|Alter Bridge-Myles Kennedy|
Gary "The Web Guy" Thorn and Johnnie "Metal Däd" Vrana sat down with vocalist Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge. It did not take long to see that Myles' life is centered about his one great passion, music. As someone who had been involved in music in some way since the 80's, it was not until 2004 that Myles had international success after joining the former members of Creed to form Alter Bridge. After that he has released 3 albums with Alter Bridge, done a solo album and was the touring musician for Slash's solo project, and is currently working on his own solo album due out some time next year. See what he had to say backstage before his big show at Rams Head Live on December 16, 2010.
Myles Kennedy - MK
Gary Thorn - GT
Johnnie Vrana – JV
GT – This is Gary with Shockwave Magazine, it's great to talk with you Myles. Just want to ask you a couple of quick questions I know you're busy. First thing, I think you have an amazing voice. It carries very well, I've seen your live stuff, I've seen the stuff on the album. What kind of vocal exercises do you do before you prepare to sing?
MK – I do a routine where it involves scales and arpeggios for about an hour. Lately I'll do that for about an hour and then I'll start singing Stevie Wonder songs for about another half hour just too kind of get everything to open up. It's a whole routine, and I'm somewhat superstitious if I don't do it so it's something I do every night.
JV – You are one of the rare singers that has a good tone low, mid and high. Are their specific things for each that you do?
MK – For me the trick is to bridge my head voice and my chest voice, so that's really the hardest part. I do a lot of exercises that weave in and out of that so it's pretty smooth, some nights it's better than others. Some nights if it's dry out or something or if I had a cold the gap will be bigger but I appreciate that thank you.
GT – This is something I was reading up as I did my research, you actually started playing trumpet when you were very young. It kind of sparked an idea because another great rock singer, Ronnie James Dio, a lot of people ask him how he got his voice and his tone and he actually attributed it to the breathing lessons he got when he took French Horn.
MK – Oh, Right.
GT – Do you feel any sort of...?
MK – I think that's probably where it started like learning to develop the diaphragm a little bit. The kind of breathing I was taught when I was playing the trumpet is different than the one I use as a singer. As a singer the most important part of the whole process is the breath. It's how you control it and how, basically you move it and so the mechanics of it are a little different from what I did in trumpet but it still got me focusing on that at a pretty young age.
JV – Listening to a lot of your music makes me feel really good about myself and things are hopeful. I know a lot of the times even some of the lyrics may be darker but you seem to have some kind of hope in the way you deliver it. Are you naturally an optimistic person?
MK – No.
MK – No I'm actually much more pessimistic than I'd like to admit. I think that part of it is has a... I think early on if you keep your expectations low and you think the worst is gonna happen, then you're pleasantly surprised when something good happens, but it's something that I'm constantly trying to reprogram. I don't think it's healthy to be that way. I don't think that being a pessimist is the best way to go through life. As the years go on I try to do better to sit somewhere in the middle. Because I think sometimes you can be such an optimist to where it's almost to the point where you're kind of naïve. Life can be challenging at times so it's good to be ready for it but at the same time not be a Debbie Downer.
GT – What do you like to do in your spare time; I know you've got a busy schedule but when you do find some downtime, like say on the bus or whatever, what do you like to do?
MK – Play Guitar
MK – I love to play guitar. You know I'm really kind of, you know, almost my entire adult life and my teenaged years have been so lopsided and just so focused on playing and writing, I mean that's what I enjoy doing more than anything still. I like to play with my dog; you know when I'm home. Let's see what else I like to do. I get antsy if I sit there and I do something that requires me to sit down for a long period of time like just watch a movie or something, I'll sometimes get this itch, like a twitch like "Where's my guitar?"
GT – That's actually great to see someone that's just so passionate about music. You're a career musician but at the same time, even in your down time it's sort of like a hobby.
MK – Yeah! Well I consider myself really lucky in that my hobby is my job.
GT – Same here, I'm actually a Web Developer.
MK – Oh cool.
GT – I started that when I was about 12.
MK – Nice
GT – I love it, and I wake up every day doing it.
