As we approach the long awaited release of their fifth studio album The Last Hero on October 7th, Alter Bridge is already receiving praise for the first single titled Show Me A Leader. It has been three years of mounting anticipation that has been well worth the wait. Myles Kennedy (lead vocals, guitar), Mark Tremonti (lead guitar, vocals), Brian Marshall (bass) and Scott Phillips (drums) have formed what has become one of the most prominent rock n’ roll bands around with one of the most rabid and loyal fanbases you could ask for as a band or an artist. The members of Alter Bridge have definitely remained busy since their last album in 2013 titled Fortress with Kennedy also doing lead vocals for Slash’s band Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators and Tremonti’s solo albums, there has been no rest for the wicked. It is apparent how much the members of Alter Bridge truly love to create and perform music.
As they recently finished up a summer tour opening for Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin, Kennedy described the experience as the ultimate rock n’ roll summer camp. “Everybody from the bands to the crew was amazingly cool and there was no drama whatsoever which always makes a tour nice and enjoyable. There was a lot random jams going on with different players in the different bands getting together in the off time and just having a good time. It really made things stand out for me and I hope for the other bands as well.” But as Alter Bridge has ventured out to headline their own tour in promotion of the new album, Kennedy revealed that he was most looking forward to being able to play a lot more material. “Being the opening band was great but we only got to play for 35 minutes so we are really looking forward to having more time out on the stage and to introduce our new music to the fans. I know when we did some of the meet and greets, fans expressed to us that they were bummed out we only would be out there for a short set so this will give them the full experience that they feel they missed.”
One thing is for certain, Alter Bridge has always been the kind of band that is constantly striving to outdo their last album. They are always learning new techniques and gaining new inspirations to reach higher levels and to exceed expectations. The Last Hero proves to be their best work yet and with all of the turmoil going on in the world today, one could even consider this a manifestation of where mankind has gone and where it is going. Alter Bridge has always had a purpose in their music with lyrics that speak the truth and have even been deemed spiritual. Starting off with the first single Show Me A Leader, Kennedy tells us “when you’re writing, at least speaking for myself, I never go into it with certain intentions. I just kind of let things happen and then it filters in and you begin extracting ideas to make the record and you hope some sort of cohesive sound or vibe comes along. From a lyrical standpoint though, because it was written and arranged in a very specific time earlier this year, and obviously we have a lot going on with the election and all that, it was hard for all of this not to infiltrate and make its way onto this record. Society is being bombarded with all of the politics and issues all of the time. The trick for us though was to make sure it wasn’t an overly political record or had some sort of agenda, yet we wanted to address things and portray it more as a reflection of what is happening and what people are feeling around us. I feel like we were able to accomplish that with The Last Hero and we are excited to see what people think upon its’ release.” When asked how he feels they have progressed with this album as opposed to their 2013 album Fortress, Kennedy mentions that their Producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette brought up a good point when the record was closed to being finished in that he heard elements of previous records in this album. “I think it kind of sums up our complete body of work since we began and at the same time we have tracks and musical moments that we haven’t really touched in our earlier music. We went down roads we haven’t gone down and incorporated it into this record so I think it shows an extreme amount of growth and evolution but also incorporating some of our original sound for fans who love us for certain things and this way everyone is happy.”
Kennedy has been referred to as one of the greatest rock n’ roll singers of our time with his deliciously powerful voice in juxtaposition with his prodigious stage presence as a front man not only for Alter Bridge but Slash’s solo band Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators. There is no denying that Kennedy is vocally in the same class as some of the iconic greats like Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant. Kennedy’s vocal range is one of astronomical proportions. And while he maintains success in both bands, he is able to differentiate the two and contribute various facets of his voice and his songwriting. This can be a challenge for some and clearly as to not cause confusion to fans but Kennedy has a unique finesse that keeps both bands separate. From fronting Alter Bridge to fronting Guns ‘n Roses during the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame performance and fronting Slash’s solo band, Kennedy proves time and time again how dedicated he is and it is a clear reflection of the kind of person he is to work with. We asked Kennedy what his process is as to avoid a conflict of interest musically and personally working in concordance with both bands and he conveyed to us that fortunately the music is so different between both projects that the line never has a chance to become blurred. “I think for me one of the challenging things in working with Slash is that the lyrical content is different and so I have to go to a different place as a songwriter which lyrically is more from the hip and I find myself becoming more of a storyteller in that respect versus Alter Bridge. And with Alter Bridge, there Is more of an emotional approach to the songwriting as far as trying to tap into emotions or situations that I have experienced or that Mark has experienced which makes the songs resonate in a different way and that is good thing because it keeps things from becoming redundant and it always keeps things fresh” Kennedy acknowledges.
