Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy Talks New Album ‘Walk The Sky’
The American metal band’s frontman on the themes that informed the new record, fun memories of ace guitarist Slash and more
As much as Alter Bridge love to rip through the riffs and bring incendiary energy on their just-released album Walk the Sky, there’s also trademark moments of sprawling, arena-rock vibrancy. Across both heavy and lighter tracks on their sixth record, vocalist and guitarist Myles Kennedy tells us that mindfulness played a big role in shaping the lyrics and sound of Walk the Sky, which released via Napalm Records.
He says over the phone from his home in Spokane, Washington, “It was really the liberation I felt once I started to incorporate mindfulness into my life. A lot of these songs explore that. I would say songs like ‘In The Deep’ and ‘Wouldn’t You Rather’… a number of tracks touch on that philosophy.”
The release of Walk the Sky continues a nonstop couple of years for Kennedy. In 2017 and 2018, he was readying and promoting two albums – his debut solo effort Year of the Tiger and Guns N’ Roses guitar legend Slash’s own record Living the Dream. “I would say in the last… 10 years, the album and tour cycles have run up to… there have literally been no breaks,” Kennedy says.
In an interview with Rolling Stone India, Kennedy talks to us about the making of Walk the Sky, the changing band dynamics in Alter Bridge and his favorite memory of Slash. Excerpts:
You’ve been going pretty nonstop since the release of Year of the Tiger, right?
It’s been busy. It’s been good as a musician and a recording artist, to be in that position where you have the opportunity to express yourself in these various things – you can’t take that for granted. With that said, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of things being on and being prepared. I think you just get into a certain workflow and you get accustomed to it. It’s been a good run.
They’re all slightly different beasts, these projects. How have you learned to switch gears?
I like the fact that everything is different. If each project were very similar, it might become very redundant. The fact that all three projects are such different offshoots that you want to step back and count every experience as fresh. That’s very important.
The Last Hero (2016) had this loose theme around heroes. What about this one?
With this one, there’s not a concept. There’s a narrative that runs throughout the songs that’s really a manifestation of where I am personally, in my life and my spiritual growth as a human. I think that I’ve really discovered trying to integrate a certain amount of mindfulness into my life and really trying to be present. Using that to harness stress and anxiety. It’s really about how as I get older, how I’m retraining my perspectives in viewing life. It’s a much healthier place to be. That’s where these songs come from.
But then there are tracks that have nothing to do with that. “Native Son” [is about] feeling out of your element, which is actually inspired by something that I got from reading [American academic and mythology professor] Joseph Campbell. Songs like “Godspeed” was written by Mark [Tremonti, guitarist] for a friend of his, it’s about loss. “Indoctrination” is about a really bad cult leader [laughs] with a really dark track. So yeah, not all the tracks are uplifting and positive, certain tracks explore different emotions as well.
It’s got such an apocalyptic tone on songs like “Indoctrination.” Why are you drawn to it?
Mark and I have always been drawn to the darker side as writers. We like exploring that heavier side of music. If you’re writing music that has elements of that, if you lyrically are trying to keep it super positive and hopeful, often times it doesn’t really fit. The way I look at it, if there’s a body of music and I’m trying to put lyrics to it, I have to write a script that’s appropriate for that music. And so if you listen to “Indoctrination,” it’s really spooky and moody and dark and so the lyrics had to accommodate that. Where it came from was actually a Netflix documentary I saw about a cult leader. It’s amazing how much film and books will inform how you write lyrics and where you get your ideas from, which is helpful.
All your albums have always clocked in near the one-hour mark, some of them going a bit longer. Do you ever think about that considering it’s 2019 and people’s consumption habits have changed? Or am I sounding like a record label marketing guy right now?
[laughs] It’s a good point. We talked a bit about that when we were trying to figure out the sequencing to this record, about how we’d recorded 14 tracks. People’s consumption is much different now compared to when I grew up. But I think we chose to continue with a more of a traditional approach to sequencing and the length of the record just because of how much time we generally have between albums.
For example, if we end up making it a seven or 10 song album, with the hope of releasing the rest of the tracks in a year or something, it could end up conflicting with a different project one of us would be about to release. You kind of have to think about that, when you have these different projects.
From the time Alter Bridge was formed with these three guys from such an already internationally acclaimed band like Creed to now, how would you say the band dynamics have changed over albums?
If you compare when we first started playing together and One Day Remains – they [Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips] obviously had an established bond and relationship with each other. Once that initial phase did blossom into an actual band, a musical democracy… time was needed for that, building our trust and not just as people but in the creative songwriting process and band decisions. Since Blackbird , I would say we found a sound that works for us and it really hasn’t changed much. It’s really important to maintain a certain amount of communication and respect each other.
Changing gears a bit here, but what’s your favorite Slash memory? When was the first time you saw him without glasses?
[laughs] I think the first time I saw him without his glasses would’ve probably been on the bus one day when we were traveling somewhere. He always sits in the same spot and I came on and walked by and thought, ‘Oh shoot, he didn’t have his sunglasses on!’
There’s a lot of funny memories. He’s got a great sense of humor. Often, he’ll just come up in the middle of a show, we’ll be playing and he might just come up to my ear and make some funny comment about something. If you see him… any time you see me burst out laughing, that’s probably what happened. He’s got a very dry sense of humor and very funny.
You’ve got the Walk the Sky tour with Shinedown in Europe coming up now. What’s next? Any India offers?
Not to my knowledge but I would love that, it’d be absolutely great. I know we have fans over there, so I would love to get back to India for sure.
What’s coming up next?
We go all the way up to the European tour to Christmas and then we have a month off in January which is good. We’ll probably power down for a little bit.
Listen to ‘Walk the Sky’ here. Watch the video for “Dying Light” below.