Myles Kennedy is a name, majority connects with Alter Bridge and for the rest, it is enough to say: „That guy from Slash“. He built up respect on the music scene gradually and relied mainly on his guts. In the meantime he might have declined some prestigious offers and puts his own work under severe criticism, but his patient and conscientious journey was proven right. Solo debut called Year of the Tiger is actually a solo record number two, as he didn’t feel right about the first wave of songs and rather spontaneously wrote a fresh material. He might be reaching his fifties soon, but he is finally fulfilling his dreams and making peace with his past. In this front cover interview we spoke not only about the background of the new album, but also about meditation, unique guitars and upcoming album with Slash.
Interview came out as a front cover article in July 2018 issue of Czech magazine Muzikus.
How did the solo shows in Europe go so far?
They exceeded my expectations. I was wondering how they are going to be received, as the whole thing is so stripped down. There were couple of acoustic shows in my past, but nothing as intensive. I had so much fun and the overall feeling is liberating in a sense. Every night is kind of different, informal and the established dynamic with the audience is amazing. It’s a very rewarding experience. I was just talking to Tremonti the other day about it. We both agreed you never really know how it’s gonna go, until you set out to do something different.
I am glad you are saying this, as I was talking recently about the challenges of a solo career with Blues Pills’s guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, who is supporting you on upcoming European tour. Why did you decide to pick him?
I believe he is a good fit. I am always trying to have something which compliments what I do and I am thrilled to be touring with him. It’s going to be great.
Dorian Sorriaux on upcoming tour with Myles Kennedy:
I’m extremely happy to go on tour in July opening for Myles Kennedy. Blues Pills opened for Alter Bridge a couple times and we had a great time and the vibe was wonderful. I like the Year of the Tiger record and I’m really happy that I’ll be playing some of my songs before Myles comes up on stage and blow people’s mind!
Before our interview I watched that great Mini Documentary Year of the Tiger 1974 you did for the support on your new album. It covers the background of the album and your overall career really well. On the other hand, did I understand correctly, Year of the Tiger is actually your solo album number two, as you didn’t feel right about the first collection of songs?
You are correct. The first record had been completed about two or three years ago and I invested a lot of energy in that process. However, things have changed for me as far as where my headspace was as an artist. I feel the original power of the songs has expired, in the way they were captured and I felt like releasing these songs wouldn’t be appropriate. It was a tough decision to make, as I invested in it a lot of time, money and everything else that goes into releasing a record. I decided to start over and get myself adequate time to do it. Eventually it all came together as I hoped. There is handful of good songs on the first record and I feel I might revisit them one day.
Second thing that really surprised me is the overall mood of your album. I follow you for years and I thought I am familiar with your taste within heavy rock. But you coming out with mature blues/country album was positive shock. There were hints as live cover of Travelling Riverside Blues on Alter Bridge DVD Live in Amsterdam, but where did you gather a taste for these genres?
Even as a kid I remember hearing blues and country music and gravitating towards certain artists, whether it was B. B. King or Willie Nelson. I cannot say I was purely a hard rock kid, as I appreciate those artists as well. Over the years, I have discovered so many interesting artists and absorbed what was around me. Obviously, you are what you eat when it comes to art. (Laugh) So, if you listen to a certain artist a lot, it will kind of become part of your musical DNA. Year of the Tiger was my chance to let this part of my soul out. I am very lucky for having Alter Bridge and Slash and The Conspirators to get my hard rock side out, but this felt as appropriate space to explore another genre.
You are what you eat, when it comes to art
I am always happy to hear from some rock or metal artist (recently it was also Silenoz from Dimmu Borgir), he or she loves blues and country music. I would like to add into our conversation few other names and please let me know, if they fit into your taste: Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Kris Kristofferson.
These are some of the artists I deeply respect. They are such important characters, not only within country music landscape, but also as icons of United States. I don’t live in a country anymore (laugh), but I lived on a farm as a kid and I was exposed to those artists. I remember learning about Willie Nelson and Hank Williams from my cousins. Obviously also Johnny Cash, as he is such an iconic and important figure.
I am glad you are mentioning life outside of the city, as I was enjoying your new album while I was in the middle of the career change and decided to travel as much as possible. I really enjoyed going around my home country to feel daily challenges of a working class and poorer people. Let say a track called Blind Faith always came up when I was going around some old factory. Did you experience some inspirational travels during the writing process?
Yeah. I mean, I am always traveling or touring. You do get influenced and learn a lot about different regions. It all gets reflected in my songs. In conjunction with what we were talking about earlier; what you listen to, will influence you. But your surroundings will influence you as well. I think it’s really important as it will shape you creatively. It didn’t help me not only to grow as an artist, but also as a human being, to see how people live. It makes me appreciate what I have. I also have better understanding of some other regions, which I haven’t understand before and their view of the world. It helps me to build better sense of understanding and not to be as judgmental.
Travelling helped me to grow as an artist, but also as a human being. To see how people live makes me appreciate what I have.
