Myles Kennedy's impressive vocal heroics are only matched by his far-ranging guitar licks.
Kennedy's six-string exploits with Alter Bridge, Slash's solo band – The Conspirators – and in his own solo work are deeply rooted in rock. But there's more than meets the ear.
Kennedy's solo work, and his output with Alter Bridge, show his nuanced ability to mix hard-rock arrangements with off-the-beaten-path tunings. If you dial into his work with Slash, meanwhile, a love for the blues is readily apparent.
Kennedy is also a dab hand at fusion-infused leads and one of the most reliable rhythm guitar players out there today. You could say that Kennedy is one of the more multi-faceted and versatile guitarists in the game today. But where did it all begin?
“What made me fall in love with the guitar was hearing Eddie Van Halen's Eruption on a boombox while playing wiffleball with my friends as a kid, I'd never heard anything like that in my life before. It was so out there that I couldn't even fathom what the hell it was. It was one of those moments where time stood still. I was frozen in place listening to whatever Eddie was doing.”
“I was completely enamored to the point that I immediately ran to my mother and begged for her an advance on my allowance to go buy the cassette,” Kennedy continues.
“Thankfully, she gave me the money, and a few hours later, I had my Van Halen cassette. But beyond Eddie, not too long after I heard Eruption, I heard Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin, which further changed everything. It's those two songs that nudged me to want to pursue guitar.”
During a break from promoting Alter Bridge's latest release, Pawns & Kings (and his brand-new PRS signature guitar) Myles Kennedy dialed in with Guitar World to run through the 10 guitarists who shaped his sound.
1. Jimmy Page
“As a composer, guitar player and producer, Jimmy Page is very unique. He has a truly special approach, and what's crazy is that we saw that right out of the gate, but he managed to keep it up throughout his career. But I think what I loved about Jimmy and still love about him is that he has this reckless abandon.
“He's an incredible composer and arranger, and he's great in the studio, but when he executes his leads, I don't know… there's something very dangerous about the way he plays. It's not perfect, and there's a bit of that reckless abandon, which I love. It's almost punk rock in its ethos, but really, it's fearlessness. I've always loved that about Jimmy's playing.”
2. Eddie Van Halen
“With Eddie, obviously, his sound was all his own. And when you put that into the context of when the first album [Van Halen] came out, it's just crazy. Back then, nobody had that sound. And nobody played that way, either. Eddie's 'brown sound' was revolutionary – [it inspired] an entire generation of guitar players in the '80s. And people can say what they want, but ultimately, people back then were chasing that sound. But it was a special time, and we have Eddie to thank for that.
“His two-handed technique was a game-changer that inspired a whole bunch of shredders back then, and it still does to this day. We owe a lot to Eddie for what he brought to the party.”
3. David Gilmour
“I remember being at summer camp as a kid, and while I was there, someone was playing The Wall in its entirety, and it blew my mind. I have no idea why the album was being played in that setting, but when I heard the solo for Comfortably Numb as a 14-year-old kid, man, it brought tears to my eyes. It was just so beautiful and free, and it had this deep soul while still being extremely melodic.
“I love David's playing – during that solo, he hit all the right notes. So, for me, as a guitar player, that solo was a crucial point.
“That's when I realized that even though I listened to a lot of Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen, I knew that technique wasn't everything. It was about evoking emotions via the notes and being lyrical. David is so vocal in his approach to the guitar. He speaks to people. I love that about his playing.“
4. John Sykes
“I know John played with Thin Lizzy for a while, but I discovered him through his Whitesnake stuff. That '87 record [Whitesnake] was huge, and a lot of it was due to John's sound. It was so heavy, but he had this blues element mixed with raw aggression.
“I remember being taken by how powerful it was, and I loved his albums with Blue Murder after he left Whitesnake, too. But I think his sound, in conjunction with his vibrato, significantly influenced me. I spent a lot of time trying to emulate that big, wide vibrato because of how soulful it was.”
