BY MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
It was an unusually warm and sunny day in Spokane, Washington, no rain in sight. Myles Kennedy was taking full advantage, choosing to sit outside on his back porch and enjoy the weather while conducting numerous interviews throughout the day.
“When I get home, I try to power down the best that I can,” he shared via telephone. “I’m spending some time with my dogs, reading and meditating, and just kind of chilling out. I’ve made some mean scrambled eggs, too!”
Days of relaxing for Kennedy are few and far between, but that’s also to his choosing. His respite was brief, because Kennedy was also preparing to get back on the road again for more US dates before heading back over to Europe.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Kennedy said. “Pretty much that entire last run sold out pretty quickly. My manager, Tim (Tournier) and I, we were both kind of scratching our heads going, ‘Wow, this is kind of a big surprise!’ Because we really didn’t know what to expect. This is great; you’ve got no idea, so, so awesome!”
STRIPPED DOWN TO THE SOUL
Released this past March on Napalm Records, Year of the Tiger was produced by Michael “Elvis” Baskette and features Kennedy handling vocals, guitar, banjo, lap steel, bass guitar and mandolin. Other musicians include Zia Uddin on drums and manager Tournier on bass. But be warned: This 12-song solo effort is not Myles Kennedy, lead singer of Alter Bridge, nor the Myles Kennedy of Slash’s outfit. Rather, it is a reflection of the human being who started life out as Myles Richard Bass, (the singer’s given name.)
Fans of Kennedy know that he lost his father, Richard, when he was four-years-old. Kennedy’s father, a devout Christian Scientist, developed appendicitis and, left untreated, unfortunately passed away weeks later. His mother eventually remarried; while Kennedy has had nothing but praise for the man whose surname he adopted, the death of his biological parent formed deep chasms that eluded closure throughout Kennedy’s life. Year of the Tiger is an autobiographical examination of that period in Kennedy’s life and runs the gamut of emotions throughout.
To say the album was cathartic for Kennedy would be an understatement, he said.
“Actually, I think it brought way more closure than I thought it would,” Kennedy stated. “All my life I tried to make sense of it. I talked with people; I tried to work through it through various means. I thought I had pretty much figured it out. But what was interesting was, this really did it. I would have saved a ton of money if I did this a long time ago!”
Kennedy had previously recorded another solo album but chose to shelve it. In a prior interview, Kennedy noted that songs have a shelf-life with him and that since his first solo work was recorded years ago, he felt like he was in a different place creatively.
“Once I decided I wasn’t going to release the first solo record, that would have been November or December of 2016,” Kennedy began, “I started writing what was eventually to become Year of the Tiger. It took me about seven months to write this entire record with one exception, “Love Can Only Heal.” I wrote that back in 2009 and it was originally was going to be released on the solo album that I shelved. I knew that was a strong track and would fit into the context of this record.”
The only thing guiding Kennedy through the entire process was maintaining course and plowing full-speed ahead in the venture.
“Not too long before I actually went in to make the record, someone said to me – and this was something I held onto – to be fearless,” Kennedy shared, “have no apologies when you go into this. If you really want to do something that is truly something that you need to do for yourself, you have to keep little phrases like that in mind to help guide you, because otherwise, you gradually start to change your original vision to try and make somebody else happy as opposed to yourself. That was paramount to me, to make sure that I stay in the moment and to really just tap into what I ultimately needed to express in the purest pure sense as possible.”
Kennedy said that fans that are used to his work in Alter Bridge and Slash might have been in for a surprise when listening to Year of the Tiger for the first time. Musically, it is more blues-based in its approach to Kennedy’s interpretation and style of rock.
“It was something that I really wanted to do, just for me,” he reiterated. “It’s definitely a different approach for me, something that not everybody’s used to in the community, being kind of the realm of Myles Kennedy.”
GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND
That didn’t mean, however, that Year of the Tiger was an easy process. For example, the song Kennedy found the most difficult was “The Great Beyond,” the second track on the record.
‘Suddenly, the ground gives way
The spirit moves down the hall
Fate reveals the dark remains
Of faith in its last resolve’
– “The Great Beyond” by Myles Kennedy
“It basically tells the story of the night my father passed away,” Kennedy shared. “I think trying to visualize that and writing the lyrics was essentially like method acting. You totally go into that place. You become that person, I’m expressing the narrative. So I don’t think I was aware of what I was about to embark on. I remember at one point, my wife, she asked me if I really knew what I was doing because she was starting to see changes in me, seeing how it was affecting me. I told her, no, I have to do this. This is necessary. It’s very important.”
Kennedy said he then “just wrote it out.”
“I feel like I definitely learned a lot about how the mind works, how the brain works,” he continued. “You take something like that experience and you put it away, like on a shelf. Then you decide to pull it down and really explore it years after the situation happened, you uncork the memories. I was really surprised with how much those emotions still affected me. It was rather enlightening in a sense.”
COCA-COLA CLASSIC AND THE BRAND
As noted, Kennedy knew he was taking a chance with Year of the Tiger.
“I was growing up in the 1980s,” he said. “I’ll never forget when Coca-Cola changed the ingredients. They messed with it; everybody got so upset and worked up! People pretty much hated the ‘new’ drink the company introduced. They were forced to go back to what became Coca-Cola Classic. If you have a brand, people associate you with something you generally shouldn’t mess with if it’s working. For me, that’s Alter Bridge. And Alter Bridge has been working for 15 years now!”
While Kennedy never wavered in his decision to release his solo album, there were times when his “fearless” aspect would dissolve a little bit and he fully realized what he was readying to jump into.
“It was probably around December,” Kennedy remembered. “The record had been recorded and the single was going to be released soon. And I was like, ‘Oh, man! It’s really easy to just sit there in your little studio working away, and you’re going to do this for you, you’re going to be fearless, no apologies. OH, MYLES, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!’”
But don’t forget Diet Coke, Myles. People whole-heartedly embrace that to this day.
“Yes, like Diet Coke, people embraced my solo effort and gave it a chance,” Kennedy laughed. “Again, I felt like this was my opportunity to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. It was very necessary for me as an artist. I just had to be real with myself and say, you know what? People might not get it and they might not like it. Okay, that’s fine. Because I really needed to do this for me. That meant a tremendous amount to me and I am lucky to have such incredible fans.”
At the time of the interview, Kennedy had just finished vocals for Slash’s new album, which he said he expected to be released later this year. Touring will commence in September or October. Alter Bridge is next for 2019. And, another solo album is currently being thought about, keeping it in the vein stylistically of Year of the Tiger.
“Narrative is crucial to me,” Kennedy stated. “The lyrics are the most important in the world, because you can really hear what is being said. It has to be something honest and from the heart. I always try to do that regardless, whatever environment I happen to be in. Hopefully I will find some sort of inspiration. Generally, when I get off the road, I’m going to have an acoustic guitar in my hand, writing. I’ll always be trying to evolve as a musician.”
COPYRIGHT 2018 • THE SYMPHONY OF ROCK • ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Fantastic interview! Great performer and very, very talented! A no-nonsense, self aware writer that writes and performs from his heart and thoughts!!
Article writer captures the true Myles Kennedy and this true mindset of creativity!
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