MK – Definitely when you're tapping into anything creative, I think that's uh... we're very lucky to have that in our lives. Imagine going through life without that. It's terrifying, for me it's really terrifying.
GT – Well, another thing I found out is a lot of your earlier career, especially with bands like Citizen Swing; you were really into Jazz music. One thing I love about Jazz and Blues a lot of their guitar players have such amazing tone. There are a lot of really fast guys, but they don't have the same quality of tone. Do you feel that affects the way you play?
MK – Yeah, I think that's definitely kind of molded my approach as a guitar player, and as a singer in a way. I like good tone and something that's pleasing to the ear. It's interesting because sometimes as a singer it's something I'm kind of self-conscious about because tonally I don't feel every part of my voice is pleasing so I try to manipulate it. It's tricky because when I manipulate it when I hear it in my head where it's not as harsh in a certain part of my range then it gets tired quicker so sometimes I'll get a little more nasal when I'm doing things live because I know I got a lot of shows. I'm singing for the next year non-stop pretty much, so I'll do more of that just to kind of skate through and not put as much stress on the vocal chords, but as a guitar player most definitely. The guys that I loved, like Larry Carlton, the way his tone was so beautiful and rich. He was known more as a fusion player, but he also had great Jazz chops.
JV – You've had a lot of success the last 5 years or so, but a lot of people don't ever get that far. Was there something in particular that kept you driving towards playing and keep pushing towards the breakthrough of success?
MK – I think it's because I can't do anything else, I really can't. I mean I can remember when there were points in my career where, it was weird because I never imagined I would be doing some of the stuff I've been doing in the last few years. It was never my goal, I never necessarily wanted, you know, however you categorize what I do I feel uncomfortable putting tags on it. I remember I would just sit there and think what am I gonna do when I grow up, and I couldn't think of anything and I remember just kind of being a little freaked out at the idea that all I could do was music. What if I had a family and I have to provide for my family, I'll be miserable if I can't do this. Music is just like oxygen for me you know. I've been very lucky because I've been in the business for so long now, where I've gotten to kind of cultivate what I do. I've been able to fine tune it night after night after night, so it's kind of giving me an advantage in the last few years because I just toured so much. It's like anything, it's like a muscle, the more you exercise it the stronger it gets, you know? I still have lots of work, and lots of things I want to get better. I think that's the key, repetition over and over and over. Mark's the same way, Slash is the same way, you know that's what it takes, that love, that passion.
GT – Speaking of Slash, you worked with a lot of great musicians. Slash comes to mind, the guys in Alter Bridge are all fantastic musicians, you even got to do some session work with the guys in Led Zeppelin. Are there some musicians that you have yet to work with but would really like to?
MK – Sure, yeah. There are so many great artists out there. I've got to do some live things with him, to jam with him and the band, Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule. I think he's just unbelievably talented; I have so much respect for him. Stevie wonder would be... that would be a crazy dream come true.
JV – That would sort of like a Grammy Show kind of thing, a collaboration.
MK – Yeah (laughs), yeah well.
JV – I'll spread the word.
MK – Yeah I mean if something like that happened it would be fantastic. There are still plenty of people out there I would love to hang out with.
GT – Do you remember the first time you kind of met a musician that you've looked up to for a long time and your jaw just kind of hung open and you were in shock? I mean, I sort of am now, and earlier on when I got to meet Dave Mustaine. Both are similar just... whoa. Do you remember the first time that happened?
MK – You know it kind of happened early on with a Jazz musician and Fusion musician that I was really into growing up, a guitar player named Mike Stern. Who was a really big influence, BIG influence on my guitar playing, and I got to meet him at a school I was going to back in the day. That was really cool for me because he was so, and I'm assuming still is, so down to earth and normal. That really left a major impression on me. I'll never forget 5 years ago when I walked by, Jimmy Page was at a festival in Holland and he was backstage and I remember just walking by and just being like... I didn't officially meet him at that point. That was pretty unbelievable for me. That was like, I think I stopped breathing.
JV –Well thank you for the interview.
MK – Oh you are very welcome. Right on, those were great questions. Very cool.