Myles Richard Kennedy (born Myles Richard Bass; November 27, 1969) is an American musician and singer-songwriter best known as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the rock band Alter Bridge, and as the lead vocalist in Slash's current solo project. A former guitar instructor from Spokane, Washington, Kennedy is known for his ability as both a guitarist and a vocalist, possessing a tenor vocal range that spans four octaves. He has worked as a session musician and songwriter, making both studio and live appearances with several artists over the years and has been involved with several projects throughout his career.
Kennedy was raised in Spokane, Washington, where he attended Spokane Falls Community College to study music theory. He began his music career in 1990 as the lead guitarist of the instrumental jazz ensemble Cosmic Dust, with which he released one studio album. His second band, Citizen Swing, released two studio albums before disbanding in 1995. He then founded and became the lead vocalist and lead guitarist of the Spokane-based rock band The Mayfield Four in 1996, releasing two studio albums with the band, Fallout (1998) and Second Skin (2001). While he was in the band, he made a cameo appearance in Rock Star, a film starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. The Mayfield Four disbanded a year later in 2002. After declining an offer to audition as the lead vocalist of Velvet Revolver, he was asked to join Alter Bridge by then-former members of Creed. He has released four studio albums with Alter Bridge: One Day Remains (2004), Blackbird (2007), AB III (2010), and Fortress (2013). Meanwhile he started working with former Guns 'N' Roses guitarist Slash, featuring on his eponymous first album Slash (2010) on two tracks "Back from Cali" and "Starlight", afterwards recording and releasing with the backing touring band Apocalyptic Love (2012), touring behind both releases. Kennedy has been touring since 2010, switching between tours with his two main projects, Alter Bridge and Slash. He also has a solo album awaiting completion.
Kennedy was born as Myles Richard Bass on November 27, 1969 in Boston, Massachusetts, and subsequently lived in Northern Idaho. As a child, he moved to Spokane, Washington, where he grew up in a Christian family on a farm. His father, Richard Bass, died when he was four years old and his mother subsequently went on to marry a minister, and the family took the surname Kennedy. Kennedy attended Mead High School and, finding musical inspiration from Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder, began playing trumpet at the age of ten and guitar at fifteen, copying the playing style of Jimmy Page. He found his singing voice by listening to his parents' Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder records, and also states that he was influenced by Robert Plant. He played guitar in the school's jazz band and trumpet in the school's marching band. He also spent some time playing in a local heavy metal band called Bittersweet with some of his fellow classmates. After graduating in 1988, he enrolled in Spokane Falls Community College to study music.
Upon graduating from high school in 1988, Kennedy enrolled in a Commercial Music/Jazz Studies program at Spokane Falls Community College. Using the skills he learned from this course, in 1990 he began playing guitar for a jazz group called the Cosmic Dust Fusion Band, which was formed by keyboardist Jim Templeton in 1980. Kennedy's guitar work with Cosmic Dust was very advanced; using his knowledge of jazz theory in conjunction with his advanced technical abilities, interweaving difficult techniques such as chord changes on impulse and precise shredding with rock music, he became a well-respected guitarist among local musicians. Cosmic Dust's first album, Journey, was released in 1991. The album was well-received by critics. In 1993, the song "Spiritus" was awarded the Washington State Artist Trust Grant for $5,000.
After the release of Journey, Kennedy left Cosmic Dust to begin working on a new band that would become Citizen Swing, for which Kennedy provided both lead vocals and lead guitar. They were described as "a band that combined the sounds of funk, soul, R&B, blues and alternative into a unique and cohesive sound" and as "Stevie Ray Vaughn meets Stevie Wonder and then some." They released their first album, Cure Me with the Groove, in 1993. This album featured Kennedy (who helped produce the album), rhythm guitarist Craig Johnson, bassist Dave Turner (also of Cosmic Dust), drummer/percussionist Mike Tschirgi, and trumpeter Geoff Miller. Citizen Swing's second and final album was called Deep Down and was released in 1995. The band disbanded the same year. All the music and lyrics on that album were written by Kennedy. Journey, Cure Me with the Groove, and Deep Down are all very rare albums and are highly sought after by fans.
