Myles Kennedy and Slash have done three albums together. Kennedy played rhythm guitar on Apocalyptic Love, but focused on vocals only for World on Fire and Living the Dream. Photo by Ken Settle

 

Myles Kennedy: “Guitar Is Still My First Love”

Myles Kennedy, the lead singer in Alter Bridge, sings on Slash’s solo releases as well. But vocals are secondary to his main focus, which is guitar playing. Because of that, he is able to give us a guitarist’s insider perspective into the making of Living the Dream.

You don’t play guitar in this band. Have you ever?
I did play on the Apocalyptic Love record. I played rhythm guitar parts on that. But since then, I just focus on the vocals, which has actually been really liberating in a lot of ways, because it allows me to focus solely on the melodies and lyrics. Between Alter Bridge and now solo stuff and this, time is definitely finite. It helps me have time to focus on certain aspects of the songs.

Do you miss not having a guitar onstage with you?
Absolutely. I mean [laughs], I kind of consider myself a guitar player first, singer second. Guitar is still my first love. I’m staring at a guitar right now. I’m probably going to play for the rest of the afternoon. It’s what I love.

Did you use your guitar for the writing for this album? Is it part of the demo process and writing?
No. You know, Slash pretty much has the music ready to go. Then he sends it to me and I come up with the melodies and the lyrics from that point forward. Occasionally, there'll be a song, like the first single, “Driving Rain.” I found this old email from about three years ago; he sent me what was the genesis of the music. That’s an example of where I actually came up with the chord progression and I did integrate a guitar, just for the sake of the melody, when the chorus hits. I was like, “Let’s try these chords. Have these chords in mind to sing the melody.” I sent it back to him and he was like, “Cool, we’ll put that in.” But other than that, 95 percent of it is what he comes up with and then I put the melodies on top.

Have you learned different things about Slash’s style or guitar playing just from working with him?
Yeah. I actually really love to watch Slash play and it’s cool. Sometimes he gets so lost in the moment and he’ll turn around and be facing the drummer and I, Brent and I, and I don’t even know if he knows that he’s not facing the crowd. I’m like, “Cool, I get my own show here.” His hands are like literally two feet in front of me. As I watch him weave around the neck, what I notice is his strength. You can tell, he’s got very strong hands. He has such command of the instrument. What I love about Slash’s playing is he has an incredible amount of technique, but he integrates so much soul and so much fire and passion, the passion of a blues player, and on top of that he has this very unique technique. I think that’s what makes him such an anomaly and it’s really special.

You can hear from Appetite until now that there’s a real evolution in his playing. Does he practice?
Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who has the need and desire to play like that guy. He has to be playing. He’s got such passion for it. It’s very inspiring for me to see that. Obviously, with the amount of success that he’s had, he doesn’t have to do this. If he wants, he can go hang out at the beach somewhere. But he has to play. It’s in his DNA and I think it’s what makes him happiest.

Do you bring a guitar on tour?
Absolutely [laughs]. I’m miserable without one. I tried that a few times, especially on the first few tours with Slash, where there was a lot of flying. We went to Japan, China, wherever, and I thought, “Do I really want to cart a guitar around the whole time, from hotel room to hotel room, and take it on the plane?” I learned my lesson. I went about half mad not having that. By the time I’d get to the room I’d be climbing the walls, like, what am I going to do with myself? I’ve got to have a guitar with me all the time.

What do you work on?
I do a lot of writing. Right now, I’m preparing the next Alter Bridge record. Mark [Tremonti] and I have been exchanging ideas. But I’m also always trying to learn new tricks. With things like YouTube and whatever else you can find online, I try and learn new things. I was going through a Danny Gatton phase recently—trying to learn a few of his licks. Trying to incorporate whatever other players have into my vocabulary to use, especially in improvisational settings.

Do you recommend people take lessons and learn theory?
I do. I think it was a quote I saw by Billy Sheehan a long time ago. He said, “You’ve got to know the rules before you can break them.” I like that. I studied. I actually took two years of music school after I graduated from high school, at community college, and learned theory and even learned how to arrange for big bands. I learned a lot, especially about the jazz approach to theory. In a lot of ways, it’s come in useful. It is nice knowing that I’ve got that knowledge in my hip pocket if I need it. It is nice to touch on once in a while.