British songwriter and performer, Miles Kane, embodies the idea that artists are indeed the sum of all their influences. And Kane’s influences are many. Growing up, the skilled musician was initiated to music from his family—his mother, in particular. He remembers Motown and the Beatles at family gatherings. Kane was born in Birkenhead, England, which is across the river from Liverpool (hence the Mop Tops). Around 12 years old, Kane found the guitar; namely, his cousin’s three-quarter-body Spanish style. He became obsessed, he says.
Soon, he got his own, along with the chord book for Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? With each passing day, Kane absorbed more and more music, especially from his cousins, who would go on to form the popular U.K. band The Coral. And at 18, Kane began to collaborate with famed British rocker Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys. Now, all of these elements both comprise and feature expertly on Kane’s newest LP, Change The Show, which is out Friday (January 21).
“While I was doing that in secondary school,” Kane tells American Songwriter of his early guitar plucking, “I was also playing the saxophone. I was having lessons on the saxophone; I was obsessed with the Pink Panther theme. But once the guitar came on board, it just felt so much cooler.”
For a long time, the 35-year-old Kane says, he only wanted to be a guitarist. He had no visions of the spotlight falling squarely on him as a frontman. For him, guitar represented both a place for joy and a path from his small-town beginnings. It was both professor and portal.
“I saw it almost as a way out,” Kane says.
Growing up around Liverpool, the Beatles are a mainstay. But Kane felt his ear drawn to shredders like Link Wray and Dick Dale. Anything with a whammy bar, he says. He also loved Echo & the Bunnymen and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Soon, Kane found himself in his own projects, like the band The Little Flames. It was while on the road with this group that he met Turner. The two would later form their own project, The Last Shadow Puppets. The two had jammed backstage while on tour together and the ditties turned to big rock tunes.
“We started jamming and he invited me down to play guitar on [The Arctic Monkeys’] second album. That was the first time we worked together and it just felt really good.”
At the time, Kane says, there was a certain “don’t give a fuck” attitude. They played big and hard. They were young and naïve, Kane says. But that helped them push to new discoveries together. Similarly, Kane later worked with other big names, like producer Mark Ronson, and famed rocker Noel Gallagher (of Oasis and the subsequent (What’s the Story) Morning Glory chord book).
“All those moments,” Kane says, “it’s surreal. When you’re in it, you don’t think of it really. It’s only when you sit back that it does—it’s quite special.”
It can be odd to collaborate with your heroes, even if your musicianship is on par and right for the moment. As people, we often have a hard time appreciating the golden moments when they’re happening. But while Kane understands this, he doesn’t shy away from it, either. He puts his head down and pushes toward those moments.
“When you’re out of your comfort zone like that, you don’t know what to expect,” he says. “But when you are genuinely out of your comfort zone, that’s a real healthy thing. It’s hard to do at times because it’s not what you’re used to. But whenever I do, it’s always progress.” He adds, “Keep pushing on for the next uncomfortable thing to make it comfortable.”
Kane’s new album is a cornucopia representing his whole life. The album, which is his fourth solo release, recalls the puffed-out joy-bravado of acts like George Michael or Prince. It includes Motown funk, guitar rock with a little glam sprinkled in. In a way, the energy within it is a response to all of the negativity that’s been in the air of late, from political to social and in between. Kane says that as he wrote more and more songs, he began to find the voice of the new LP.
“Once all the songs were written, the recording process of it was, dare I say, just really enjoyable,” he says.
As the artist looks to the future, he has a big tour ahead of him beginning on January 28. He’ll be moving around the U.K. and Europe and then hitting festivals in the spring. In the meantime, if there is any downtime, Kane says he wants to write and complete songs for his next release, perhaps later this year. But really it’s all about the live shows. That’s what he lives for, he says. That excitement. It’s a chance for him to show off all his feathers to a crowd ready to flap their wings in unison. That’s the power of Kane’s often exuberant music.
“The way it makes me feel,” Kane says. “It’s been a life-saver for me, at times, music has. It always has my back.”
Miles Kane Tour Dates:
Fri 28th MANCHESTER, Albert Hall
Mon 31st SHEFFIELD, The Leadmill
Tues 1st LEEDS, O2 Academy
Thurs 3rd NEWCASTLE, O2 Academy
Fri 4th GLASGOW, O2 Academy
Sat 5th BIRMINGHAM, O2 Institute
Mon 7th CARDIFF, The Tramshed
Tues 8th BRISTOL, O2 Academy
Thurs 10th OXFORD, O2 Academy 1
Fri 11th SOUTHAMPTON, Engine Rooms
Sat 12th NORWICH, The Waterfront
Mon 14th CAMBRIDGE, Cambridge Junction
Tues 15th NORTHAMPTON, Roadmender
Weds 16th LONDON, Roundhouse
Fri 18th NOTTINGHAM, Rock City
Sat 19th LIVERPOOL, O2 Academy 1