Myles Kennedy is a man of many musical talents; currently he is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of Alter Bridge as well as the group bearing his name, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Yep, that Slash. The guitarist from Guns n’ Roses recognized Kennedy’s talent early on and nabbed him (along with Ian Astbury, Ozzy Osbourne and Chris Cornell) to sing a few tracks on his eponymous solo debut. Yet the chemistry with Kennedy stuck and led to further collaboration and Kennedy’s name on the proverbial marquee. The group dropped their latest album, Apocalyptic Love, in May 2012 and have been touring the U.S. and abroad since the release.
“I need to try to figure out how to be a human that doesn’t travel all the time,” he laughs into the phone. The holiday break is perhaps just a fortnight until Kennedy is on the road again, heading to Orlando to start planning the new Alter Bridge album, tentatively slated for release in 2013. It’s been not only a busy year but a busy almost two decades for the accomplished musician who started out as a guitar teacher in his hometown of Spokane, Washington and rose amidst the hysterical chatter in 2008 that he was replacing Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin, a rumor that was unfounded although the singer did record music with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham. Over the years, Kennedy has had his hands in a variety of projects but that just keeps it interesting, according to him:
“I’ll never forget an A&R person telling me once that I needed to make up my mind because I like a lot of different offshoots of rock,” he recalls. “I think that just keeps it interesting; some people feel like you’re supposed to do or like one thing and I’ve always fought against that.”
Kennedy started out as the lead man in The Mayfield Four who released two albums, in 1998 and 2001. During this stint, Kennedy made a cameo in the Mark Wahlberg-starring film Rock Star. (“I’m amazed that over 10 years after the fact there’s such a cult following for the movie. I think it’s a guilty pleasure for a lot of people. It’s a fun escape; something where people can shut the brain off and enjoy a couple of hours watching us all jump around with big hair, spandex and leather pants.”)
Shortly thereafter was the first time Kennedy crossed paths with Slash, declining an offer to try out for the lead vocal duties in Guns n’ Roses super group Velvet Revolver—a gig that would eventually go to Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. Instead, Kennedy found his footing as the frontman of Alter Bridge, a group formed by the three instrumentalists of Creed. Next year’s release will be the fourth album from the group. In 2013, perhaps Kennedy’s long-awaited solo album will see the light of day, too.
“I hope so,” is the only verification we can get from the singer whose busy schedule seems to be the culprit of the delay. “The songs are done they just need to be sung over. It’s near and dear to me because it’s something that I’ve worked on for so long, and musically it’s something that I really enjoy, so it would be nice to get it finished. One of these days…” It will show fans a different side of Myles as it’s more along the line of a singer-songwriter such as Chris Whitley and Jeff Buckley.
Myles Kennedy on the women (artists) he loves
Who are some of your favorite female musicians of all time?
“As far as singers go I am a big k.d. lang fan. I actually [am really inspired] by her record, Ingènue, which came out back in early ’90s. It’s kind of a go-to record for me. Her voice is just beautiful; it’s one of my favorite voices ever because the tone of her voice is just perfect to me. Hers is a very incredible instrument. She is definitely one of my favorites.
As far as younger artists go I think that Lzzy [Hale] is fantastic, not just as a singer but also as a writer and guitar player as well. I’m really happy to see what she’s done in the last few years. I remember seeing footage of her a long time ago that somebody sent to me, I think it was before they even released their first record, and I remember thinking that she is going to be a force to be reckoned with because she has so much power. Quite frankly I think she out-sings most dudes in the hard rock genre; it’s incredible the power and intensity she has in her vocal performances.”
How have these female artists inspired you and your music?
“K.d. lang for sure has inspired me melodically. When I discovered Ingènue, it was kind of a pivotal time for me as a writer because I was trying to find myself. It was back in the Citizen Swing days, and I really wasn’t sure what I was about at that point. The first Citizen Swing record essentially is a demo of me just learning to write songs, so I was all over the map. And when I heard Lang’s record and how haunting it was as well as some other records that came around at the same time (Jeff Buckley’s Grace, Radiohead), they all had this very moody vibe to them, which I gravitated towards.”
Are there any female musicians on your radar now that most people should check out?
“There’s one that came along a few years ago. I was thinking about them a few days ago. Nico Vega. Aja Volkman is the singer and she is one of the best singers I’ve heard in a while. The band is pretty unique and has a real different take on things. It rocks but it’s more like modern rock. It’s not like straight up rock n roll it’s got kind of a quirky sense to it and it’s cool.
There’s one other female artist I failed to mention, and granted these are all singers that I’m bringing up. but Ella Fitzgerald would definitely be another one as far as my favorite favorite voices go. And that’s going back even further obviously than k.d. lang but Ella had such a way. Her take on songs was really special. She would take these standards and bring something unique and special to them with her vocal approach.”
Are there any all-girl bands or female bassists, drummers, guitarists that you admire?
“Yeah, that’s easy! As far as female musicians go, I really like Tal Wilkenfeld who is Jeff Beck’s bass player. She is so good it’s crazy! I mean, she’s like…insane. I saw a thing on TV a few years ago, it was the Eric Clapton Crossroads Festival where he gets all these guitar players to tour with him. So Jeff Beck was on and there was this young girl and she sounded like a young Jaco Pastorius. Just incredible. I would have to say as far as bass players go, she may be one of my favorites period, regardless of time, era, whatever. I think she has an incredibly bright future ahead of her.”
If you could collaborate with any female artist who would it be? (Kennedy did a duet with Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil on the Alter Bridge song “Watch Over You”)
“This is really tough, there’s so many. Pretty much anyone I’ve brought up thus far, I would be honored to collaborate with them. Whether it’s Tal or k.d. lang. I would totally get off on just sitting in a room and seeing what happens musically.”
Do other publications ever ask you about female musicians? Or do you ever bring them up in interviews?
“I talk about k.d. lang quite a bit. Just because of how much of an influence her record had on me as a writer, and I think people are generally surprised to hear that. Not so much because she’s a woman but also because I think a lot of people associate her with country or at least they used to. But that’s what I find so unique about her. She’s kind of her own thing, genre-wise. I have a hard time putting her in a specific category, and that’s the beauty of her as an artist.”
Were there any female guitarists that influenced you when you started playing guitar?
“When I first picked up a guitar I was 14. But I think I really got into it when I was about 15, and I had saved up enough to buy my first electric. That was the last time my family saw me, I was just locked away playing guitar all of the time. As far as female guitar players that were influences… I remember thinking that Joan Jett was really cool, not so much as a player but as a presence. She just had this vibe and this swagger that I thought was really intriguing. I remember I had a mad crush on Lita Ford, both her and Joan were some of the first girls in a hard rock genre that were playing guitar and Lita was playing lead, and I just thought ‘now that is really cool.'”