Talks about playing in Cuba, singing without a rock band
SUNDAY SHOW POSTPONED UPDATE: Due to laryngitis caused by flu, Chris Cornell is unable to perform tonight. He apologizes to his fans who traveled to see him perform, but tonight's show at the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach must be postponed. A new date will be announced as soon as possible. All tickets for Sunday night's show will be honored at the rescheduled date.
Refunds are available at point of purchase. Please go to http://fillmoremb.com/ for more information.
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Once you've heard Chris Cornell's voice, you never forget it. His otherworldly howl, which first powered the seminal Seattle grunge band Soundgarden ("Black Hole Sun"), then the supergroup Audioslave (featuring members of Rage Against the Machine) is unmistakable. It might be slightly kept in check, however, when he takes the stage Sunday, Nov. 6 at the Fillmore Miami Beach (1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) for a solo acoustic show that will tap his work with his first group, plus Audioslave songs and solo tracks.
This is a bit different from you fronting a hard-rock band. What can we expect from your show?
Well, at this point, it's pretty much anything I want from my entire career, songs I've written over the last 20 years or so, and any combination, with just me and an acoustic guitar.
Was it difficult to make the transition from having an electric hard-rock band backing you to just sitting there with an acoustic guitar?
I think just being able to sit and play in that way over the span of a couple hours - yeah, that took awhile, about a year, I think. And also there was sort of a learning curve for me, in that it opened up a lot more options as a vocalist, as far as how to approach singing any given song. And then, what does that mean? What are those options, and how should I apply them, or could I apply them to different songs that I've been playing for 20 years? But it's been one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life.
Do you find yourself having to sing differently - do you feel more exposed?
I did at first, but I think what happens is that it got easier, because it's not like a sonic onslaught. Soundgarden, especially, is an extremely loud live band, and that creates a challenge for a singer. It's difficult to hear what you're doing, it's difficult to not feel this overwhelming urge to overdo it and be belting it out and screaming, in which case you can lose your voice, and you're not really singing in key necessarily. So acoustically, although you're naked and any little crack or missed note is completely audible, it's a little bit easier to approach it that way. But the first time I started to do that in front of people, where you just pick up a guitar and start singing, it's very hard to get used to.
Who are some of your musical heroes?
I've had a lot of them. I suppose first and foremost when I was 8 years old I was a Beatles fan, which was a few years after they broke up, so it wasn't really a cultural thing - it was more of an escapist thing, a little kid sitting in his room hiding from the world listening to records. And I ended up with the entire Beatles catalog, including compilations. And that more than anything shaped me as a singer in a lot of different ways and for many different reasons. I didn't know who was singing what song at the time - I didn't know if it was Paul or John or George. I knew when it was Ringo, and that was about it, and so subconsciously what I took away from it, when I became a songwriter, my focus was on what a singer was supposed to sound like, for each song in particular. Whether it was something like "Jesus Christ Pose" or "Black Hole Sun," there was an appropriate approach, and anything goes, and I guess I thought that's what a rock band was. It was more like The Beatles, where there was "Yesterday" and there was "Helter Skelter" and anything and everything in between. And that's how I naturally, without thinking about it, approached singing.
You performed in Cuba with Audioslave in 2005. How was that experience?
It was amazing. Being in bands pretty much nonstop since I was 17 years old, there aren't necessarily too many super-memorable moments. And those four days that we were in Cuba were an incredibly memorable four days. I've been on tour sometimes for 10 months with a week here or there off, and I gotta say those four days were super-impactful and super-eye-opening. ... And it made me wonder why a band that doesn't have any sort of political obstacles, like U2, for example, or the Rolling Stones, that could afford to do it - why don't they go there? It's a strange puzzle.
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