In 1995, Kennedy started teaching guitar in a store called Rock City Music. By August 1996, he became the lead vocalist and lead guitarist of The Mayfield Four, a rock band he formed with his childhood friends Zia Uddin, Marty Meisner, and Craig Johnson (also of Citizen Swing). They signed a contract with Epic Records thanks to a critically acclaimed demo called Thirty Two Point Five Hours that the band recorded in 1996, followed by a live extended play called Motion in 1997. The Mayfield Four's debut album, Fallout, was supported with a fifteen-month tour with bands such as Creed, Big Wreck, and Stabbing Westward. The album was praised by critics, but it failed to chart, and ultimately became the only album by the band to feature rhythm guitarist Craig Johnson, who was fired from the band due to undisclosed reasons.
Following the Fallout tour, Kennedy made an appearance in the 2001 drama film Rock Star starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. He said that he got a call from his manager telling him that the filmmakers needed someone who could sing high and that his name was suggested. On the set of the film, he met Wahlberg along with Zakk Wylde and Jason Bonham, who also appeared in the movie alongside several other notable musicians. Kennedy was the only actor in the movie whose actual singing voice was used. In the movie, directly paralleling a scene at the beginning of the film, Kennedy's character (Mike, also known as "Thor") is noticed by Wahlberg's character, Chris "Izzy" Cole, the lead singer of Thor's favorite band, Steel Dragon. Izzy pulls Thor onstage and sings the rest of the song with him, eventually telling him to finish the rest of the band's concert. The film was met with mostly mixed reviews, garnering a 52% "Rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Mayfield Four's second and final album, Second Skin, was released in June 2001. Kennedy has since said that it is one of the most personal records he has made. The album has been critically acclaimed and Kennedy has commented on how it and Fallout are much more popular now than when they were released.
Though popular, The Mayfield Four never garnered enough exposure to break into the mainstream. In 2002, the future of the band began to look unlikely, and Kennedy began recording new music, which he described as "Daniel Lanois meets Massive Attack." The band went on hiatus that year, and would ultimately disband. In an interview with Pulse Weekly in 2004, Kennedy said that it was because he was "burned out with the whole rock industry at that point." However, three previously unreleased songs appeared on a fan-run Myspace page dedicated to and approved by The Mayfield Four in early 2010, causing rumors of a possible reunion to begin circulating. However, when asked about this during an interview, Kennedy replied that he does not see it happening.
Kennedy is best known as the lead vocalist and guitarist of the American hard rock band Alter Bridge. The band's origins lie in late 2003 when Kennedy was contacted by then-former Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti, who was interested in having Kennedy lay down vocal tracks for some songs he had recently written. Tremonti and drummer Scott Phillips had reunited with former bassist Brian Marshall who had left Creed in 2000 to form a new band. Alter Bridge, taking its name from an actual bridge that used to be located near Tremonti's home in Detroit, was officially formed in January 2004. Coinciding with the official announcement of Alter Bridge's formation was an announcement regarding their debut album, One Day Remains, along with the release of that album's lead single, "Open Your Eyes." One Day Remains was released in 2004 on Wind-up Records. It received generally mixed to negative reviews and was certified Gold by the RIAA. Two other singles were released: "Find the Real" and "Broken Wings." One Day Remains is the only album by a band with Kennedy as an official member that does not feature his guitar playing.
Following a successful tour in support of the album, Alter Bridge announced plans for a second release. The album, Blackbird, was released in 2007 on Universal Republic to mostly positive reviews. Unlike One Day Remains, which was largely written by Tremonti, Blackbird featured Kennedy's guitar playing as well as more of his songwriting contributions. Alter Bridge toured in support of Blackbird throughout 2007 and 2008, recording a concert film titled Live from Amsterdam and releasing it in 2009 via Amazon.com. It would later be released in stores in early 2011 after several delays.
