Music is all Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy has really ever known. He wrote his first song with a friend in a garage when he was 15 and never looked back.
At first Kennedy didn’t recognize his path to music, but after hearing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Van Halen’s “Eruption” in the same day, he knew it was going to be part of his life in some fashion. But as a young practical mind, he was exploring ideas and careers in music education or guitar teaching, he never knew he’d end becoming a recording artist.
“It’s just a deep love of creating,” Kennedy told American Songwriter about his dedication to music. “I’m discovering especially during the pandemic how much all that means to me and how much I need it to be happy. A lot of people look at the bands I’m in and the solo stuff and ask ‘why?’ because it seems overkill, but for me it’s oxygen, the creative process is what gets me up in the morning. When I get out of bed in the morning, the first thing I do is grab a guitar and it’s all I’ve known for decades. I have no intention of slowing down. I just feel grateful because I have a lot of friends who get to a certain point where they get burned out and I don’t look at it that way. I’m just lucky to create and I’ll do it as long as people are listening.”
Kennedy’s hunger for collaboration and music has fueled his career over the last few decades, allowing him in Slash and the Conspirators, The Mayfield Four and his most popular venture, Alter Bridge. He has gravitated to tour lifestyle and adapted better than most musicians. So when he wasn’t able to tour and expel that creative energy this year, he did what he could to keep busy and released a live Alter Bridge EP, Walk The Sky 2.0, out today featuring cuts from Alter Bridge’s Walk The Sky tour plus one new song, titled “Last Rites.”
“’Last Rites’ was something we started when putting together Walk The Sky and we had a lot of songs that Mark (Tremonti) and I were kind of on the fence about,” Kennedy said. “There was something about that song that drew us to complete it after the pandemic hit. A lot of it was tracked prior, but we still had a lot to do with it and I wanted to completely re-write the melody and lyrics. I was able to knock out my parts at home and Mark changed his parts in Orlando. It’s definitely inspired by everything that’s happened in the last eight months, but it’s just ambiguous enough, especially with the word ‘rites’, which can come across differently depending on spelling.”
In his early days, Kennedy wrote more straight-forwardly and revealed a lot to his listeners. But over the years his aim to write ambiguous lyrics has become essential to his songwriting approach. And it lends itself well to his collaboration preferences and allows for easy insertion into any song while still carrying relevance.
“It’s paramount for me now,” Kennedy said. “Early on as a writer I was more direct, and I realize that it kind of boxes in the song. So, I developed the ability to write songs with dual meaning depending on what someone is feeling, and I find that more challenging. 20 years ago when I did a record with Mayfield Four, I listened to the lyrics and it was almost like a journal entry which was fine and told it like it is and works well in some applications, but the more I make records the more it intrigues me to take a lyrics and make something with a duality.”
Though Kennedy’s realized take on lyrics has remained, the way he and guitarist Mark Tremonti wrote music was shaken up for the first time ever on Walk The Sky.
“It’s special (Walk The Sky), because of the way we approached it,” Kennedy said. “For over a decade until this record, everything was piece by piece. We would stock pile riffs, or choruses separately and then get together and create a song- which is interesting and I don’t know how we made it work this long because it’s time consuming and requires organization, which I’m not great at. I like to stay in the moment and get the song done. But this was a process we started early on and it’s part of the sound of the band. But on Walk The Sky, because we were both so busy it wasn’t easy to get together, so there was more realized versions and demos. Looking at it now, I’m pleased with it and I can see us trying that formula more.”
This newfound method for song writing paired with Kennedy’s indistinct lyrics landed Alter Bridge great success with the single, “Native Son” and their first ever No. 1 album chart spot for Walk The Sky, making it perfect to revisit for the live EP. Alter Bridge was not expecting to secure a No. 1 spot after 16 years and six albums together but the accomplishment was the stuff musicians dream of, Kennedy explained.
“It was amazing, and I think we were all kind of dumbfounded about it,” Kennedy said. “It was our sixth record as a band and to have a number one was massive. When our manager let us know it was a celebration and as musicians you dream of certain things and that’s one of them. It’s nice to have that realization that you have a fanbase that has stuck with you and afforded you that luxury. We’re really lucky to have that many people that care about our music.”
When listening to Walk the Sky 2.0 Kennedy can relive those moments with his fans from early 2020 shows that afforded Alter Bridge this success. And they are the defining moments that keep Kennedy wanting to make music with Alter Bridge.
“It seems like another world now but for me the memories that seem to bring me feels are moments when you look at the crowd and they’re singing along,” Kennedy said. “And it’s the rapport and knowing that you’ve created something that resonates with other humans and now they are giving it back to you. Those memories are so profound and keep me wanting to do this and I don’t take it for granted.”
Relishing these memories with the release of Walk The Sky 2.0, Kennedy is ready to start yet another project and says we can expect to hear some more solo material from him coming up and after that, “we’ll see what happens” he said.
Walk The Sky 2.0 is available everywhere today via Napalm Records and you can listen to “Last Rites” here today on American Songwriter.