“I’ve even read articles where people would categorize them as metal, which – I would never go there,” the Alter Bridge frontman says.
During an appearance on BODS Mayhem Hour, Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge, Slash, solo) touched on Led Zeppelin while discussing his approach to music and creativity.
The musician said (transcribed by UG):
“I guess I always try to keep an open mind. Maybe that’s a thing that’s helped me more than anything, not to view the world in narrow-minded context.
“So whether it’s reading different things or listening to different forms of music, I’ve always felt it’s really important to kind of walk up to the salad bar of life and taste a little bit of every flavour, I try to incorporate that in what I do.
“Otherwise, what happens is – if you’re just consuming one thing, or a certain style, if that’s all you consume… when I was younger, I was at a period where it was all about hard rock or metal, didn’t listen to anything else.
“Then one day I realized, ‘Wait a minute, this is great, there are so many great forms of music out there, let’s absorb some of that as well, see what happens.’
“That’s what I love about Led Zeppelin, I think that’s why that band is so important. People think of Led Zeppelin, oftentimes they’ll misunderstand them as strictly hard rock. I’ve even read articles where people would categorize them as metal, which – I would never go there.
“But you listen to their records, and you realize that they were touching on so many different styles of music.”
How do you balance going from band to band plus working on your own music? Is it kind of hard?
“Well, you know, it’s something I feel that learning the art of compartmentalizing has been a very important aspect of doing this, especially with three different projects. So when it comes to what songs go where, I feel each compartment is so different, that makes it a lot easier.
“Rarely are there any questions as to whether a song should go in Alter Bridge or in my solo, they’re very different entities, and with Slash and The Conspirators, the feel that is so specific, and also the way that the writing starts there…
“Slash comes up with the riff and the chord progression. And he’ll sing it to me, and then I’ll put my melody and my lyric on after that, whereas with Alter Bridge oftentimes I’ll come up with a chord progression and melody and then me and Mark [Tremonti] build that aspect together, I’ll run off and finish the lyrics.
“The solo record [‘Year of the Tiger’], that’s all me, so I’ve got to come up with everything in that respect. They’re all very different.”
What’s impressed you the most about making the album ‘Year of the Tiger’?
“I think that with ‘Year of the Tiger,’ what I learned from making that record is that you do something that is sincere and honest, though it may be something that you aren’t known for. I’m not known for being a singer or songwriter or a country-blues artist, I wasn’t sure how the rock fans are going to react to it because it’s so different.
“But what I did learn is that if you do something that’s from the heart, and you’re sincere about it, you’d be surprised how the fans will give it a shot. That’s been very enlightening.”
Your vocal range, it fits with everything. You can go from blues, to rock, to metal, so it’s everything, it all fits.
“That’s good to hear, that’s maybe because I’ve spent so much time listening to different forms of music growing up and not just listening to how to learn how to play it.
“You kind of incorporate that into your musical DNA and it allows you certain flexibility in what you do artistically.”
How long did it take to record the album?
“Well, the interesting thing is that I had written an entire record. That process went on for years and I had all these songs recorded and ready to go out. And I was going to put it out, but I listened to it and I was like, ‘I think I can do better.’
“So I scrapped that entire record, I took one song off that album which is a song called ‘Love Can Only Heal’ and that ended up being on the ‘Year of the Tiger.’ But other than that, ‘Year of the Tiger’ was written in about seven months, and I recorded it in about three or four weeks, so it was a pretty fast process.”
How was working with producer Michael Elvis who you’re familiar with, but how was it working with him?
“He’s great. In my opinion, he’s one of the best rock producers in the world. And I wasn’t sure, given the style of this record, if he’d even be into doing it, and what I discovered about Elvis is, like myself, he’s got the love for a lot of forms of music, and he does it very well.
“He definitely had a good understanding of how to make an authentic record in this realm. The thing about Elvis is that I feel most comfortable with him.
“I’ve been making records with him… the first record, he was an engineer on that, it wasn’t producing, but he engineered the second Mayfield Four record, and he was just a kid.
