Although guitarist Mark Tremonti co-founded and continues to play with both the multi-platinum Creed and the chart-topping Alter Bridge, neither band has really served as a showcase for his instrument. So when it came time for his first excursion as the last-name-only-please Tremonti, you might have expected him to fill his debut album with extended instrumentals and big guitar solos. Instead, last summer's All I Was emphasized what he's always valued most in his music.
"I think a lot of people expected this to be an instrumental record, with a bunch of soloing all the way through it, to show what kind of a guitar player I was," says the hard-rock veteran. "But with my solo record, I wanted to push what was most important to me, and that's songwriting and getting my song ideas out. I spend more time writing vocal melodies and songs than I do playing lead guitar."
So Tremonti did essentially what he does in Creed and Alter Bridge, which was to put the song first. But that doesn't mean that All I Was is a Creed or Alter Bridge album masquerading under Tremonti's name. Song-centered or not, Tremonti says he wouldn't have been able to make the same album with either of those bands.
"I've had all kinds of ideas just piling up that hadn't made records, that I'd always kind of throw out at the guys," he says. "A lot of it was my heavier metal roots growing up, a lot of riffs that didn't quite fit Creed or Alter Bridge. So I decided to put those ideas together and make it a solo album."
True enough, All I Was is a heavier album than anything Tremonti has previously done. Songs like "Giving Up," "So You're Afraid" and "Leave It Alone" are powered by crunching riffs, with metallic touches like guitar squeals and double bass drum parts. It also turns out that he's a more-than-capable singer, with a full-bodied voice that isn't all that different from Alter Bridge's Myles Kennedy. And that, for Tremonti, is a big change.
"I spent most of my life as a songwriter singing in my falsetto, because I can hit notes very easily. If I'm in a hotel room or a bedroom — and my wife's watching TV or whatever — I don't have to sing very loud to do a quick demo of my ideas. But I hadn't spent a lot of time singing at full voice and full volume. Finally I decided that I would just go ahead and make a go at it. I think I finally had the confidence to do it."
While singing in a studio environment can be nerve-wracking, Tremonti quickly warmed up to his new role.
"I had a blast with it," he says. "I think it was some of the most fun I've had because I love singing melodies. That's what I do when I'm sitting at home. I spend most of my time writing songs and singing parts, so it was great to finally get in there and do it for real."
Taking his show on the road, on the other hand, proved a bit more challenging. "At first I was a little nervous to be the guy who has to talk between songs and what not," says the novice frontman. "But I think once you get up there, it all just kind of takes care of itself."