven track EP entitled Walk the Sky 2.0. Featuring one new track and the rest live, the new EP is based on its latest and sixth full-length record Walk the Sky.
Mr. Kennedy spoke with us during a recent phone interview about the new EP Walk the Sky 2.0, his upcoming solo release, his appearance in the 2001 Mark Wahlberg starred movie Rock Star, his writing sessions with Led Zeppelin, and more.
Since the band announced the cancellation of its entire 2020 touring schedule, Alter Bridge has taken time to do what they are known best for—creating. With the release of the new EP Walk the Sky 2.0, how have you been channeling your creativity?
Once we realized that touring wasn’t going to be an option in the foreseeable future, we figured we’d try to stay busy and do something, and hopefully in the process do something that will satiate our fan base to some degree since we can’t get out there and tour. It just seemed like the logical thing to do at this point.
New song “Last Rites” was completed during the quarantine lockdown. How did this track come about?
The song was started during the Walk the Sky sessions, and it was one of those songs that we had, but we had so many to choose from, so we thought let’s put this one aside for the time being. So, just knowing it was there and that we had something to draw from was ideal in this scenario. We could go back and revisit it and essentially re-tweak it and make it current and relevant. To my ears, it just didn’t fit. I think the beauty of Walk the Sky is that it has a certain vibe, and this song just didn’t feel congruent. Having the opportunity to put it on a separate body of work made sense. So, that’s what we did, and it worked out perfectly.
“JUST KNOWING IT WAS THERE AND THAT WE HAD SOMETHING TO DRAW FROM WAS IDEAL IN THIS SCENARIO.”
The EP features six live tracks that were recorded during your US Walk the Sky tour that ended in February. Were they recorded all in one night or various dates/shows/cities?
To my understanding, our crew is recording all the time, and it was essentially taking elements from certain shows throughout the run where I think Elvis [Baskette], our producer, had the recordings and he sat and listened to them and decided what he thought were the best takes and just ran with them and mixed them. So, it’s not a specific night. There wasn’t all six of them from one night or in one city. It was a bit of a musical potpourri, so to speak. Knowing that they had this catalog of all these live shows, since we trust Elvis so much and trust his judgment, it just made sense to have him wade through the material, and we knew he’d get the best stuff.
Walk the Sky was the band’s most successful release to date. How will you honor the record after this pandemic subsides and the band can get back to doing live shows?
Good question. It’s hard to know where all this is going to end up and how long it’s going to continue to drag on. For us, it’s just a continuous holding pattern, like so many of our friends and touring buddies. I guess, time will only tell. I will say it’s frustrating, obviously. We were only a few months into the touring cycle and we were very proud of the record and looking forward to getting out and playing all four corners of the world to promote it, but we didn’t have the opportunity to do that thus far. But who knows? Maybe they’ll find a cure in a month! I’m trying to think optimistically here.
“WE WERE VERY PROUD OF THE RECORD AND LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING OUT AND PLAYING ALL FOUR CORNERS OF THE WORLD TO PROMOTE IT”
You mentioned your producer Elvis. He has such a great résumé. What do you like about working with him?
I’ve known Elvis now for nearly two decades. All the boxes are checked with that guy. He’s great at getting tones, he’s great at understanding arrangements, and he’s great at understanding the psychology of making records and how to get the best out of artists and how to make artists feel comfortable and make sure that they don’t overthink and that they stay in the moment. I think having all of those abilities is a pretty rare thing. A lot of times producers might be good arrangement guys, they might be good at getting tones, or might be great engineers. But when you have somebody who’s got the entire thing covered, it really makes you feel comfortable as an artist. When you go in to make the record, you don’t have to second-guess anything. Most importantly, you don’t have to always be looking over his shoulder to see if he’s doing it right, you just know it’s going to be right. After making records with him starting off with the Mayfield Four back in 2000-01—when he was just coming up as an engineer—fast-forward almost 20 years later, I trust him completely.
The animated video for the new single of the original recorded version of “Native Son” is sensational. How much were you involved in the video process?
Tim, our manager, is really great about keeping his finger on the pulse of the visual creators. He sent us this idea from this guy [Stefano Bertelli] using this type of animation, in which he was a big fan of. When we saw his work, we were just blown away. So, when we turned the song over, it was really exciting to see what he would come up with as an artist, especially what his interpretation of the lyrics would be. I felt that personally having written the lyrics to that, he took it and moved it to the next level. I feel like he made it very universal and very profound. I always know something’s good when I have family members reach out, and my little sister and her son loved it and they were all jacked when it came out. That was the first time my nephews reached out about anything Alter Bridge has done. He did a really great job. I would say it’s one of my favorite videos of our career. It’s a really special one.