With the recent reunion of Guns ‘n Roses, Slash’s solo project is on hiatus and we asked Kennedy what his feelings were on this break and about it all. “I think it is awesome. It is so great for rock n’ roll music in general. The demand for it and how happy everyone seems to be about it, myself included, it is just amazing. As far as what will happen for Slash and Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators, time will tell. Slash reached out to me a few weeks ago and we discussed the future and when we would try to reconvene and good news is there is a future but right now everyone is busy with their other entities and everything is working out really well so we will see how it goes.”
Founded by Tremonti, Marshall and Phillips in 2004 following Creed’s disbandment, Kennedy joined and the rest is history. According to Kennedy, “we actually met in 1998 when I was in a band called the Mayfield Four and as Creed began having success, we became the opening band so we didn’t spend a lot of time together then, but eventually I started spending time with Mark and Scott very briefly so when they reached out five years later and asked if I would be interested in putting something together, I was a bit surprised. They mentioned that they were impressed with me vocally which was really flattering and from there we were off to the races so to speak. We put out our One Day Remains album and we have been together ever since.” From the beginning, the members of Alter Bridge had established a certain level of trust according to Kennedy. “Originally, I was the new guy and I was the singer and after a while Mark and Brian both became more comfortable with me as a songwriter and it changed the dynamics which was good for me because I have always considered myself a songwriter first and foremost and to have the chance to collaborate with someone as talented as Mark is awesome. He is amazing so the chemistry has just continued to evolve and the records are definitely taking on a new vibe overall because that comfort level has become more solidified as time has gone on” he concludes.
For a while now, there have been rumors circulating about Kennedy putting out his own solo album but with him juggling so many projects right now, it was time to find out if this was really going to happen. “I am definitely planning on releasing a solo album and honestly. It would be a shame if it didn’t see the light of day but for the time being, things are just extremely busy which is a good thing as a musician and it’s wonderful in that respect but I really do want to get this out and I don’t want to just throw it out there and not do it 100% with a follow-up tour and everything else. I know there are a group of fans that are begging for its release but it will have its day eventually.”
Believe it or not, Kennedy didn’t start off as a singer. Beginning his musical career as a guitarist for a jazz band called the Cosmic Dust Fusion band, one might ask what led him down the road to rock n’ roll. “Initially, I started off learning to play rock music on guitar when I was 15 years old and was inspired by Eddie Van Halen and Jimmy Page and then when I graduated from high school I enrolled in a music school and discovered jazz fusion and I got bit by the bug. I just loved it so one of my teachers asked if I wanted to play in his group called Cosmic Dust and it was a big deal for me. It was so much fun being able to play with those guys but the rock n’ roll side of me was always there. Even in that band I was the rock guitar player and fused it with jazz. I understood how to play it and the technical side of it but rock has always been my foundation and I like to embrace different genres and incorporate it into my music. A lot of it came from being influenced by Jimmy Page. He was a session player coming up and he would touch on various genres in the studio and that is what I aspired to be. I pride myself in being as versatile as possible” Kennedy confesses.
