Interview and Live Photos by Robert Cavuoto
Feature Image Photo by: Julius Richardson
Myles Kennedy will be releasing his highly anticipated sophomore CD, Ides of March, on May 14th via Napalm Records.
Myles Kennedy is the powerhouse vocalist for both Alter Bridge and Slash and the Conspirators. His double duty in two of the world’s most influential bands has helped cement his reputation as a rock icon for our generation!
Building on the success of his 2018 solo CD, Year of the Tiger, Myles is creatively on fire with Ides of March. He is armed with a collection of stories told with raw emotion and captivating vocals. A reflection of what is going on in the world with a glimmer of hope and optimism. The CD is colored by his love of music, capturing a musical approach that is unique, experimental, and accessible but also intense and intimate. Above all, the CD taken as a whole reveals a man with an uncompromising resolve to connect with his audience.
Ides of March is a testament to his passionate spirit of delivering these finely crafted songs. Stand-out tracks include the heartfelt composition “Moonshot” and the emotionally powerful title track “Ides of March.” Eleven tracks in total that offer fans plenty of musical flavors which all flow together seamlessly. Pre-Order Here: https://smarturl.it/MK-TheIdesOfMarch
I spoke with Myles to talk about his sophomore solo CD, its meaning, how it compares musically to Year of the Tiger, and how his optimistic spirit keeps him moving forward.
Robert Cavuoto: Every time we talk about a new release, you are just about to embark on a tour to support it. What is it like not to go out and support this release on tour?
Myles Kennedy: It’s gonna happen; I’m trying to stay optimistic. It just a matter to what degree as far as a guy with a guitar-playing socially distanced shows, unless we can figure out some way of facilitating a full-band approach. I do believe by next year; there should be more shows.
Robert Cavuoto: After a decade of managing the touring cycle for two major bands plus a solo tour, this must be alien to you?
Myles Kennedy: Yeah, it’s a little alien, but it was welcome. It was nice to power down from the touring side of things and that frantic pace. The idea of waking up in my bed for multiple days in a row has spoiled me [laughing]. So much so that I’m trying to find a way to do that a little more in the future, buts it’s been nice. I do miss performing and the fans tremendously.
Robert Cavuoto: At what point during this pandemic did you unpack your bags, realizing that you’re not going anywhere?
Myles Kennedy: [Laughing] They still aren’t unpacked! I have one suitcase always ready to go. I learned that from Slash. He told way back in the Guns day that he always had a suitcase ready to go. I thought it was a good idea because packing is a pain in the ass.
Robert Cavuoto: I’m enjoying the Ides of March CD as the songs are very atmospheric and expressive. The emphasis seems to be on your voice and the importance of your telling a lyrical story. How important is it for your lyrical story to be heard and not lost or overlooked by multilayered instrumentation?
Myles Kennedy: That’s an interesting point because it is a singer who is putting out a solo record. With that said, I was listening to one of the tracks the other day, as I normally don’t spend a lot of time listening to what I have done in the past. I’m always looking forward. For whatever reason, I too noticed the vocals were upfront, that you could hear every word. Elvis Baskette mixed it in a way that was for a singer’s solo record, so why wouldn’t you do that rather than sticking it back in the mix with a wall of guitars? Interestingly, this record is more of a guitar record than Year of the Tiger from a technical standpoint. It was important to me to balance those two things. This is probably my most guitar-centric record to date as a solo record, even back to the Mayfield Four days. With that said, if you are going to put the vocals out front, you want to make sure the performance is at certain levels, and the narrative of the lyrics is going to touch people in a way rather than just words that rhythm with no meaning. For me, lyric writing is always the hardest part. The fun part is writing the music and the melodies and arrangement. When it comes time to tell the story, it’s the biggest challenge in the entire process.
Robert Cavuoto: You’re a tremendous lyricist and storyteller who can make people feel a specific emotion like on “Love Rain Down.” When did you realize that you had a gift for that?
Myles Kennedy: It was something I was always insecure about. I didn’t know if I had that ability until one day, my Mom read one of my lyrics. It was a really sad story of a girl I went to high school with who was murdered while working at a Burger King. It was really terrible and affected me. It was one of the first times I really tried to write something. My Mom saw it when she came to visit me and made a comment that really stuck with me to this day. She said, “You have a lot of good stuff going on in there!” while pointing at my heart. I was taken back and told her how much that meant to me. It gave me the confidence to explore that more. To not be afraid of how I was feeling and how I was conveying it. I felt I now have my Mother’s approval to keep trying to build that skill [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: How autobiographical did you get with this CD compared to Year of the Tiger?
Myles Kennedy: These songs were more a reflection on the state of the world where Year of the Tiger was a reflection of my family and me. That CD came from a different place. This was still a very challenging record to write. I like everyone else, though there was so much uncertainty in the world. So many questions, and when you are writing about that constantly, you go down a rabbit hole as it can be very interesting what it can do to your psyche. As you continue to dig deeper and deeper, like on “Ides of March,” you can hear the concern in that narrative. There is a genuine fear of where things were going while trying to maintain a certain level of optimism. Balancing that is very important to me.
Robert Cavuoto: “Moonshot” is one of my favorite tracks on the CD. I can see that fitting on an Alter Bridge CD. Can you provide some insights into its creation?