“I JUST LOCKED MYSELF INSIDE MY HOME STUDIO AND STARTED WRITING AND DEMOING EVERYTHING AND PUT TOGETHER A BATCH OF TUNES.”
You just finished recording your new solo album that will be out in 2021. What was that process like and what can we expect?
When the whole lockdown started, I knew that I was going to have some time, so I just locked myself inside my home studio and started writing and demoing everything and put together a batch of tunes. Then I reached out to my rhythm section, which is my longtime friend—we’ve been playing together off and on for 30 years—Zia Uddin, who’s one of the most incredible drummers I’ve had the opportunity to play with, and then Tim Tournier, who played bass for me on the last record as well. We’re putting the team back together, was essentially the conversation. Once we knew we could get in with Elvis in August, we all drove down to Florida with our gear in tow and knocked out the record in about seven weeks. I finished up everything throughout September, and now we’re just waiting on the mixes.
Back in the day you were offered a tryout with Velvet Revolver, but didn’t want to audition. This is when you first met Slash and established a great connection. What was the reason or what was your mindset at the time?
That was interesting because I put out a record prior in 2001, the second record with the Mayfield Four, and from what I understand, some of the guys, I don’t know if it was Duff and Slash or who exactly, but somebody heard that stuff and then reached out when they were trying to find a singer the next year. Slash had called and we talked for a little bit, and they sent a demo of some tracks. I spent about two weeks with it, laid some stuff down, and then I never sent it back! For me, I was at a really interesting place in my life as a musician because everything I’d gone through five years prior with the Mayfield Four had left me a bit crestfallen, is the best way to describe the emotional stance at that time. I thought to throw my hat into the ring possibly, if they liked it, being involved with something like that, the magnitude of that just seemed a bit overwhelming at the time. I think I talked to Slash, and he was like, “Hey, where are those demos?” I explained the situation and he was cool and that was it. Fast-forward seven years later and he asked me to be on his second solo record and everything turned out like it did.
I loved the movie Rock Star, and even though you had only a small part, you left a lasting impression on fans. What was that experience like?
We shot that film in May of 2000, is what sticks in my head. I don’t think we recorded the second Mayfield Four record at that point. I remember I was writing and staying very busy during that period with the Mayfield Four and getting ready for that role, which was cool. The reason I got the part is because they wanted it to be whoever played Thor to be the actor and also be the singer on that specific part. If my memory is correct, part of how they found out about me—because I don’t live in LA, I live in Spokane, Washington—Brendan O’Brien who mixed the first Mayfield Four record had suggested to the producer that they reach out to me. It was fun. It was a really cool experience and those guys are great singers [Jeff Scott Soto and Miljenko Matijevic]. They’re really great at that specific genre, too. I remember thinking when they reached out from a genre standpoint, I wasn’t sure how my approach would work in that context. But once you put on the wig and the leather outfit that the character was wearing, suddenly it puts your whole headspace in that vibe. So, it worked out well.
“THOSE MEMORIES I TRY TO KEEP INTACT AS THE YEARS GO ON BECAUSE THEY ARE SO SACRED TO ME, BECAUSE OF WHAT A HUGE AND AMAZING OPPORTUNITY THAT WAS FOR ME”
I’d also like to bring up the writing sessions you did with Led Zeppelin after their 2007 reunion. How cool was that experience?
As far as experiences go, that’s pretty much the top of the bucket list. To stand in the same room with those guys and not only jam, in my opinion, some of the coolest rock tracks ever written, but also jam over a few things that they had been working on was a highlight for me. Those memories I try to keep intact as the years go on because they are so sacred to me, because of what a huge and amazing opportunity that was for me, not just as a musician but as a fan. I think it doesn’t get any better than that. To my knowledge, there were no official tapes being run. People assume that we were in an actual recording studio. The studio that we were in was more of a rehearsal studio, so I don’t think they had the means to make a legit recording.
With the uncertainty of this pandemic and no one knowing when bands can actually play live again, what will you be focusing on in the near future?
It’s going to be how to figure out how to navigate day to day life, not being able to tour, and trying to figure out ways, be it social media, just trying to engage and connect to fans. That should be interesting. Also, as a guitar player, I have every intention of using this time to play and evolve, to try and take the time to better myself as a musician.