5. Ian Thornley
“People don't talk about Ian enough, but he's a friend of mine, and he's amazing. He's in a Canadian band called Big Wreck, and I've known him since my Mayfield Four [Kennedy's pre-Alter Bridge band] days. We toured together back then – we were both these young bucks just coming up in the ranks.
“I remember being blown away after I'd heard a song called The Oaf on the radio because of how killer Ian was on it. And then, about three weeks later, I was in a music store in New York, and when I walked in, I heard this guy shredding like a mother in the corner. It turned out to be Ian, and we got to talking. We've been close friends ever since, and I think he's one of the best-kept secrets in guitar.”
6. Warren Haynes
“Warren is another one of those guys who doesn't play a lot of notes, but he plays the right notes. Beyond that, I love his tone. Warren's got a sound that just grips you. And I've had a few incredible experiences where I got to perform and jam with him over the years, all of which were absolute highlights. Out of all the cool moments I've had in my career, if someone asked me to name the best moments, being onstage with Warren is up there.
“Watching him do these long, extended solo sections while I was standing there, man, for a second, I forgot what my name was. He will always be one of my favorites, not only because of how great he is, but because he's like a Jedi Master. He's so calm and full of wisdom that you can't help but feed from him.”
7. Pat Metheny
“A lot of people think of me as only a hard rock guy, but I'm influenced by jazz players, too, and Pat Metheny is at the top of that list.
“I remember hearing him back as a teenager when his Still Life (Talking) album came out. And there's a song on that album called Third Wind that has this break where Pat attacks the guitar in a way I'd never heard before. To me, it was super-transcendent. You might not think it, but Pat is highly influential on me in a lot of ways.“
8. Chris Whitley
“Here's a guy who people don't know about, which is sad. But Chris was an important artist back in the '90s for those who did hear him. I've talked with Joe Bonamassa about him, and I think John Mayer is also into Chris. But, man, Chris was just a monstrous talent.
“He was this guy who was busking on the streets of New York City, and Daniel Lanois, who produced a lot of big records back in the day, came upon him. He heard Chris, took him under his wing, and Chris ended up doing a bunch of records for Columbia. Losing Chris was such a blow – he was so talented. He was definitely a big influence, not only as a guitar player, but his vocals were amazing, too.“
9. Danny Gatton
“Danny was a genius. I've never seen anyone so terrifying with a Telecaster in their hands. I remember the first time I saw him; it was on the cover of a guitar magazine where they said he was one of the greatest unknown talents, and they were right. But back then, I was like, 'I've heard this before; let's see.' So, I went and got his record, 88 Elmira St., and I was utterly blown away.
“His raw ability to jump around and pull from all these different influences created something entirely his own. But that's what great artists do, right? They pool all the things that interest them, put their stamp on them, and create something compelling.
“But what I loved most was the physicality of Danny's playing. Because while those old Teles are not easy to play, Danny would just manhandle them. You could hear how much power he had in his hands, and it was scary. That and his creative concepts made Danny Gatton an exceptional player.”
10. Jeff Buckley
“Other than Eddie Van Halen and Jimmy Page, in many ways, Jeff Buckley was one of the big reasons that I needed to chase down being a guitar player. He was one of the individuals that motivated me along the way after I heard his Grace album back in '94. At that time, grunge was all the rage. And while I appreciate grunge, and I love it, Jeff Buckley provided something very different from that stuff.
“His music was so ethereal and special, but you could also hear him pulling from Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, world music, and all these unique things. And then, about five months after I bought Grace, I was lucky enough to see Jeff perform in Seattle at a little theater that held maybe 500 people. That's when the full gravity of his vocal and guitar-playing abilities hit me.
“To this day, his guitar playing is very underrated. Jeff used a lot of weird tunings that made sense with his voice. He was such a crazy talent and so unique. What he did back then profoundly affected me and still does today.”