Alter Bridge took a temporary break in early 2009 with its members working on other projects, but the band continued writing music throughout the year. The band regrouped later that year to begin work on their third album, AB III, which was released in 2010 on Roadrunner Records worldwide, except for North America where the album was self-released on Alter Bridge Recordings via EMI. For the album, Kennedy chose to write lyrics based on his own personal experiences with faith and believing. As such, it is lyrically the band's darkest album, with Kennedy calling it the most personal album he had made since The Mayfield Four's Second Skin. AB III has received critical acclaim. A second concert film, Live at Wembley, was released on March 26, 2012. The band reunited in late 2012 and recorded from April to July 2013 their fourth album titled Fortress, which was released on September 30, 2013.
Having joined Alter Bridge primarily as lead vocalist, Kennedy began to play rhythm guitar during live performances following the release of One Day Remains. He has since played rhythm guitar on the band's subsequent studio releases, and also played lead tracks on a number of songs and during live performances.
After The Mayfield Four's unforeseen breakup, and due to a hearing disorder called tinnitus that he developed because of listening to music that he was recording at earsplitting volumes, Kennedy fell into depression in 2002. He said about music, "I can't do it any more. My ears won't let me." He said that he had grown "disillusioned with music and the music business," so he took a musical hiatus and went back to teaching guitar. However, in 2002, he was contacted by former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, who was looking for a vocalist for a band he was forming (Velvet Revolver), but Kennedy declined the offer. Other sources state that Kennedy had sent in a demo tape but still ultimately declined an invitation to audition after being approached by Matt Sorum. Kennedy recalls, "They had reached out to me in 2002 when they were just getting together. They had sent me a demo tape, and I kind of sat on it for a month, and I didn't really follow up on it."
Kennedy's name received a great amount of press coverage in late 2008 regarding a rumor that he was going to be joining Led Zeppelin, although it later turned out to be an audition for a different project featuring members of Led Zeppelin. After Led Zeppelin's one-off reunion in 2007, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones reportedly felt as if Led Zeppelin "still had something to offer." As reported by BBC News, Page and Jones were in the studio with Jason Bonham writing and recording new material that was reportedly going to be used for a new Led Zeppelin album. However, according to Bonham, singer Robert Plant was not involved in the recording sessions. Page, Jones, and Bonham were auditioning new singers to replace Plant on tour as a result, and according to several sources, Myles Kennedy was the leading candidate for Plant's replacement. Plant responded to this by confirming that he would not be involved with the reunion and that if Page, Jones, and Bonham find another singer, the resulting band would not be Led Zeppelin.
The rumors continued when it was reported that Page, Jones, and Bonham had attended an Alter Bridge concert. It was also supposedly confirmed by Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, who said that Page, Jones, and Bonham were offering Kennedy to join Led Zeppelin in order to persuade Plant to reconsider. Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti also addressed the rumors, saying that Kennedy "deserves" to play with Led Zeppelin. Kennedy remained silent about the rumors for the most part until January 2009. He denied that he would be performing with or fronting a group with them, saying, "I am not singing in Led Zeppelin or any offshoot of Led Zeppelin, but I did have a great opportunity and it was something that I'm very grateful for. But Alter Bridge will go on, and that's that." He later confirmed, however, that he had actually written songs and rehearsed with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Jason Bonham. He also said that it was Bonham who "got the ball rolling" since the two had met on the set of the 2001 film Rock Star. It is unconfirmed if the songs he wrote with Page, Jones, and Bonham will ever be released.
Solo work and collaborations
In early 2009, Kennedy announced a solo side project. He described the material as "dreamy" and "[not] aggressive," saving those songs for Alter Bridge. He also said, "It's more singer/songwriter based. I will say it's going to be interesting." He later posted on his Myspace page that he is working with some "great people" and that he has details coming at a future date. Slash announced via Facebook on February 1, 2010 that he would be appearing on Kennedy's solo record, and Kennedy confirmed this via Myspace. Kennedy had originally hoped that his album would be released in early 2010, digitally first and then on CD, but he has since put its release on hold. However, he recently said that he is still too busy to release the album as he stated that he would like to tour to promote it, but he wanted to release it on December 21, 2012, as a joke, although a firm release date has not yet been announced.
