Myles Kennedy Biography
By Julia Plummer
Last Updated January 4, 2008
The following is based on many of the articles I’ve collected on the Mayfield Four and Alter Bridge, information that people have emailed me and general info I’ve picked up here and there.
Myles grew up on a farm in Spokane, Washington, after moving there as a child from northern Idaho. He attended Mead High School on the north side of Spokane, along with his future Mayfield Four band-mates Marty Meisner, Zia Uddin and Craig Johnson.
Myles started out as a 15-year-old Jimmy Page wannabe. Using a tennis racket for a guitar, Kennedy would stand before his bedroom mirror for hours on end, playing all the classics: “Immigrant Song,” “Black Dog,” “Dazed And Confused,” and “Communication Breakdown.” At first he didn’t even consider trying to learn guitar – it looked too hard! But when he finally decided to try, his father offered to pay him for cleaning out horse stalls at a dollar a stall so he could earn the money for the guitar.
With guitar playing influences span such artists as Led Zeppelin to John Sykes and Blue Murder, his vocal influences reflect a different source. Myles found his voice through hours of listening to his parents’ Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye albums. He also enjoys a lot of the Stax/Volt stuff and Otis Redding, considering this to be the backbone of pop music.
During high school, Myles played guitar in his high school’s jazz band, as well as playing the trumpet with the school band. At night, he played lead guitar in a local heavy metal band called Bittersweet with future Mayfield Four drummer Zia Uddin.“We used to get up every morning and go to school, then play in the bars four hours a night, six nights a week. We’ve been out for a long time (KNRK interview, 2001).” After graduation, Myles went through the Commercial Music/Jazz Studies program at Spokane Falls Community College. It was around this time that he showed off his jazz guitar talents around Spokane with the Cosmic Dust Fusion Band (which released Journey in 1991).
In the early 1990’s, while the Seattle sound was making waves, Myles rebelled against the new sound, focusing more on R&B music like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. He ended up forming a much different sound than was popular at the time: Citizen Swing. With a sound that fused rock with R&B, Citizen Swing put out two albums. Myles wrote the music for 1992’s Cure Me with the Groove and then wrote all music and lyrics for 1995’s Deep Down.
Soon after the release of Deep Down, Citizen Swing disbanded. Myles put together a new band with a new sound – the Mayfield Four. Their sound has been described as “Jeff Buckley meets Soundgarden during Zeppelin Tribute Night”. And by 1997, they had recorded a 3 song EP which caught the attention of Epic. This was followed by the release of a live EP: Motion in 1997, recorded at a show in Spokane. Then the next year, their first full-length album was released: Fallout (1998). This was followed by 15-months of touring, with such acts Big Wreck, The Watchmen, Fuel and Zebrahead. It also included a tour in the summer of 1998 with Creed, introducing Myles’ voice to future band mates Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips.
After the Fallout tour, original Mayfield Four guitarist Craig Johnson was fired from the band, leaving the three, Myles, Marty, and Zia, to write and record their sophomore effort – Second Skin (2001). Myles wrote about 100 songs during this time, and the band demoed about 25 of them. The new album was a departure from what was laid out in Fallout, having a more hard-rocking and aggressive feel than the first album. It was also during this time that Myles landed a roll in the movie Rockstar (2001), playing a fan of the fictitious rock band Steel Dragon who gets a chance to get up on stage and sing (yes, that’s him singing in the movie but no, that’s not his real hair).
For the Second Skin tour, Mayfield Four added Modwheelmood frontman (and current NIN keyboard player) Alessandro Cortini on guitars, touring around the country with Everclear, American Hi-Fi and Flipp.
Myles has also appeared on other albums as well. He laid down guitar solos with two up-beat jazzy rock tunes from Mulligan’s Striped Suit: Low Fi (2001). Vocally, he has contributed to “Breakthrough” on Big Wreck’s The Pleasure and the Greed and “Ducked Out” on Five Foot Thick’s Blood Puddle (2003).
The Mayfield Four played their last public show in October 2001. In 2002, the Mayfield Four broke up and parted ways with Epic Records because, according to Myles, “it felt like the machine was pushing the band” (Jordan, 2004). Myles began working on new music. Unfortunately, it was during this time that he damaged his ears by listening to music on his headphones at volumes that were too high. This resulted in tinnitus, a term given to describe the ringing or buzzing some people hear despite absence of an external sound. Myles was left with the possibility of never playing in rock ‘n’ roll the way he always had. He continued to work on his music, but with more of an acoustic approach.
Then, in late November of 2003, Mark Tremonti called Myles to see if he was interested in laying down some vocal tracks on a few songs he had written. The result was the ultimate formation of Alter Bridge in January of 2004, with Myles joining up with former Creed musicians Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall, and Scott Phillips. Mark had already written most of the music for One Day Remains (2004) though Myles co-wrote “Find the Real”, “One Day Remains,” “Open Your Eyes”, “Metalingus,” and “The End is Here” with Tremonti. The album went on to be certified gold with multiple tours across the U.S. and Europe from 2004 to 2005.
For 2007’s Blackbird, Myles and Mark formed a true collaboration, allowing both Myles and Mark to express their different, but complementary guitar styles. Thus, unlike on One Day Remains, you’ll hear Myles playing guitar as well as singing on all the songs.
Interesting quotes from Myles Kennedy:
“I have learned just to stay honest, to have integrity and maintain that. If people like it, great, if not you have to stay true to yourself as an artist, as a band. That’s hard to do especially nowadays.” (From Virginmega.com website, 2001)
Interviewer: “What do you miss [about Spokane]?”
Myles: “The mullets. We miss the mullets in Spokane.” (Interview on KNRK Portland, OR – July 18, 2001)
Myles on watching Rock Star in Spokane, after the LA premiere:
“I’m more shocked seeing it in Spokane than I was being in L.A. with Brad Pitt sitting behind me. Now I’m home and I’m watching myself. It’s weird.” (Interview by Doug Clark, 9/9/01)
Interesting quotes about Myles Kennedy:
Scott Phillips: “Now Myles has an element we didn’t really have last time…which is a nice…easy to talk to similar person to the way the three of us are. He just makes it feel more, I don’t’ know, family-like is the right term or not…there’s just a lot more communication this time around, the ability to speak freely and not worry about the consequences of your free speaking and what it might do to you down the road.” (Rockpages.gr, 2005)
Clark, Doug (September 9, 2001). Spokesman Review True story: Spokane rocker makes good
Clark, Doug (November, 26 2002). Spokesman Review Dream called, but musician couldn’t hear it
Dolas, Yiannis (2005) from http://www.rockpages.gr/ Interview with Alter Bridge
Jordan, Isamu (October 26, 2004). Spokane 7 Alter ego
KNRK Portland, OR (July 18, 2001). Interview with Myles Kennedy. Interview transcribed by Lisa Weber
Mackin, Bob, (March 22, 1999). North Shores News, Alternative bands power through debut recordings