Myles Kennedy: That song is an odd duck. It was the very first song that was written and completed during the isolation and locked down. It was actually an exercise to get some new software/hardware up and running in my studio. I picked up a Telecaster and came up with that initial hook. I dug it and wrote the song around it. It was written and recorded in one afternoon. I didn’t really think much of it. It’s a song reflecting on what was going on at the time from a lyrical standpoint. Because it was written so quickly, I kind of wrote it off. Then my wife heard me playing it, and she started singing the chorus. She always spoofs on me; she was not trying to sing it perfectly as she was poking fun at me. That means it can carry some weight because there is a hook there. I’m like, okay, that is something that is translating. I appreciate hearing that you like it as it was a dark horse.
Robert Cavuoto: It must be odd to hear that fan’s favorite track was the one that was a test drive song that almost didn’t make the record.
Myles Kennedy: Yeah, but it’s great! As a songwriter, you tend to get too locked into songs that you spend tons of time on, like “Ides of March,” which took six months to complete! Then you have “Moonshot,” which took all of one afternoon, including recording it. I recall a story about the song “I Alone” by the band Live in the 90s. It was an amazing song off their record, Throwing Copper. It was the reason The Mayfield Four used Jerry Harrison to produce our first record. I think Jerry told me that song was written very quickly, and it turned out to be the most important song on that album which sold millions of records. Sometimes the best ones are the ones that you are not overthinking.
Robert Cavuoto: What song off this CD would say came to you like a gift?
Myles Kennedy: That would be one. I generally look at the ones I like as gifts. You really don’t know where they came from. “Ides of March” falls into that category where it came in a dream. That first verse, “We’ll just beyond the blue horizon, we see the clouds begin to form,” not so much the lyrics, but the melody and chord progression was something that came to me in a dream. Those are important ones.
Robert Cavuoto: Was there ever a consideration to releasing this CD on the actual Ides of March?
Myles Kennedy: There was, but we didn’t realize it until it was too late. My manager and I were talking about the release, and the idea centered around it. It was just so obvious to release it in the middle of March. We wouldn’t have had ample time to set the record up and get it rolling. Maybe the next CD will be called New Year’s Day or Arbor Day [laughing]!
Robert Cavuoto: The last time I saw Alter Bridge was in New York City in September 2019. You were pretty sick, yet you still gave it your all. In those situations, does the adrenaline take over and power you through?
Myles Kennedy: I remember that night. If I was to critic my overall career struggles for as long as I can remember, I get sick pretty easily. I don’t know why that is; it’s just the way my body has cursed me [laughing]. I’ve learned to adapt. I was able to skate through that show, but by the next night or night after that, when we were in Philadelphia, my voice totally went out. There was nothing I could do other than to have the crowd sing the songs. I can count on one hand how many times that has happened. I tend to get respiratory infections at least once a tour which I’ve learned to dance around it. The thing for me is not to get so crestfallen that the audience knows that I’m bummed. People don’t want to see a “grumpy-singer-guy” who is bummed because he can’t hit the notes because he is ill [laughing]. They want to see the guy powering through it. People get it; everybody gets sick. They want to see you man-up or woman-up and do your best. That is what I learned to do. I hate to cancel shows and hate to let people down. I had it happen to me where a band was supposed to come through town, and they canceled for whatever reason. It such a bummer that I don’t want to let our fans down.
Robert Cavuoto: I have seen Alter Bridge a few times over the years and can’t help notice your two microphone stations. One of them has your pedal board set up, while the other is just a microphone stand. I was impressed that you manage all your own effects. Is that something you enjoy doing rather than having a guitar tech handle so you can focus on singing?
Myles Kennedy: I guess that is all I have ever known. With Slash, his tech switches the effects for him. I look at that and thought it’s really nice; what a great idea. Since I have been doing it for over thirty years, it’s all I know. Another reason would be that Brian Marshall and I share the same tech, so to tune the basses, tune the guitars, and handle my effects changes is a pretty tall order. On “Blackbird,” I was in the process of hitting a really difficult passage vocally, guitar-wise, and trying to hit a pedal – it was like trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. It was just too much for me. The next day I asked the tech if he could hit the switch on just that part. It made my job a lot easier. Maybe as time goes on, I’ll coerce the tech to do more of the switches for me.
Robert Cavuoto: What is the reason for having the two microphone stations on stage?
Myles Kennedy: There are songs where my rhythm tone sounds fine, and I don’t need to use any effects. Initially, the idea of having a microphone stage right is because Mark used to be really loud! It helped keep out the stage noise and make it easier for the front-of-house guy to mix. Having the mic in the middle is a good option. I found that I really like having the mic on the side of the stage [laughing]. I just enjoy being there in my little section, pressing my buttons on the floor.
Robert Cavuoto: Can you give us an update on the next Slash and Alter Bridge CDs?
Myles Kennedy: With the next Slash and the Conspirators CD, lots of songs are written and complete; it’s going to be a cool record. With Alter Bridge, we have a lot of work to do [laughing]. We have to write a full record; Mark and I need to get rolling. I have a few things that I have stumbled on that would work in that realm. He has stuff as well. We will hopefully get that knocked out as well.
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