For the better part of the 21st century, Myles Kennedy has been regarded as one of the strongest songwriters, collaborators, and frontmen in rock and roll. Having worked alongside some of rock’s biggest names like Slash and Mark Tremonti, his songwriting cred has never been in question — and now he’s venturing out on his own. After nearly a decade in the making, Kennedy this week unleashes his first solo album, Year of The Tiger (March 9), and if you’re familiar with the depth and passion he has operated with since day one, the power contained within the new tracks shouldn’t come as a surprise.
This may be Kennedy’s most spirited effort to date, and above all else, definitely his most personal.
In 1974 (also referred to, in terms of the Chinese zodiac, “The Year of the Tiger”), when Kennedy was just four, the Massachusetts native’s father passed away due to not seeking medical attention for an illness, which aligned with his belief in the teachings of the Christian Science Church. Throughout his career in music, Kennedy admits he had not been ready to address his father’s death, and the myriad of questions he had about it, but after completing what would be taking the shelf space of The Year of The Tiger, the 48-year-old decided to scrap the project and embark on a creative journey that would proceed to aid him in looking for answers surrounding his father’s demise.
“The album is essentially a document, starting at the point of when my father passes away, through the journey afterwards, as my mom takes my brother and I out of the Boston area, and we basically start over in Wisconsin,” Kennedy tells Vanyaland. “It was definitely something I’ve always wanted to do, and dive into the loss, but every time I would try to, as a writer, I would hit a brick wall. But for whatever reason, the universe made it known that now it was finally time for me to dissect this, and document it.”
Because he’s always been part of some sort of collaborative effort, having been at the helm of Alter Bridge since 2004 and Slash’s right-hand man since 2009, Kennedy never felt comfortable going into this part of his mind around other artists. So a solo album was the perfect excuse to wade around in his stream of consciousness. And while he didn’t initially intend to go through any sort of catharsis, Kennedy admits that somewhere along the way, it certainly began to take on that feeling.
“Once I jumped in, I had a well of emotion that I could draw from,” says Kennedy. “What I discovered, though, after I dipped the bucket into that well, and started pulling those emotions out and writing about them, then I started to feel that cathartic element. Although there were times where it felt like a therapy session, I wasn’t aware how those emotions were going play out after peeling back the layers and picking those scabs.”
He adds: “I feel like I learned a lot about how the human brain works, too. It was fascinating to me that you can take these memories and feelings of loss and sadness or whatever, and if you choose to take them off the and dust them off, you’d be surprised how alive those feelings still are.”
Through the whole process of writing, recording, and having those various emotions bubble to the surface, Kennedy realized that, most of all, he had fun writing his first solo record. Kennedy, who was named after Plymouth settler Myles Standish, is excited to bring the record out on the road, as well, and will visit Boston with a sold-out performance at City Winery on May 21. The feeling of a sort-of homecoming hasn’t escaped him, but the fact that he’s bringing the story of his father’s passing full circle gives the show a bit of a different meaning now.
“I never thought of it that way, to be honest. It’ll be interesting to play some of those songs, a few of which are inspired by that area, and although I left at a young age, I still have certain memories of the city and emotional attachment to the area.”
MYLES KENNEDY :: May 21 at City Winery, 80 Beverly St. in Boston, MA :: 6 p.m., all ages, $18 to $25 [sold out] :: City Winery event page :: Featured photo by Christian Barz