When asked if the record would be a departure from his previous work, he replied that it is different and again referred to the singer-songwriter approach that would be featured on it and that it would not be a hard rock album. He also said that "it was maybe the most difficult thing I've ever done in the sense that I didn't have a band." He also said that the music is very intimate and that it features piano as well. In an interview with Guitarist UK magazine, he said that some of the songs will feature jazz, blues, and R&B influences, while others still "get quite atmospheric and ethereal," comparing the sound to Daniel Lanois and Massive Attack, while assuring fans that the rock style will still be present. In the same Guitarist interview, he confirmed the titles of three songs that will appear on his record: "The Light of Day," "Complicated Man," and "The Bar Fly." Most recently, he confirmed that another song will be titled "Love Rain Down." He said in an interview with CraveOnline that "Love Rain Down" differs from anything else he has ever written. It is unknown if this album has anything to do with the project he was working on in 2002.
Kennedy has performed two solo benefit concerts: one hosted by Paul Reed Smith and PRS Guitars to benefit cancer patients, and another to benefit abused children. The latter was called Bofest 2009 and was headlined by Kennedy on October 17, 2009.
Kennedy has become very well known for his collaborations with current Velvet Revolver and former Guns N' Roses lead guitarist Slash. In late 2009, it was reported that they would be working together on Slash's self-titled debut solo album. Slash later confirmed that Kennedy was chosen to sing and co-write the final song, "Starlight," on his album. Other musicians who appeared on the album include Ozzy Osbourne, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, Kid Rock, and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. Then, according to MusicRadar, Slash asked Kennedy to co-write and sing another song, "Back from Cali," which was added to the album at the last minute, making him the only musician to appear on more than one song on the album's standard track listing. The album was released in April 2010.
On February 3, 2010, Slash announced that Kennedy would be the lead vocalist for his band on tour. On tour, Kennedy performed a number of songs found throughout Slash's catalog. Slash and Kennedy were also the supporting act on Ozzy Osbourne's tour in 2010. The other members of Slash's band are rhythm guitarist Bobby Schneck, bassist Todd Kerns (formerly of Age of Electric), and drummer Brent Fitz (formerly of Theory of a Deadman). In late 2010, Kennedy and Slash appeared on That Metal Show, a talk show on VH1 Classic. On November 14, 2011, Slash released a concert film and live album titled Made in Stoke 24/7/11 featuring Kennedy and the rest of his band.
Slash's second solo album featured Myles Kennedy, this time as the sole vocalist. It was also announced that band mates Bobby Schneck, Todd Kerns, and Brent Fitz, along with Slash, would complete the lineup for the album. In an interview with MusicRadar, Slash confirmed that it would be less of an actual solo album and more of a collaboration album with Kennedy, and that he was not sure if the album will be billed to Slash or a new name entirely. As of December 2011, three songs had been recorded: "Halo," "Standing in the Sun," and "Bad Rain." Slash has described the music as "very heavy." The album was released on May 22, 2012. A behind-the-scenes video was also released with this announcement. Titled Apocalyptic Love, the album will be billed to "Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators", featuring Kennedy, Kerns, and Fitz as members of Slash's band. The band performed the album in its entirety on April 11, 2012, at the Revolver Golden God Awards. The first single, "You're a Lie," was released to rock radio on February 27, 2012; a 30-second preview of the song was released online. Kennedy has reportedly said that some of the lyrics on the album are about his earlier experiences with drugs. On April 14, 2012, Kennedy performed three Guns N' Roses songs with five former members of Guns N' Roses during their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in Axl Rose's absence. In 2013, he also toured with Kings of Chaos, along with Slash and other ex-Guns N' Roses members.
