For Chris Cornell, now the former frontman of Soundgarden and Audioslave, there was a great deal of apprehension surrounding the writing, recording and eventual release of 1999's Euphoria Morning, his first true stab at forging a solo career. But making the follow-up, Carry On, was a breeze in comparison.
"Even with Temple of the Dog," the grunge group he'd formed with ex-members of Mother Love Bone back in 1990, "where I wrote most of the songs, it was still a band name," he explained. "I was working with other guys from a band that people knew about, and I felt sort of cradled by that and by those people. But with Euphoria Morning, it was my first solo record — what people are going to look at as you — and even though it's just kind of a snapshot of a lot of things musically that I like, it wasn't me entirely. I figured, well, people are going to look at it and think, 'This is what he really wanted to be doing the whole time,' which wasn't true at all. It was just something I hadn't done much of at all before."
With Euphoria Morning, Cornell said he wanted to release an album's worth of material that differed from everything he'd done up to that point in his career, and there were times when "there was a lot of anxiety I had about it," he said.
"But once it was done, I think it was a huge achievement for me, and now, I don't ever have to do that first solo record again," Cornell said. "Now it's just back to business as usual for me. But really, it's a solo record — I don't feel any differently about it, other than the speed with which I'm able to create songs and record them on my own." Carry On was written and recorded in two months. "I feel I'm much more focused now than I was eight, even six years ago, and I've made some huge lifestyle changes," he added. "Everything in my life is completely different — where I live, who I live with."
Due June 5, Carry On is Cornell's first release post-Audioslave. He left the group back in February, citing "irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences" (see "Chris Cornell Talks Audioslave Split, Nixes Soundgarden Reunion" and "Chris Cornell Working On Solo LP — But Dismisses Rumors Of Audioslave Split").
And the singer said his relationships with Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk remain affable. Well before Cornell bolted, Morello, Commerford and Wilk decided to team up with former associate Zack de la Rocha to resurrect Rage Against the Machine for a series of gigs (see "Rage Against The Machine To Reunite For Coachella Festival").
"In the world of music, we have to have a relationship, in several different ways — one, I suppose, will always be in a business way," Cornell said. "In terms of friendship, that has never been a question or a problem. The idea of a clean break, I mean, I only see that if everyone else dies. We clearly had disagreements about things, but it wasn't something like, 'Well, we can't be a band together because we hate each other.' It wasn't like that at all. We're all adults."
Cornell said it's time to move on and continue on his own. From here on out, he said, he'll be going it alone. "This, for me, is what I intend to do," Cornell explained. "I wouldn't be averse to doing some other kind of collaboration, but I'm best in my own world, musically. As far as where my focus is at, I am having a really great time doing this. I don't see any reason or need to be in a band situation again. It's something that I've enjoyed every time I've done it, but time spent doing that is time away from being able to make my own records and experiment with music any way I feel like. My record hasn't even come out yet, and already I am thinking of other records I want to make."
But of course, Cornell can't hit the road without a little backup. He'll be touring the U.S. playing small club gigs through June 9 in Mountain View, California. He said he held blind auditions in Los Angeles a few months back and assembled a touring band consisting of guitarist Yogi Lonich (who's played with the Wallflowers and Buckcherry), guitarist Peter Thorn (who's done time with Courtney Love), drummer Jason Sutter and bassist Corey McCormick.
"I knew I wanted to include songs from really early on in my career in my sets, and I also wanted to be on the road for a really long time, so I needed musicians that I felt could really just sort of effortlessly present those old songs in the way they should have been felt back then, and the way they should be felt now," Cornell said, adding that he plans to inject Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and his solo material — going as far back as his contributions to 1992's "Singles" soundtrack — into his nightly sets. "I also wanted a group of guys who could interpret the new music with the sensitivity I think it requires."
On April 15, Cornell shot a video in New York for the album's second single, "Arms Around Your Love," with director Caswell Coggins (JJ72, the Feeling). The clip, he said, follows the narrative of the song's lyrics and tells a rather relatable story.
"It's something guys go through often — that kind of horror everybody's going to feel at least once, when they've screwed up a relationship and don't think it means that much to them, and all of a sudden they see this person with someone else, or they have that immediate recognition and understanding that this person's never going to be in their life in that way ever again," he said. "When you are going through it, it's one of the heaviest, most intense things — almost worse than a death in the family. But the video follows that idea, and how people deal with it."
The clip will feature Cornell with his backing band, performing live on what's supposed to be "a German television show during the late '70s."
On the forthcoming Steve Lillywhite-produced Carry On, Cornell covers Michael Jackson's classic "Billie Jean," giving it a bluesier, more pained and impassioned feel, stripping away any pop elements of the original (see "Chris Cornell Tackles Gospel — And Michael Jackson? — On Solo LP").
"I didn't go in wanting to do a cover of 'Billie Jean' from the standpoint of, 'I really want to find a cover to do for myself.' It was more just a fun experiment," Cornell said. "I was getting ready to do some acoustic shows on a promotional tour for [Audioslave's third and final LP, 2006's] Revelations and I just wanted to have fun with it. The response I got made me want to try it when we were recording the record. We wanted it to be a B-side at first, but when I heard it back, I definitely wanted it on there. I wanted to completely transform it and lend an emotional depth to the lyrics that might not have been there, or other qualities to it."