Rock’n’Roll Meditation 101
Another tool for personal growth can be a meditation. I started practicing it two years ago and I often get positive feedback from many other artists including let say Beth Hart. What about you?
Well, I can tell you that meditation had a profound effect on me just in a last year. I really started getting into it and some of the songs on the Year of the Tiger illustrate anxieties I was dealing with. Especially tracks as Haunted by Design and Devil on the Wall. I discovered mediation techniques which are very simple and I try to keep it that way. (Laugh) I am focusing on the breath and I do it every day. Honestly, it made a massive difference within my overall mental outlook. I love it! I’m glad to hear, you do that as well. It’s really powerful tool, next to eating right and exercising.
Meditation made a massive difference within my overall mental outlook. I love it!
Big respect, if you manage to meditate every day. Let say Joe Duplantier from Gojira was another person, who told me he loves meditation, but we both agreed, it’s really hard to maintain daily routine. Therefore I went recently for a meditation weekend, where full day schedules helped me to establish it. Highly recommend.
That sounds great! Yeah, it’s on my list of things I would like to try when it comes to meditation.
Vintage & Modern Sound
You have mainly relied on two vintage guitars on the new album. Could you please present them to us?
First of all, the National Resonator from the early thirties is a guitar I picked up years ago, while I was in New York. It just kind of called my name. (Laugh) I knew this model well, as one of my idols, Chris Whitley, was a massive influence. The gentlemen, who sold it me named Zack, was a friend of Chris and he shared some great stories with. It just felt, it was meant to be. That guitar was very important in the writing of this record. Let say track Blind Fate was written on that guitar. However I wrote even more songs on 1944 Gibson J-45. It was made in a period when women made those guitars because men were fighting in the war. So they have very interesting story. I tell you, it is an incredible guitar. It just sounds so good. It has very inspiring tone and as soon as you pick it up, you kind of feel those creative juices flowing.
Were there some other guitars that supported you during the writing process?
Another guitar that I used was 1945 D21 Martin that I recently borrowed from a friend. He had it for about ten years and I love the sound of that guitar. I knew it will sound great on this record, so I borrowed it. But after the whole thing was over, he sold it to me. Now I can use it on records from this point forward. I also needed an electric guitar. Not for high gain, but for certain textures as simple leads or solos on Haunted by Design and Devil on the Wall. Therefore I used newer Gretsch Duane Eddy, as it has really unique Gretsch sound. As a kid growing up I was listening to a fair amount of Stray Cats on the radio and great guitar playing of Brian Setzer.
During the past couple of months I played your new album to a number of my friends from various music backgrounds. I was glad to see everybody majority loved it and especially complimented your voice. Therefore I would like to play one track of this album to my guests at Music for the Blind sessions, where I present music to visually handicapped in Prague once a month. Which song would you recommend me to play?
Oh wow, that’s a great question. That’s a really a great question. Go for One Fine Day. I think it has such an optimistic vibe in the end as the last song. In overall it is quite dark record but that song brings certain amount of optimism and I think that can be useful in this world. Yeah, that would be my pick.
Mysterious Man In A Hat
If we get back into the past a bit, I would like to ask you, to tell us the story how you joined Slash at the first place. It is more than clear you always follow your gut. But I guess, offer from Slash must have been an offer you can’t refuse and gut followed afterwards.
(Laugh) Interestingly enough, the very first time I talked to Slash was briefly in 2002 when they were looking for singers for Velvet Revolver. It was before they got in the contact with Scott Weiland. He sent me a demo to put vocals on. I remember I was working two weeks on it and suddenly the same thing happened, as with my first solo record. I listened to what I brought to the mix and my gut told me, I am not ready for this at this point of my career. So I respectfully declined. It is interesting nearly eight years later he reached out again and sent me a demo for his first solo record. It resulted in a track called Starlight, where my gut felt appropriate. When we finished it, we started talking about few live shows and possible future cooperation. It was very slow evolution. It was truly not as if we decided to do a world tour and a full album within the first day. Everything evolved naturally and my gut told me it was the right step forward. So I guess, everything has it’s time.
In that context, please tell us what does your gut tell you about the new album with Slash you just finished?
It definitely has elements of the last few records. I think we established a specific sound and unique vibe. We moved it one step forward and I can’t wait to get it out there and tour some of these tracks. We finished the whole thing really quickly. There was fair amount of songs which we started writing few years ago. That’s one of the reasons we wrote the album relatively quickly. I believe it all ended up nicely.
If I understood correctly, Michael “Elvis” Baskett was taking care of the production. So glad to see you relied on him, not only with Slash again but also on your solo record.
Elvis is amazing. I am incredibly grateful I get to make records with him. He is for me one the best rock producers in the world. He is a huge part of it.
Glad to hear that. Myles, thank you for another cool interview. All the best on the upcoming European tour and future activities with Slash and Alter Bridge. Have a nice day.
Thank you. Pleasure talking to you again as well. Take care