Interview and Photos by: Robert Cavuoto
Myles Kennedy who released his successful solo CD, Year of the Tiger, in March 2018 is embarking on another solo tour. This run of 21 shows will start on November 13th in Chicago, IL. and take him across much of the U.S.
During his past summer tour, Myles’s focus was primarily on playing a mix of stripped-down acoustic songs from his Year of the Tiger CD, Alter Bridge, Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, as well as the Mayfield Four. This time around he is changing things up a bit and will bring two of his friends along to give the show more of an electric vibe with Zia Uddin on drums and Tim Tournier on bass.
Year of the Tiger is his critically acclimated concept CD that touched upon the loss of his father when he was four years old. It’s an emotional story that required a musical approach different from the hard rock that has defined his arena-filling career.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Myles about his upcoming solo tour, what fans can expect, next steps for Slash as a band, and gives us the inside scoop on how the new Alter Bridge CD is coming along. Dates and tickets for his solo shows can be obtained here: https://myleskennedy.com/
Robert Cavuoto: Year of the Tiger has been out for eight months, how do you feel it’s been received by fans?
Myles Kennedy: Surprising well. I wasn’t sure what to expect because it was a departure from what people primarily know me for; being a hard rock vocalist in the context of riff-based music. I’ve really been blown away and very grateful that fans gave this CD a chance. It has been a very positive thing.
Robert Cavuoto: I saw some videos of you on YouTube from your solo tour in the summer and the performances came across as very intimate and personal.
Myles Kennedy: That’s the beauty of taking these songs and stripping them down to simplify everything so it removes any barriers between you and the audience. The overall experience is very different, and it is very intimate. There is this thing that happens between an artist and audience when you do something like that. There are more talking in-between songs and a rapport develops. Initially, I wasn’t sure how that was going to be as its one thing to make an acoustic record and another to step out and play a show that was primarily acoustic. Though the next tour I’m about to embark on will have a more of an electric vibe. Those tours were great with some nice learning experiences behind them.
Robert Cavuoto: Have you learned something that you can apply to be a front man with Alter Bridge and Slash?
Myles Kennedy: The more time I spend on stage doing this day-after-day, the more I realize how important it is just to relax and enjoy it. To stay present and at the moment because if you’re not, it becomes very apparent to the audience and they can sense it. If you’re tense and stressed about something, it will manifest and not in a good way to the show. My philosophy as I get older is to stay in the present, enjoy it, and have fun. No stress that’s the key [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: Speaking of no stress, what is it like to go out on stage with just a guitar; is it liberating or scary compared to performing with one of your other bands?
Myles Kennedy: In some ways, it’s liberating because I did so much of it back in the day coming up in the music world in Spokane. It felt really natural and what I like about it is there is a certain level where you can improvise the arrangements and experiment while not having to hold to a certain arrangement. I like it because it keeps it interesting for me and I think the audience can sense that. It’s a little bit looser which is a good thing too.
Robert Cavuoto: You mentioned earlier that you are going to approach this tour a little differently from your first tour, what can fans expect?
Myles Kennedy: I’m taking my band with me; these are the guys/rhythm section who played on the Year of the Tiger. I have Zia Uddin on drums, we have played together off and on for the last 30 years and Tim Tournier on bass who did a great job on the CD. It will be a little power trio and we will approach the songs differently.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about that dichotomy of playing in clubs or bars as an up-and-coming artist to now packing venues performing your solo material?
Myles Kennedy: That’s a great point. When I was coming up playing coffee shops, I’d be set up in the corner; people were drinking their coffee, and not really paying attention. I think one of the benefits after years of doing this is having a catalog of songs that people know you for; songs they are coming to hear you play. They are more engaged which is actually a nice feeling compared to someone screaming in the middle of your song how their latte is not hot enough! [Laughing]
Robert Cavuoto: You have a great rapport when speaking to your audiences at your solo shows, is that something you look to eventually do more with Slash and Alter Bridge?
Myles Kennedy: That’s interesting, I just did a tour with Slash and the Conspirators and I don’t talk nearly as much in that world as on a solo run. I think it has something to do with the volume at the show. When we are playing really loud and I have my ear monitors in; I feel a little detached from the audience so I don’t feel comfortable just yapping away [laughing]. There are so many songs to play in the Slash world and he loves to play so in that environment I think it’s better to stay focused on the music because it’s more appropriate.
Robert Cavuoto: You’ve performed some deep tracks from one of your first bands, the Mayfield Four. What has been the reaction to those songs by the hardcore fans?
Myles Kennedy: They are some hardcore fans in the crowd that know my songs as far back as the Citizen Swing days. It blows my mind, that they know them because those songs go back 30 years. We didn’t make enough music to have a big presence on the internet for people to be familiar with the tunes. But playing a song like “White Flag” or “Mars Hotel” you can see the audience gets pretty excited to hear them and sings along. They aren’t getting the same reaction as “Starlight” or “Watch over You” as those songs have reached many more people. It was really rewarding for me because; I thought for a period of time those Mayfield Four records were going to get totally lost and no one would discover them. I’m proud as a writer of that period in my life as it was so authentic and coming from an honest place. Was I best the writer in the world? No, but it was honest. It’s nice to see people discovering it.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the decision process and criteria of picking a Slash or Alter Bridge song to include in your solo show?
