Those heading to the Fillmore Miami Beach on Wednesday night (May 16) to see Chris Cornell, one of the greatest rock singers of all time, are in for a very different show from what they might be used to. The Soundgarden frontman with the howling banshee wail isn't going to be backed by his pioneering grunge band this time; instead, Cornell takes the stage alone, with just his voice and an acoustic guitar for his show called "Songbook." Who knows how he'll arrange and perform classics such as "Black Hole Sun," "Jesus Christ Pose" and "Spoonman"? He talks to Miami.com about how it feels to go it alone, what we can expect, and the status of Soundgarden's new album.
You're performing completely by yourself. Do you find that this gives you more freedom as a singer?
Well, it's very different. There's definitely more freedom in terms of not being anchored to anything. It's a lot harder, for example, to play an acoustic guitar and sing with accompaniment, like another instrument sitting there. That's hard for me. Just playing alone, I'm controlling essentially the tempo and the mood, the stops - I can do whatever I want. I can stop in the middle and talk. I can start any song at any time if it occurs to me. So there's that, and it's not possible to do with a group of people, or even one other person. It's a really different feeling.
Is it also more intimidating, not being backed by a band?
I'm not sure. At first, absolutely it was. And I think it went from being intimidated to a feeling that I kind of crave. And that's essentially the notion of being the only person that's supposed to hold the attention of the audience for two hours. That's a huge responsibility. And I'm not David Lee Roth - it's not my nature to just wanna come out and be an entertainer. It's something that I have to coax myself into believing that I can do - and if it's happening and it's working, of course then it's a great feeling, very rewarding, very exciting. But the idea of being the only guy and having that be absolutely of-the-moment, nothing is planned - that's exciting to me. It's something new, unlike anything I've ever experienced, and it's kind of informed my songwriting.
You're touring in support of "Songbook" - are there any surprises in your show?
Well, I don't know - the whole thing is kind of a surprise to me. I'm always learning new songs, and I approach old songs in different ways.
This show is rescheduled from a Miami Beach show in November. Would you say that today it's a different show than it would have been back then?
It will be, because there's actually been some time now. I'm not sure in what way it will be different, but it will be.
Did the venue, the Fillmore Miami Beach, have any influence whatsoever in bringing you down to Miami? Is there anything special about it?
Yes, from the very first tour, that became something that I really made everybody concentrate on, that I won't go into a town if it doesn't have a venue that I think is appropriate for this. I mean, there's no point - it doesn't work in a bar atmosphere, and it's not a rock show. It is what it is, and it's much more appropriate in a theater where people can sit down.
What's the status of Soundgarden's new album?
It's about four or five days from being finished mixing, and then being remastered and ready to go - we're in the final stages of everything.
Was it a pleasure to get back to a rock band after being so long on the road alone?
Yeah, it was a pleasure to get back with them. It was a pretty incredible experience, because we've had 14 years apart, and just getting back to playing shows together was an amazing experience. But moreso, I think, is creating new music. Because it's all very complex, but the overall outcome is Soundgarden, and whatever we do, it sounds like that, and it's really an interesting thing to get back to that and have it reappear so naturally.