Leave It Alone
“I was juggling a few song options for the opener, but I love the intro of this song – it pulls you into the album. It’s also got my favourite guitar solo on the record.
"Since recording Brand New Start [from Blackbird, 2007] with Alter Bridge, I really fell in love with the idea of a solo starting with a lot of space, clean guitars as the rhythm bed, and then to explode into a big epic part. It’s the best backing track for a lead solo.”
So You're Afraid
“With a lot of the parts for this album, I played them for the guys in Alter Bridge and Creed, but they never made it onto the final records. We have so many ideas floating around all the time that a lot of them get overlooked.
"I had kicked around the chorus to this with Myles [Kennedy] in Alter Bridge, and it had made it into three or four different versions of songs. But I really liked it, so made sure it found a home on this album.
"The way it breaks down on the verses was necessary so I could play and sing it at the same time. We made sure everything on the album was playable live.”
Wish You Well
“That’s a very old song – I have a version of that I recorded on a four- track in eighth or ninth grade. My old version just had a verse, chorus and a solo, so I added a second verse and a bridge.
"I couldn’t have done what I do in the verse back in junior high! But the whole essence of the song was inspired by my early years listening to thrash and speed metal.”
“It reminds you of the intro to Seasons In The Abyss? Well, I love Slayer – I know exactly what you’re talking about. I guess that kind of thing is just in me; I love that dark, brooding and menacing style, but with space and atmosphere to it.
"When I wrote that [intro] part, and then played the riff coming out of it, I remember Eric [Friedman, co-guitarist on All I Was] saying, ‘We’ve got to work on that!’ But that was one of the more challenging songs to put together because of the chorus. I threw a bunch of choruses at it, but in the end, we finally got it.”
The Things I've Seen
“About half the record is about being burned by people I’ve worked with in the past. When you’re a musician, you keep your head down, concentrate on the music and let other people deal with the business, but things are destined to go wrong at some point when there’s money involved.
"So, some of the songs are about being completely shocked that people who you thought had your best interests at heart would just turn on you so easily.
“For this song, I used the baritone [a custom-made PRS]. It sounded really big and full. But, sometimes, it’s harder to track those types of songs than the faster ones because the big, open, six-string chords can create crazy tuning problems.
"Elvis [Michael Baskette, producer] calls them ‘expensive chords’! We have to be careful with intonation - once the major 3rd goes off, it’s a nightmare. The baritone kept those problems to a minimum.
"Elvis actually pushed me to tune to a half-step down on this. It gets pretty high on the second verse [vocally], but now I can pull it off after doing it over and over again.”
You Waste Your Time
"The first single wasn’t an easy choice. We enjoyed the album as a whole. Once we had it all done, I started playing the songs to my brothers, my wife and my friends.
"Everybody would come back with different favourites, which is the worst reaction when you need to choose a single! “It sounds like there’s a lot going on in the solo, but it’s relatively easy to play.
"I like solos that get the message across and flow real easy through your fingers – solos that don’t put up a huge fight. That’s definitely one of them.”
New Way Out
"That was one of the toughest songs for me. With a song like that, the lyrical content is so vital. It’s so easy to turn a song like that into something that’s corny.
"The lyrics held me up for a while, and I changed them. Singing that song live is one of the toughest things, too. I run out of gas at certain points and get a little dizzy, especially through that second chorus and bridge – there’s not a lot of space to breathe in there.
"But I enjoy the solo on this one, and it’s got my favourite backup vocals from Eric after the solo. That’s probably my favourite part of the song. It’s quite an open-sounding song, too, in terms of space. It’s in open B5 tuning.”
“When I’m playing this live, and the intro riff comes back in, I try not to think too much about what my right hand is doing. But, so far, we’ve pulled it off.
"That part and the verse in All I Was were probably the parts that challenged me the most when I had to sing and play at the same time.”
All I Was
“The beginning of the verse is fine for me to sing and play, but when playing it live, I strum the last two chords as it gets to the end of the verse line, instead of picking the individual strings like I did on the album. When you hear it back you can’t tell.
“This one had one of my favourite riffs on the whole record that I’ve been kicking around with Alter Bridge for years. It never had a melody over it, but I would just try and jam it in every other song.
"After trying for about five songs, I just gave up, but it was one of the first things I jumped on when this album was being put together. I’m very happy with the melody that I stumbled on to go over that part. It was something I thought would be very hard to write, and when I came up with that I was relieved.”
“That fingerpicked part at the bridge is one of my favourites on the album, but I expected a lot from that guitar solo, with the setup the bridge brings. I recorded all the album’s solos, went on tour, and came back to listen to them again.
"When I heard Proof, it just sounded like a bunch of notes. It didn’t say anything to me. So, we edited the thing in half, and shortened it so it wasn’t a bunch of licks.
"That was the only thing I wish I had time to go back and rewrite because I really enjoy the bridge and the setup for the solo. My one regret was that I couldn’t go back and make that one special again.”
It Doesn't Matter
“I played that riff in Alter Bridge; it was called Johnny’s Song because our buddy [Major League baseball player] Johnny Damon was listening to our rehearsal when we were putting it together, and he loved it.
"But that riff didn’t have a vocal melody; it was just an intro riff. It had a different part for a verse and a completely different chorus.
"We were listening back, and thought we had better songs, so we scrapped it. I went back to that riff and wrote a melody over the top. It’s one of the album’s most positive songs.”
“That’s the hardest song for me to sing on the album. And when we recorded a video of us playing the songs live, that was the one I dreaded the most.
"There are a couple of real tough notes to hit in the verses, and I really have to dig into that bridge. I’ll do that song towards the end live because I worry about throwing my voice off if I sing it too early in the set.”