About The Artist
The Set List
It's not every day you get the chance to meet one of music's most prolific artists. And here we were, the Soundcheck Crew, getting ready to take in an exclusive performance from Seattle singer/songwriter Chris Cornell. You can always tell when there's a famous rocker in the room; suddenly an abundance of "visitors" arrive to the closed set - in addition to production people from adjacent stages and a slew of fans and "friends" of the crew.
Chris lived up to his iconic status by playing an energetic set that left everybody in the room in rock awe. The former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman performed electrifying selections from his new solo disc, 'Carry On,' including a rocking revisit of Michael Jackson's mega-hit 'Billy Jean.' We sat down with Chris after his performance and quizzed the rocker on the past, present and what lies ahead.
On Lucky 13
Produced by legendary producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band), 'Carry On' signals a mature, wiser Chris Cornell. While there's still evidence of the hard-edged sounds that made Soundgarden famous, the new record reflects a variety of music styles, from ballads to R&B-inspired indie rock. So what's the meaning behind the title? Chris explains: "It is my second solo record, but I really look it as my 13th record - and that they're all in some way related. Like family. So 'Carry On' is like saying, 'I've been doing this for 20 years and I'm not going to stop and I'm not going anywhere.'"
On His Big Moment
It's rare that you meet musicians who are genuinely humble about their success. Throughout the course of our interview, Chris made reference to the support of his fans and feelings of appreciation in an industry that spits out "seasoned" singers. Moreover, this is a guy who genuinely loves music - and one who made a pledge to perform at an early age. He elaborates: "I never really look back. I made that promise to myself at 19 years old. I was living in total poverty and working as a dishwasher. I made this decision that I'm gonna play music and do this thing that is music my whole life - no matter what happens. Whether I get any success out of it or not. That was kind of a big moment. I was very lucky. Most people don't know what they want to do at that age. I was certain."
On Soundgarden Memories
One of rock's defining bands, Soundgarden actually assembled long before the grunge explosion of the early '90s. The Seattle band hit the peak of their success with the 1994 album 'Superunknown,' but few people know that fame and fortune arrived after 10 hard years of writing and touring. We asked Chris about the band's humble beginnings way back in 1984. "Soundgarden started really with Hiro Yamamoto and I becoming roommates, and me being a drummer and having some experience playing in bands around town. We decided 'Let's find a guitar player and start a band.' We went through several; we even answered ads in local rock magazines with just really horrible auditions. Eventually (Hiro) decided a friend that he'd grown up with in Chicago - Kim Thayil - should maybe come by. He wasn't really sold on the idea, but Kim came by and within four or five days we had 15 songs written. We became Soundgarden basically because we had an album's worth of material right away."
- Chris Boyle was born in Seattle, Washington on July 20, 1964. After his parents' divorce, Chris changed his last name to Cornell (his mother's maiden name).
- Chris is considered a pioneer of the Seattle "grunge" rock sound that epitomized the '90s music scene. He fronted Soundgarden from 1984 to 1997, and was also the lead singer of Audioslave from 2001 until 2007.
- Cornell is married to Parisian publicist Vicky Karayiannis. He's also the father of 7-year-old daughter Lillian Jean (from his first marriage to manager Susan Silver), 3-year-old Toni and 2-year-old son Christopher Nicholas.
- Chris began his career as a drummer before eventually moving to become a singer and guitarist
- He knows how to hit the high notes. The highest note Chris has ever hit is an A above male high C in the song 'Jesus Christ Pose' from 1991's 'Badmotorfinger.'
- He's also a successful restaurateur. Chris and his wife own the Parisian restaurant Black Calavados.
- Chris now makes his home in Paris
Perhaps one of Soundgarden's best known tunes, 'Spoonman' is the classic Chris selects to open his solo set. Released back in 1994 (from the album 'Superunknown'), Chris delivers a rocking rendition that stays faithful to the original recording. Inspired by the antics of Artis the Spoonman, a street performer from Santa Cruz, California, the song holds up as strongly as it did when it was released 13 years ago.
No Such Thing
It's time to hear new music. 'No Such Thing' is a vocal highlight from the new record and the album's lead-in track. The official first single is dramatic, driving rock that showcases Chris's fine songwriting skills (he penned 12 of the album's 14 tracks alone). The infectious chorus travels lyrically to dark themes (and the accompanying video is darker still). He sings: "I saw the world / It was beautiful / But the rain got in and ruined it all."
It's always a challenge for an artist to take a fellow singer's signature tune and imprint his own stamp on it. Not only does Chris achieve this with MJ's 'Billy Jean,' he brands it with an entirely original musical direction; it's a slow-burning bluesy jam that simmers with new meaning. 'Billy Jean' appears on 'Carry On,' but Chris has been performing it live since 2006 when he toured to support Audioslave's final album, 'Revelations.' (The band broke up in February, 2007.)
Black Hole Sun
Performing another classic 'Superunknown' song, Chris gives new meaning to old lyrics: "Steal the warm wind / Tired friend / Times are gone / for honest men." Released at a time when grunge was the law of the land ('Black Hole Sun' came out shortly after Kurt Cobain's death), the song remains the soundtrack to a generation now in their 30s. The tune also won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1995.
Arms Around Your Love
Perhaps more than any other tune on 'Carry On,' 'Arms Around Your Love' signals the growth and restraint of Chris Cornell circa 2007. It's a beautifully written classic love song that's stunning in its simplicity. Going back to basics, Chris has written an anthem that's notable for its rousing chorus and affecting lyrics. In this sure-fire hit single, he sings about losing the object of one's affection to another lover: "Pretend that you don't mind / But you know everything that you left behind..."
Look closely at the sleeve of 'Carry On' and you'll see that the packaging has been clearly designed to emulate the classic Motown vinyl of yesteryear. The cover shot shows the 40-year-old rocker in pensive mode; the eyes of a rocker who has lived many lives. Judging from the performance we saw today, Chris Cornell has a lot more stories to tell. The 14 new tracks on his new album are simply great rock 'n' roll - the accomplished vision of a musician in his prime.
Catch him live on tour, and go pick up a copy of 'Carry On' today.
-The Crew at Wal-Mart Soundcheck