Kennedy is further well known for his work as a session musician and songwriter, having collaborated with several artists. In 2001, he appeared on the album Striped Suit: Lo-Fi by the jazz-rock band Mulligan, playing guitar solos on the songs "Faron" and "Make It Three." In that same year, he provided backing vocals to the song "Breakthrough" by Big Wreck from The Pleasure and the Greed. He also worked with the Spokane based nu-metal band Five Foot Thick on their 2003 album Blood Puddle, providing backing vocals to the song "Ducked Out." In 2005, he sang the chorus of "Nameless Faceless" by Fozzy with Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho from their album All That Remains. In 2008, he sang a duet with Sevendust lead vocalist Lajon Witherspoon on Sevendust's song "Sorrow" from Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow. Also in 2008, Kennedy made a guest appearance on Mark Tremonti's guitar instructional DVD The Sound & the Story, to which Kennedy provided an in-depth lesson on how to play his guitar solo on the Alter Bridge song "Blackbird." In 2009, he appeared on Slash's self-titled album, co-writing and singing lead vocals on the songs "Back from Cali" and "Starlight." In addition, he has made live appearances with Sevendust and Gov't Mule. In 2011 it was announced that he will appear on a planned tribute album to Tommy Bolin. Further details were announced in January 2012 that the album would be called Great Gypsy Soul. It was released on March 27, 2012, on 429 Records, and Kennedy appeared on a song called "Dreamer" with Nels Cline of Wilco. Other contributors include Steve Lukather, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Frampton, and Glenn Hughes.
Artistry and influences
Kennedy is influenced by a wide range of artists of several genres. His earliest influence was Led Zeppelin, although he drew his singing influences from jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and soul artists when he discovered Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye albums in his parents' record collection. He said that he owned Stevie Wonder's 1982 compilation album Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I, which was one of his earliest inspirations as a singer. From there, he discovered Songs in the Key of Life, which he has since stated is one of his favorite albums, and today cites Stevie Wonder as a major influence on his singing. He has also cited other jazz players John Coltrane, Al Green, Mike Stern, Miles Davis, Otis Redding, Frank Gambale, Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, and Curtis Mayfield as early influences. He also loves blues music. Additional influences include Guns N' Roses, U2, AC/DC, Mastodon, and Radiohead.
Kennedy's favorite singers include Jeff Buckley, Robert Plant, Bon Scott, Chris Whitley, and k.d. lang. He has stated on several occasions that Jeff Buckley was, and is, a major influence on him as a singer. When asked to describe his vocal style, he said, "I wanted to fuse together my favorite elements of rock and soul singers into something I could call my own. The inflections of Stevie Wonder with the soaring qualities of someone like Buckley." He states that Buckley's "emotional intensity" was one of the most inspirational things for him when it came to singing, and that it made him accept and embrace the fact that he is a tenor. He often performs Buckley's famous cover of "Hallelujah" (originally by Leonard Cohen) during acoustic performances. At one point, he received lessons from Ron Anderson, a bel canto vocal coach who has worked with a wide range of singers, including Axl Rose, Shania Twain, Enrique Iglesias, Chris Cornell, Ozzy Osbourne, Eddie Vedder, Kelly Clarkson, and several others. When asked about his number one secret when it came to singing, Kennedy replied, "Dig deep into your soul and sing as if your life depends on it. Leave your mark. People react to emotion more than technique." Kennedy, who possesses a four-octave vocal range, has been praised for his ability as a singer. Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash, whose touring band consists of Kennedy, has called him "fucking amazing," calling his style "surreal." About Kennedy's ability to recreate Guns N' Roses songs on tour, Slash said, "Myles is fucking amazing. It's very surreal how he handles the stuff he sings. I'm doing GN'R songs I've never done solo before, and Myles manages to own them without changing the style or trajectory of the song. Which is a fantastic fucking ability." Kennedy is often compared to Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell.
