It’s a Monday afternoon, and Myles Kennedy is in a hotel room in San Francisco. Or, at least, he thinks he’s in San Francisco.
“I don’t know where I am half the time,” he said with a laugh. And no wonder: Kennedy, a Spokane native, has been busy on tour opening for Aerosmith with Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash, and as soon as he has a break from that, he’ll be hitting the road again with his band Alter Bridge. He still lives in Spokane, but he’s rarely home these days, and he hasn’t played a major local show since Alter Bridge passed through here in 2010.
“It kind of makes me feel bad considering how much I tour how little I get to play home, and that’s been difficult for me,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully as the next few years unfold, I’ll get to play home more often. Nothing would make me happier.”
In the last decade, Kennedy has become something of a local legend: He got his start as a guitar teacher and musician here (his earliest bands include Citizen Swing and the Mayfield Four), and he gained national prominence as the lead vocalist and guitarist for Alter Bridge, a hard rock quartet that formed following the breakup of late ’90s hit-makers Creed.
Kennedy’s latest venture is his collaboration with Slash, which started several years ago when the guitarist was putting together his first solo album. (Slash reportedly wanted Kennedy to sing with his supergroup Velvet Revolver, a gig that eventually went to Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots.)
“On that record, there were a lot of different singers that he brought on board to collaborate and write with him, everyone from Ozzy (Osbourne) to Fergie to Lemmy from Motörhead,” Kennedy said. “So when he called I was pretty shocked, to say the least, that he even thought of me. We hit it off … and ended up doing two songs together on that record, then we discussed the idea of touring.
“It’s just been a really gradual build, where the dynamic was really great and we had a lot of fun doing it, and it just evolved into something that five years later we’re still doing.”
Kennedy’s is the only voice you’ll hear on the new Slash record, “World on Fire,” which will be released Sept. 15 and is co-credited to backing band the Conspirators. Kennedy describes his working relationship with Slash as a healthy and productive one.
“Considering the amount of success that he’s had – he’s an icon – he doesn’t act like it, and that makes it really great from an artistic standpoint. … Slash will have a very clear idea musically of what he wants to do, so he’ll send me a riff or a chord progression. It’s kind of like this sonic canvas to paint over with my melodies and lyrics.
“He’s not precious with his ideas. Considering the magnitude of what he’s achieved as an artist that really says a lot about him, that he’s open to that, and that’s been a really positive thing.”
As for his lyrics, Kennedy says he’s opened up since his early songwriting days – not necessarily because he’s being more honest, but because he’s searching for inspiration in a diversity of places: His songs on “World on Fire” were inspired by everything from the ’60s angst of “Mad Men” to the surrealistic satire of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five.”
“When I started back in my Mayfield Four days, it was all very personal,” Kennedy said. “In fact, I can’t listen to the first two Mayfield Four records, because it’s like listening to a musical journal. As the time has gone on, I’ve learned to look outward a little more.”
And though his schedule isn’t going to slow down anytime soon, further keeping him away from home, Kennedy says he always looks forward to returning to Spokane (Alter Bridge is scheduled to play the Knitting Factory in October).
“A lot of people think I left Spokane, but Spokane is still home,” he said. “My wife and I tried living in Florida for about six months 10 years ago, and we just found that Spokane is the place for us. We love it there, our family’s there, it’s just a great quality of life. We’re there whenever I’m not on the road, which is a lot anymore – it feels like I’m in this state of perpetual touring – but I love coming back to Spokane.”