After Alter Bridge launched their debut album in the fall of 2004, the last thing that Myles Kennedy, Mark Tremonti, Scott Phillips, and Brian Marshall could have expected was the need to start over yet again. Perhaps things do happen for a reason, because what could have been a curse turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Alter Bridge’s first album, One Day Remains, was certified Gold by the RIAA and was met with critical acclaim. The band set off on tour in the fall of 2004, playing through the end of 2005 for fervent crowds all over the world. Simultaneously, however, cracks began to tarnish the relationship between the band and its label, Wind-Up Records. Believing that their label did not share the same vision, the band determined their only recourse was to ask to be released from Wind-Up. The label's objections prompted Tremonti and Phillips, using their personal funds, to successfully negotiate and buy the band out of their contract.
Much of 2006 was spent writing new material and interviewing with potential labels. The band was eager to explore their newfound freedom and excited to start recording. After growing tired of waiting, they again dipped into their personal funds to create the album that they wanted and needed to make. For the first time in their careers, no one was looking over their shoulder. It was now just about Alter Bridge and their music.
Alter Bridge recruited producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette. The recording process began in Nashville in February 2007. “We began negotiating our recording contract at the end of 2006, and knew it may take a while to come to mutual terms,” Scott Phillips reflects, “but the opportunity, and window of availability to work with Elvis made the decision easy for us to pay for this album ourselves. When all the stars aligned with us, as a band, a producer who could capture the essence of what we had become, and the songs we felt we had, it was agreed that this album had to be made right then and there. We knew we’d eventually have a great label to call home.”
The band's focus and determination was rewarded in June 2007, when they finally signed with Universal Republic Records. "We’re thrilled to be partnering up with Alter Bridge," states Monte Lipman, President of Universal Republic Records. "They're an incredible band, and they have a strong vision that we share together. When Tom (Mackay, SVP A&R) and I met with the group, we knew instantly that they were the type of talented people we’d want to be in business with.”
Out of the chaos, tumult, and uncertainty, Blackbird, Alter Bridge’s sophomore album, was born. “We’re very excited about beginning this chapter in our lives and careers,” comments Mark Tremonti. “Universal Republic is a perfect home for us and we’re excited that our fans are finally going to hear all the new songs we’ve been working on for quite some time. This material is really aggressive and I think it’s the best work we’ve ever done. We can’t wait to get back in front of our loyal fans later this year.”
There are many differences between One Day Remains and Blackbird. Most notable is the full integration of Myles Kennedy as a guitarist and songwriter. One Day Remains was largely written before Myles came on board. This time around, it was a collaborative effort with Mark and Myles sharing the songwriting duties, while all four band members worked on the arrangements. “It’s a natural evolution after three years of working together. We knew Myles was an amazing singer, that’s why we hired him. What we found out when we toured the first record was that he’s also an incredibly gifted guitar player and songwriter, as well as a vocalist. It would have been a crime not to utilize all that talent. We wanted to use every weapon we had in our arsenal for this album,” Mark states.
“Musically,” Myles says, “Mark and I really complement one another, especially when you juxtapose his powerful style with my dark and emotional approach. On top of that, we have a common goal, to find the best melody possible. This is really the first time in all my years of writing that I had the opportunity to do a true collaboration with someone. We make a fantastic team.”
Lyrically, the album touches on many themes. The subject of addiction is broached in the hard-hitting “Buried Alive” and the beautiful, yet melancholy, “Watch Over You.” “Having watched people around me suffer through this issue... It is the realization, from my perspective, that you really can’t help someone who refuses to help themselves,” Myles explains.
“Before Tomorrow Comes” became a personal mantra for Kennedy. “It definitely challenges my tendency to be apathetic at times. The line ‘We could be so much more than we are’ is meant to ask the questions: Have you reached your potential? Are you doing everything you can to make a difference?” Regarding “Rise Today” Kennedy states, “We are just asking the question: Could this world be a better place? It may be idealistic, but it’s from the heart. The last thing we want is for people to misinterpret this song as political in nature.”
Kennedy’s lyrics for the title track “Blackbird” were written for a friend of his who had been fighting an illness for some time. “As we were completing the music and arrangement of the song, I had received word that his struggle was coming to an end. Lyrically, this was a very difficult song to write. It was my wish for him to finally find some peace and move on to a better place.”
Bringing Kennedy into the fold as a guitarist allowed Mark Tremonti to shine throughout Blackbird. Whether it’s the soaring blues based solo on “Brand New Start” or the intense but tasteful lead on “Come To Life,” Tremonti shows his evolution as a player. On the title track, both Mark and Myles display their contrasting styles against a sonic tapestry that is sure to take the listener on an emotional journey.
Alter Bridge’s efforts will culminate this fall when Blackbird is released and the band eagerly returns to the road. “First and foremost, we’re a live band," Mark exclaims. "We give it our all every single night no matter how many people we’re playing for. We love playing for the fans more than anything in the world. It’s why we make records.” Mark concludes that because of ownership rights and the transition between labels, “there were no Alter Bridge sites, or MySpace sites, so what sustained our fan base was our fan sites. What sustained us was our fans. Our fans took over and carried us through these tough times. So to our fans, we say 'Thank You!'”