“I could see his talent back then. I can’t even count how many records we’ve done together. He does the Alter Bridge records, he’s done two Slash records, and solo, you know, he’s kind of my brother in a lot of ways.”
I’m glad you mentioned The Mayfield Four because – have you seen your music grow since The Mayfield Four to now? Have you seen it mature and grow?
“Oh sure, I feel like I’ve evolved as a songwriter, and I’ve certainly learned repetition, you know, and having the opportunity to write with so many great people, and experience more. I feel like I’ve evolved as a human being, and I’ve learned a lot about myself.
“I’m still trying to improve my game as a songwriter, I probably never totally felt like I’ve ‘arrived.’ It’s certainly a fun chase, and I’ll continue to do it as long as I can.”
Any songs off this new album stand out more to you? Do you have a favourite?
“You know, that’s a good question, I really like ‘Haunted by Design,’ I think so because that song is so different from anything I’ve ever done in the past.
“And the interesting thing is – when I did the demo for it, I sent it sheepishly to a few people just like, ‘Hey, you know, this song is pretty country, I’m not sure if it’s going to have a place on this record’, and I was surprised that people responded like, ‘You know, that is one of my favourite ones that you sent me.’
“And so it turned out to be a real liberating thing, to write a song like that and have it resonate with people
What do you hope the fans take away from your music or message you hope that they hear just listening to anything that you’ve created?
“Well, I hope that it brings them a certain amount of solace, if they’re having a rough day or if it makes them put a smile on their face, or maybe gets them to think about something.
“But for me, music’s always been a great elixir, and just trying to kind of continue passing that, that being some sort of conduit and passing it through me to the listener, I feel like that’s kind of become my role on this planet, to hopefully make people happy, to hopefully get people to think and forget about their problems. Whatever it is, it helps me to find my purpose.”
What does your music bring to the table for music that’s not out there right now? I don’t think ‘reinventing the wheel,’ but what does Myles Kennedy’s music bring to the table?
“That’s a good question. That’s a tough one. What do I bring to the table? I can’t answer that question because if I said anything it might sound… I wouldn’t want to sound like I was tooting my own horn.
“But what I can say is that what I ask of myself when I go out there every night is to stay present and just stay in the moment – at the end of the day, just to serve my fellow humans, and try to make them happy.”
Coming from The Mayfield Four and then joining Alter Bridge and Slash, have you seen the support for your music just evolve?
“Yeah, it really became evident to me – especially putting out a solo record, I think that what I came to realize is, my trajectory has been a very slow, gradual climb.
“It’s taken 20 years to get to this point, to get to the point where I can go out and tour the world just as myself, and not in a band context. It’s something I’m very grateful for and I loved it, but it was a slow climb, and it wasn’t an overnight success by any stretch of the imagination.”
What was the moment that made you realize you wanted to become a musician?
“I’d say probably hearing [Van Halen’s] ‘Eruption’ the first time was what made me want to play the guitar, although, at that point, I was already playing the trumpet. But to be an actual musician and playing gigs with rock ‘n’ roll context, I think it happened the same afternoon.
“I heard ‘Eruption,’ I was playing in the backyard with my little brother – I was 13, I heard ‘Eruption’ come on the radio, which led into [The Kinks’] ‘You Really Got Me’ by Van Halen, and then I heard ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppelin, I think, all in the same two hours.
“That was a really defining moment. Whatever all that is, that’s what I wanted to do.”
Has there been a show or a moment that stands out to you, that made you realize, ‘This is worth everything that I put into my career.’?
“Oh sure, there has been a lot of these. I’ve had a lot of those ‘aha’ moments where you just become very aware of how lucky you are, and how it was worth all the struggle. There was one recently that I did in London when I wrapped up the solo tour.
“I was playing a theater there, and it was just, it was just an incredible experience. Another one was in London a year ago when we [Alter Bridge] did ‘Live at the Royal Albert Hall’ with the Parallax Orchestra – that was pretty over-the-top for all of us.”