Myles Kennedy finally got the hell out of here. "Really got the hell out of here," he laughs via phone from his new home in Orlando, Fla. Things are happening fast for this Spokane native and former lead singer with former Epic recording artists the Mayfield Four. Kennedy is far from home these days -- about as far in America you can get from the Inland Northwest -- fronting another rock band.
But this time, instead of struggling for exposure and respect as a member of a newly signed band, he is squarely in the spotlight as the lead singer of Alter Bridge, the new, buzz-worthy project led by former Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti and featuring the original Creed rhythm duo of Scott Phillips and Brian Marshall. [Alter Bridge is scheduled to play the Big Easy on Halloween night.]
So how'd he get the job? Most had speculated that his brief role in the Mark Wahlberg film Rock Star -- as a singer named Thor -- had gained him notice. No, rest assured this had almost nothing to do with luck and almost everything to do with hard work -- and maybe just a touch of serendipity.
"The Mayfield Four toured with Creed back in '98," Kennedy explains. "But we didn't really hang out on a personal level at all. I think I talked to their drummer for like five minutes. So I was really surprised when Mark [Tremonti] called me late last November. Apparently those guys had been fans of what I did vocally. I was really flattered. It definitely took me by surprise."
At the time of our conversation, Kennedy was back in Spokane, pondering his musical future -- a future he had planned and worked for since he was a kid.
"I closed the book on Mayfield back in the summer of 2002," he says. "I had gotten pretty burned out. I think I was just disillusioned with the whole industry and needed to re-evaluate things. I wasn't sure if I was going to ever put the rock 'n' roll cleats back on, you know?"
What Kennedy and the rest of Mayfield Four (Marty Meisner and Zia Uddin) experienced in the music industry was an all-too-familiar bit of the old "we love you/we don't love you," a syndrome commonly found particularly at bigger recording labels. (Here's how it plays out: A rep from the label gets all hot and bothered for a band and convinces his masters to sign them to a recording contract. Band maybe does OK, but not as well as the label was hoping. Rep who initially signed the band gets fired or moves on. Band falls out of favor with the higher-ups. Band gets unceremoniously dropped.) So to put it nicely, the Mayfield Four was returned to free agent status.
Kennedy says he was initially skeptical of Tremoni's interest.
"But once I got to know Mark a little over the phone, I realized that he was just a real genuine, good person. That's a big part of it. Obviously they are a huge entity and with that people can sometimes... well it does things to people's character. And these guys definitely came out of that whole thing unscathed. They're just really good, down-to-earth people. That was part of my interest. That and I was just really curious to see what would happen if we all got into a room together."
So in January, Kennedy flew down to Orlando (where Alter Bridge is based) to meet up with the guys in the band. And it didn't take long before they all realized they were of the same mind, personally and musically. And now? Well, Alter Bridge has released its debut album, One Day Remains (Wind-Up) to considerable industry fanfare and is currently out there on a national tour in support.
Kennedy's in the fast lane now, but with his feet firmly planted. As he knows from experience, success in the music business is often fleeting.
"You just want to make music and try to leave some sort of mark while you're on this planet," he says. "The problem is, people are so flaky and change their minds. I put so much into the second Mayfield record -- I've never given so much to anything in my life -- and even before that record was released, I knew it was over. I could just tell by the climate at the record label. That was basically 18 months spent in vain."
But at the same time, he admits that music is the drug he's always thinking of.
"Yeah, I couldn't fathom doing anything else. And it's a great way to make a living. It's just that it can be really heartbreaking at times."