Kennedy, a former guitar instructor, is also recognized as an accomplished guitarist. He began learning how to play the guitar by listening to Led Zeppelin records and mimicking Jimmy Page's guitar parts. He said in an interview, "I started off strictly as a lead guitar player. When I first started playing 25 years ago, that was all I’d do is sit in my room and learn solos." He also recalled being inspired by Eddie Van Halen: "When I was in my early teens, I heard 'Eruption' one day and was like, 'That is the most incredible thing I’ve ever heard,' and I begged my mother to give me an advance on my allowance for the next month and go buy that record." Over the next few years, and throughout the 1990s, Kennedy played primarily lead guitar. His early work with Cosmic Dust and Citizen Swing featured a jazz-influenced rock flavor, combining several advanced techniques used in jazz. He would later join Alter Bridge primarily as a lead vocalist, but began playing rhythm guitar on the band's first tour. Mark Tremonti said, "We knew Myles was an amazing singer, that’s why we hired him. What we found out when we toured the first record was that he’s also an incredibly gifted guitar player and songwriter, as well as a vocalist." In an interview with Ultimate Guitar Archive, Tremonti said:
Kennedy played rhythm guitar on Blackbird and has since played co-lead on several Alter Bridge tracks. In an article about Kennedy as a guitarist on Lemon Squeezings, writer Steve Sauer noted his dexterity and steady rhythm playing. Doug Clark, a writer for The Spokesman-Review and one of Kennedy's former guitar students, wrote that "his six-string skills are pyrotechnically brilliant." Kennedy notes that his job as a guitar player, especially recently with Alter Bridge, is to add texture and colors to the music.
Lyrics and themes
In addition, Kennedy is the primary lyricist of Alter Bridge and his previous band, The Mayfield Four. His lyrics, which are usually fairly straightforward stylistically, often touch on dark subjects such as death and addiction. On Alter Bridge's first two albums (the lyrics of the former were primarily written by Tremonti, however), the lyrics are about "hope and perseverance in the face of adversity." However, he has been known to write darker lyrics, as heard most notably on Alter Bridge's third album, AB III, which is a loose concept album based on his own personal struggles with faith and spirituality. Similarly, the lyrical themes of The Mayfield Four's second album, Second Skin, touch on struggling with love and substance abuse. Second Skin and Apocalyptic Love are the only albums to feature lyrics written by Kennedy that contain profanity.
Kennedy currently resides in Spokane, Washington with his wife, Selena, whom he married on June 14, 2003. He is diagnosed with tinnitus.
According to Alter Bridge lead guitarist Mark Tremonti, Kennedy is an atheist, although in an article titled Losing My Religion from a November 2010 issue of Kerrang! magazine, Kennedy said he places himself "somewhere in the middle" between being an atheist and a Christian. In an interview on the Blairing Out with Eric Blair Show at NAMM 2009, Kennedy mentioned that despite being raised in a Christian household, he is not a religious person and he does not believe in any organized religion. In an interview with CraveOnline, he said: "I would consider myself a part of the growing segment of people who question authority and scrutinize concepts that no longer seem as logical as they once did. [...] I don't find peace in the same concepts that many hold as truth. Believe me, I tried. It's not like I didn't spend most of my life submersed in the bosom of doctrine or dogma."
Kennedy has been identified as an avid reader and he says that he especially enjoys the work of John Irving, describing Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany as one of his favorite novels. He has also cited Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner as one of his favorites. When asked about his hobbies, he replied: "I guess I have been pretty fortunate since I have turned what was a hobby into a living. Music pretty much consumes me. If I’m not writing, performing or listening I am probably trying to learn more about its history. I’m kind of a geek at the end of the day."
- Cosmic Dust
- Journey (1991)
- Citizen Swing
- Cure Me with the Groove (1993)
- Deep Down (1995)
- The Mayfield Four
- Fallout (1998)
- Second Skin (2001)
- Alter Bridge
- One Day Remains (2004)
- Blackbird (2007)
- AB III (2010)
- Fortress (2013)
- Slash (2010)
- Apocalyptic Love (2012)
- TBA (2014)
- Official Alter Bridge website
- Myles Kennedy on Myspace
- Myles Kennedy on Twitter
- Myles Kennedy on Facebook
- Myles Kennedy on Instagram
- Myles Kennedy at the Internet Movie Database
- The Alter Bridge Nation
- Myles Kennedy World
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