Singer-songwriter Myles Kennedy could have left his home base for industry towns such as Los Angeles or New York. However, the Alter Bridge frontman, who grew up in the Colbert area, remains in Spokane.
The Mead High School alumnus, who will perform a sold-out concert with his band Alter Bridge on Thursday at the Knitting Factory, reveals why he remains in what he dubs “America’s best-kept secret.”
Kennedy also will detail why Alter Bridge, which also includes guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips, is the longest-running gig of his life and how close he was to fronting his childhood heroes, Led Zeppelin.
When a musician has as much success as you’ve enjoyed, their hometown is typically in the rearview. Why have you stayed in Spokane?
I’ve never had any intention of leaving. My family is here. There’s so much history for me here. The connections I have over the last 40 years stay with me. When I fly into the airport here, the word I feel is solace. I look at that skyline, and I know I’m home. I travel all over the world, and I see a lot of amazing cities, but there’s no place like where I’m at now. You have the mountains and the lakes in Coeur d’Alene.
What was it like growing up with Jason Hanson, who went on to become one of the greatest kickers in NFL history, and Craig Montoya, who played bass for Everclear?
We all went to Mead together. Jason and I were friends from an early age. We still keep in touch. I’m so proud of Jason. He was great at everything, including music. He was the first trumpet, and his grades were excellent. He is exceptional!
Craig and I were the rocker kids. It’s crazy that we both ended up signing deals with major labels. I still remember sitting in the back of math class with Craig talking about rock bands. We were just a pair of geeky kids. He wore his Van Halen shirt, and I had my Motley Crue shirt on.
When did you have the epiphany that your life’s work would be music?
It happened when I heard (Van Halen’s) “Eruption” for the first time (in 1978). It was like a laser beam from outer space. It was like one of those wild Chris Farley moments!
You’ve jumped around quite a bit during your career, but the one constant is Alter Bridge.
It’s hard to believe it’s been over 15 years since we formed. We have such great chemistry. I love working with those guys.
The latest Alter Bridge album, “Walk the Sky,” is full of the expected, hard-hitting, guitar-driven songs. So many young adults are performing with a computer, not a guitar. What does the future look like for rock and the guitar?
I get what you’re saying about the new generation of kids who didn’t grow up with the guitar like I did during the ’70s and ’80s. There are kids making music with their computer, but there are a lot of kids out there who love the guitar. Look at bands like Greta Van Fleet and Dirty Honey. Both of those bands are great bands that are all about the guitar. I think the guitar and rock will be just fine.
Since you front Alter Bridge and the Conspirators, you’re primarily known as a singer, but you’re such an underrated guitarist. Were you a guitarist before you were a singer?
Yes. Guitar was my first love. I played guitar for five or six years before I sang. When I was growing up, I loved Led Zeppelin. I was so influenced by Jimmy Page’s guitar playing.
You were invited by Page to come out and sing with him, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham. How close were you to fronting a version of Led Zeppelin?
I didn’t know what to expect when I went out there (to London). It was an amazing opportunity to jam with those guys. To me, Led Zeppelin is the alpha and omega. It was surreal. I had a lot of emotion inside of me when I walked into that studio. I was trying to keep my cool. My inner 14-year-old was freaking out!
What’s your favorite memory from that experience?
Singing “The Rain Song” since that’s my favorite Zeppelin song. I also loved doing “No Quarter.” During the second verse of “The Rain Song,” John Paul Jones plays that beautiful part on the Mellotron, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I got so emotional. I had to turn away after watching him play that part. They were just trying to feel out how they would roll it out so they could share their music.
Why did you turn down the gig as the singer of Velvet Revolver after Slash reached out to you?
It was the summer of 2002. I was at the end of my run with the Mayfield Four, and Slash surprised me since I had no idea how he heard of some guy from Spokane, Washington. He sent a demo tape, and I never sent it back. Ultimately, I never put my hat in the ring. I was honored.
“Appetite for Destruction” was a big record for me. But I just met my future wife and wasn’t where I needed to be in life. I wasn’t the right guy. But I was glad they ended up with Scott Weiland, who was perfect for that band.
You don’t see many guys like Weiland, who was one of the last real rock stars.
It’s true. You look at guys like Steven Tyler and Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction who were so compelling. There was this element of danger with Farrell, and he oozed of charisma. But he’s still around, and so is Slash.
What is Slash like?
Slash is super cool. He’s a laid-back, fascinating person who is very quiet but profound when he speaks up. There’s a lot going on behind those sunglasses and under that top hat. It’s so much fun playing and singing with him.
When did you discover that you had such a set of pipes?
I always knew I could sing since I could sing the hymns (in church). I could hit pitch in my sophomore year at Mead. I was in a band then, and we played Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” It was obvious I could sing.
What do you hope to accomplish that you have yet to achieve?
That’s a tough one since a lot of the boxes have been checked. If you would have told me 25 years ago all the things that happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m so thankful for everything that has happened to me.
And you’re closing another leg of your tour at home with Alter Bridge. You always open and close tours in Spokane.
You know what’s going to be cool about that tour is that Alter Bridge fans are like Deadheads. Fans from all over the world will come to Spokane for the show. They’ll be people from Japan and the United Kingdom. I can’t wait for the hometown show.
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