Myles Kennedy: When I embark on a solo tour, I spend about four weeks in my little studio just experimenting with different tracks to see what would work. There were definitely some obvious choices, a song like “Starlight” defiantly lent itself to the acoustic environment, and it felt right. You experiment and use your own internal filter on whether or not it will be appropriate in the set.
Robert Cavuoto: Have you ever been in a live situation when a great studio track is just not working or resonating with the audience and if so, how do you handle?
Myles Kennedy: Yes, when you have been doing it long enough and have an extensive catalog to pull from it’s a game changer. If something isn’t working you pull it out and put something back in its place. I remember early on, with the Mayfield Four and we only had one record to tour on. If one song wasn’t working, you were kind of screwed! I love having the luxury of having all these great songs to pull from. It’s the same with any of the entities I’m a part of.
Robert Cavuoto: You finished a tour with Alter Bridge in 2017, did a solo tour the summer of 2018, put out Living the Dream CD with Slash which was backed by a tour, and now you are back out for more solo shows; why not take a break?
Myles Kennedy: I look at life as we only have 25,000-26,000 days on this planet, [laughing] that’s the number I’ve heard. I figure to use as many of those days as I can, not just making music and seeing the world but to make people happy. The longer I stay in this business, it’s not just about you but it’s about your responsibility to make other human-beings happy. That certainly helps keep me motivated to continue to make music and tour. With that said I have responsibilities at home as I have a wonderful wife and realizing the time is short. I only have a finite amount of time we have with each other, and I’m aware of that as well. In the next couple of years, I’ll try and carve out more windows of time to bet home with my wife and dogs. Maybe I’ll try and clone myself [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: You also put out an Alter Bridge live CD/DVD earlier this year with the Parallax Orchestra from Royal Albert Hall in London. Was that a lot of work for you and Mark in arranging the orchestral parts?
Myles Kennedy: Actually we had arrangers who did it. They did an amazing job, and we didn’t have to do anything but show up and play. That was a testament to their terrific skills. Those guys are total professionals, and it was inspiring to see how effortless it went down on their end. To be totally honest with you, I was more worried about us screwing it up. We had these classy professionals with these four rock idiots possibly ruining it. [Laughing] We were afraid to rain on their parade. We rehearsed those songs just once with the orchestra. We had two days prior to the first performance and ran through each song only one time. They would make some changes on their end where needed. I’m the type of guy that will rehearse and rehearse for a tour, and they knocked it out of the park. It was pretty impressive to me.
Robert Cavuoto: I saw you with Slash on October 1st in Montclair. Tickets were sold out weeks before the show, and the theater was packed. Do you think the band has outgrown theaters and is ready to make the next leap and if so what is that next leap?
Myles Kennedy: I like playing theaters. The idea of graduating to a bigger venue is exciting on one hand because there is momentum and on the other hand playing theaters is such a nice environment and easy to connect with most of the people in the room. When you get bigger than that you are always concerned about the production so that we guy way in the back row can still feel the show. It’s a totally different approach. I will say that we were all pretty much blown away how well this last tour was received. We had been away for a little while and wasn’t sure if people would still care. We were all pleasantly surprised on how that went.
Robert Cavuoto: Is there a benefit to headlining theaters verse a co-headlining tour with another band?
Myles Kennedy: Co-headlining shows is similar to playing festivals. You have your pocket of fans and then have another group of people who you have to win over. It’s a different vibe, and sometimes it’s not easy. That challenge can be a good thing and help elevate your game.
Robert Cavuoto: When we spoke in January, you said Alter Bridge would be getting together for a new CD in 2019. I that still the case and can you give us an update on its progress?
Myles Kennedy: That’s still the plan. In fact, after I finish with the press today, I’ll get back to writing. Mark Tremonti has been doing the same thing. We will reconvene in April and make a record. There are a whole bunch of ideas being thrown around, it’s pretty exciting stuff. There is too early to tell what the vibe is just yet or what will make the cut. Mark and I tend to come up with a lot of ideas that we throw up against the wall to see what will stick. The songs we pick will decide the mood of the record and we won’t know that until April.
Robert Cavuoto: One of my favorite songs you wrote with Slash is “30 Years to Life,” can you tell me about the inspiration behind it as it is so intense and unique.
Myles Kennedy: Thank you, some of it was based from where I live in the world. I think it was inspired by a story I heard pertaining to a hate crime that came out of the Portland area. There was a fair amount of that thing going on when I was growing up in the Pacific Northwest. There were these people who were not doing such a great thing and they set up camp in the Pacific Northwest. So that was the inspiration.