Kennedy is more or less known for his efficacious voice and considerable range and he admitted that his desire to start singing was just something that happened out of the blue. “I had an idea I could sing and although I was shy and just wanted to play guitar and be in the background but once I began writing my own songs after Cosmic Dust, I realized I had to “man up” and reveal that side of myself musically. Once I decided to develop my voice more, I studied a little bit with a guy named Ron Anderson in the mid to late 90’s which I consider the best thing I could have done for my voice and I was extremely lucky to be able to study under him because he is incredible. I knew I could do and just went for it.”
As the years go on, it becomes harder for a vocalist to maintain their health and constantly be able to tour and perform giving 150% every night. It is pertinent and in the best interest of the artist not only as a performer but for their personal quality of life that they take extra precautions to ensure longevity in their voice and their stamina. “I have to admit there are times I am cursing the day I wrote some of the songs we have done where I am forced to hit an excessive amount of high notes and think to myself it was so much easier when I was a young man” Kennedy jokes. “It is clean living. Basically just eating healthy, getting as much rest as you can and exercise. That is the best way to put it. Abstaining from drinking and partying on the road. I have to be aware that anything I do will have an impact one way or the other and affect my vocal quality. It sounds boring and very un-rock n’ roll but I focus on healthy rituals and vocal warm ups. I wish I could say I was one of the guys who could drink a fifth of Jack a day and make it happen but I am definitely a fragile being and there is no way that is going to happen” Kennedy chuckles.
Kennedy has made it clear what a blessing it is to be able to have a career in music and be given the opportunities he has had since he began. “When I see the effect that music has on people and hearing how music has made an impact on their lives, hands down, that is the reason I do this. That is my sole purpose. It gives me the feeling that I have done something or created something that has or can change someone’s life is really heavy. I don’t take that lightly and I am very grateful for it but in the same respect there is a substantial amount of pressure that goes along with it. You constantly worry about letting your fans down and how we will continue to keep them coming back but all in all it is worth it and that is why I do it.” Alter Bridge has an enormous fan base around the globe and whether you are on Twitter or Facebook or YouTube, the amount of passion, respect and loyalty the fans show for the band is breathtaking. “The fans have been so good to us over the years and they also expect a lot out of us and all we can do is continue to write music that they will love and we appreciate everything they do.”
Nothing seems to slow down Kennedy and his passion for music outweighs any restrictions in his life. A while back he was diagnosed with tinnitus, which is the hearing of external noise when there is none around. Tinnitus is most commonly caused by excessive noise. As a musician, especially a vocalist, it could be incredibly discouraging to continue to pursue a career in music but for Kennedy, it is not even a slight bump in the road. In fact, he is living proof of how nothing can stand in the way of your dreams if you want it bad enough. “It’s a drag” Kennedy admits. “I have had it for about 15 years now and when I first found out I thought I was done with music. When they told me the diagnosis, I stopped performing and went back to teaching guitar. I was really bummed and it was a really difficult time but after about a year I realized there is just no way I could go on without making music and it’s in my DNA. I think what has been my saving grace is technology has become so advanced and being able use in-ear monitors which artists can use on stage and not have to crank things up to the volume you are accustomed to that can cause further damage to your ears. I have managed to keep it from getting worse and I still hear the ringing but my goal is always just to make sure it never became such a big problem that it would affect the music and to be reasonable about my listening abilities and the volumes we utilize. I am really grateful that I can continue to do it.”
Kennedy is excited to get back out on tour and play more music off of the new album as well as other songs from previous albums. “I think we have kind of just settled into a pattern from a setlist standpoint so it is time we open ourselves up and incorporate some changes and the new music as well. Our fans are so passionate and gracious, we want to give them what they want and have been craving to hear from us” he says. Going as far as doing their own social media which Kennedy feels is important in order to bridge the gap between them and the fans. “I was better at it a few years ago and it started to interfere with songwriting so I still continue to do my own social media but I have slowed it down a bit and learning how to balance both” Kennedy concludes.
With the passion and dedication to inspire fans around the world, Kennedy and the members of Alter Bridge are in it for the long haul. The passion and dedication they have is admirable and with their reciprocation of loyalty to their fans, it is not a surprise as to why Alter Bridge is still here, still going strong and will continually inspire for years to come.