The veteran guitarist shares the highs and lows of major label living and how sound advice from Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison helped him become a better studio musician.
The second segment of the in-depth exploration into the discography of Myles Kennedy on the Disc Dive with Ryan J. Downey begins with a very pivotal time for the guitarist.
The formation of The Mayfield Four was particularly formative for Kennedy as it would be the very first time that the songwriter would get the complete experience of life on a major label.
Kennedy explained that back then he was traveling some 5 hours every other weekend to gig and rehearse (members of The Mayfield Four were split between Spokane and Seattle at that time) but major labels had began to show interest in the band and the courtship was real. He explained that there were flights to New York and limousines outside of their house – it was a moment in time during the charge account era of the music industry that has long since gone.
Kennedy detailed that the band would eventually sign to Epic Records despite a host of labels pleading their case. At that time, Epic was home to bands like Oasis, Pearl Jam, and Rage Against the Machine. They were also the label that put out the second record that Kennedy first-owned with Boston. Aside from the love Epic was showing the band, there was a personal connection to the legacy of the label that Kennedy and the Mayfield Four felt proud to be a part of.
That era also marked the first time Kennedy and the band got to work with a big name producer. The Mayfield Four would work with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads for their fist record, Fallout. The album incorporated subtle elements of soul and was the processor to Kennedy really discovering his rock identity.
Kennedy shared that during that time he was listening Jeff Buckley and very much liked Radiohead. Prior to going into the studio to record Fallout, Kennedy recalled getting some advice from Harrison that stuck. Harrison cautioned Kennedy not to listen to the new OK Computer album Radiohead was releasing so that he wouldn’t absorb it.
The simple bit of direction positioned Kennedy to better create something his own, rather than unknowingly reinterpret what he was influenced by. It was a moment Kennedy felt compelled to share decades later.
After the release of the band’s debut in Fallout, Kennedy talked about touring the country in a van with a trailer on the hitch. Performing night in and night out, Kennedy also says that during this time is when he discovered the power of the riff. In experiencing the give and take of a live audience, he experienced that rock was what moved the needle in a live setting.
That new understanding would eventually resonate heavily on the band’s follow up record, Second Skin. The record proved especially significant has it was one of the first that really showcased Myles as a rock guitarist, eventually ushering in a new era for the musician.
It was also during this time that Kennedy talked about coming to grips with the reality of the music business. Though talented, The Mayfield Four never put out another record and after Second Skin. Kennedy found himself back home, teaching guitar and uncertain of whether he wanted to pursue a career as a recording artist.
Citing how only some 5% of artists ever sell enough records to recoup their advance, Kennedy explained that post Mayfield Four, he was crestfallen and really at a fork in the road personally and professionally.
Watch the second segment of the Disc Dive of Myles Kennedy and Ryan J. Downey below.