STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
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Alter Bridge has been together for 13 years.
But, oddly, it’s become more of a band during the past year and a half or so.
The group — formed by guitarist Mark Tremonti, a Detroit, Mi., native, and his bandmates in Creed, with the Mayfield Four’s Myles Kennedy singing — has released five studio albums since its formation. But Alter Bridge, named after the stretch of road that connects Detroit to Grosse Pointe, has had to weave between the musicians’ other commitments, whether to Creed or Tremonti’s solo project or Kennedy’s involvement with Slash and his Conspirators. But with the latter in drydock while Slash concentrates on the Guns N’ Roses reunion, Alter Bridge has a longer window of opportunity than it’s ever had before.
“We all like playing together enough that we’re willing to wait for it to happen,” Tremonti, 42, says by phone from his current home in Florida. “I have my (solo) thing, but more than anything it’s down to Myles’ schedule with Slash, which we understand.”
Kennedy, meanwhile, says that the Slash hiatus not only gives him more time with Alter Bridge but also a little more time, period.
“Between Alter Bridge and Slash, I was always going,” Kennedy, 47, says by phone from his home in Spokane, Wash. “Any time there was down time with Alter Bridge it was filled with Slash and the Conspirators. So right now when I get off the road I’m actually OFF the road, and it allows me to kind of power down and do some writing or whatever. It’s been a new dynamic.”
“The Last Hero,” Alter Bridge’s fifth album, came out in October and debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 chart, the group’s best showing since its 2004 debut. It was recorded earlier in the year in Florida with producers Michael “Elvis” Baskette and Ben Grosse (another Detroit area native), and Tremonti feels that this time out the music gravitated more towards the heavier direction of his solo work.
“The difficult between keeping Tremonti and Alter Bridge different is that Alter Bridge is getting heavier and heavier and more progressive, and Tremonti just started out heavy,” the guitarist explains. “The rhythm sections are different, so that helps, and Myles and I are obviously different singers. But when the stuff’s on the table to and we’re writing, I just take what’s best at the moment and run with it now.”
Kennedy adds that, “With Mark and I there’s a certain chemistry. We’re very different writers. We’re kind of ying and yang in a sense, but there’s a certain reaction that happens when you get the two of us in a room together — especially as time has gone and we’ve evolved and come to understand each other’s strengths.
“We know that this (Alter Bridge) music is something neither one of us could really do on our own, so that makes it a lot of fun.”
“The Last Hero” also sees Kennedy as a lyricist stepping out into more topical, if not overtly political, directions on tracks such as the first single, “Show Me A Leader.” “I don’t think we had any idea some of the songs were going to be like that,” Kennedy says. “I think that even though the election is over and there’s still a very polarized and divided sense in our country, some of these songs are touching on that — again, in a way we never would have imagined.
“We try not to go into this with an agenda. We’re not saying one side’s right, one side’s wrong but (are) really just reflecting, I think, how people feel in general. That was the trick, to make sure we’re not getting up and choosing a side, so to speak.”
But with more Alter Bridge likely to come before the band members do anything else — though Kennedy has resurrected a solo album he started working on for more than six years — the frontman says that in the future he may be willing to step out and be more direct about his beliefs and opinions.
“It’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit,” Kennedy says. “I’ve always tried to shy away from that ‘cause I feel like there are artists out there who do it really well, and that’s kind of their place and I’m not sure if I’m the guy to do that. We’ll see; I guess I’ll have to think about it and see how things continue to evolve — let’s put it that way.”