Chris Cornell has reason to Scream

Mar 26, 2009 at 1:28 p.m. ET

Chris Cornell is both ingenious and fearless. Cornell sat down with SheKnows and was incredibly candid about seeking advice from Justin Timberlake and life in the rock n' roll spotlight for the last fifteen years.

Timbaland and Chris Cornell crafting ScreamSuperunknown to Scream

Cornell's journey is currently finding him producing a Scream of an album with the hip-hop hit-master, Timbaland.

Cornellfirst exploded on the music scene out of the Seattle music revolution of the early '90s. His Soundgarden smashed barriers of music and its thump-heavy tone was the perfect soundtrack for the early Clinton years.

Unmistakable in the Soundgarden mix was its lead singer. Cornell's artistry is unlike rock has ever seen. Cornell sings with a deep and gravelly resonance while simultaneously tender and vastly rich.

During and after Soundgarden broke up, Cornell fronted a variety of different groups. From his 2001 band Audioslave that teamed him ex-Rage Against the Machine members to his early Temple of the Dog supergroup that found him singing alongside Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.

Solo, Cornell has written and sang the gamut. The arrival of his Screamalbum with Timbaland, Cornell is announcing to the world that if a genre of music inspires him, he is not afraid to put pen to paper and craft an album that may be out of the prism of what people expect of Chris Cornell.

It is working. Screamentered the Hot 100 album charts in the top 10. Cornell currently lives in Paris with his wife and two young children.

SheKnows:How did Chris Cornell end up working with Timbaland?

Chris Cornell: I thought it would be something that would definitely be different throughout -- unlike anything I've ever done. I actually cancelled a tour to work on the album. It happened that quickly.

Timbaland & Cornell: workaholics anonymous

SheKnows: Did you have any preconceived notions about working with this man? If so, were they squashed? Was it different than you expected? Or, did you have no expectations at all?

Timbaland sits in the studio set to Scream with Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell:I knew a little bit. One of the things people told me was that he was a workaholic and all he does is music. That I was looking forward to because, most records I've ever made, I'm the first guy there and the last guy to leave. I have producers make me take Sundays off because engineers and everybody else would get annoyed if there was no day off.

SheKnows: (laughs)

Chris Cornell:Timbaland was definitely the person they said that he was, he never stopped working. We never took any time off. We were kind of at it the whole time. His guys were telling me that usually they get started and he's got a lot of ideas and you have to keep up with him because he's going to get pushy. We started working it wasn't that way because I was never behind. I was thrilled to work with a collaborator that was in step with me and that's pretty rare.

SheKnows: I swear I can hear it, it just clicks. It is something truly special. When you look back on everything you've ever done – where does Scream rank for you personally as far as the joy in making the music?

Chris Cornell is always looking for a challengeScream screams

Chris Cornell:I think it's a triumph of an album for both me and Timbaland really. It's more than what we went into looking to create. We wanted an album's worth of material. It ended up being a musically ambitious album. It was a one-idea album. Kind of like a movie soundtrack album. I can't compare it to anything else I've ever done. I can't compare it to anything else anyone else is doing. In terms of the songs and the influences, that's also true. It's not really like anything else. There are sounds on some of these songs on this album that I think is a new creation. I'm also proud of the fact I was involved with this album where it's two people from completely different worlds in every possible way – culturally, musically, geographically, different ages. We both put down all our barriers and cultivated and worked together side by side. That kind of stuff – there's not too many situations in life where people get together in that way in give each other that much trust. Trust is kind of the key word there. It's my next album. It's his next album. Everyone's going to be looking at what comes out of it because I'm someone's that's bringing in a legacy that I worry about. That trust part is something that I'm proud to have been a part of and he should too. Neither of us pulled back ever. The result speaks for itself.

SheKnows:I spoke to Timbaland in 2007 and I asked him what was next. At that point he only had the Madonna and Justin Timberlake single on the horizon. You just said, whatever it is, it has to be really special, there has to be trust. He used that very word. It came charging back to me when you said that. For you, for him to select your project – that had to feel pretty special from your end as an artist?

Chris and his family at a recent benefitChris Cornell:On a couple of levels, one is to make an album with me, that takes away all this time he could be spending making albums with pop stars that are going to be guaranteed multi-platinum sales. He clearly was taking time and time is money. He's spending money to work with me, in that way, it made me feel good. In the other way, what he would normally do in a couple weeks, he spent six months on my album. He spent more time on my album than anything he's ever done, except his own.

Cornell craves challenges

SheKnows:Whether it's Timbaland or the work you did with Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, or Audioslave – you seem to effortlessly move among musicians and other artists. Is that something you sought out to do when you got into the business?

Chris Cornell:I think there's a certain amount of standing in front of me as a challenge to do it. I think of in the world of what I do - singers, songwriters, recording artists – I don't ever want there to be something that I didn't do because I was afraid of it or I didn't think I'd be good at it – within reason. Obviously I'm never going to be able to play the trumpet. So you're not going to get me to try.

SheKnows: (laughs)

Chris Cornell: There's always a longing that I think everybody in my position has that's probably not dissimilar to watching a football game and then wanting go out with your buddies and play the game. How many times can you watch something? For me, it's that way with music. I'm a fan of a lot of different kinds of music. Granted, if I'm a fan of a jazz album, I know I'm not going to go make one. But, there are some genres and some artists that I'm a fan of that inspire me and I'm going to want to go play. I'm going to want to get off the coach and be in that world. Scream, probably as much as anything I've ever done, really is a great vehicle for that. There are songs on it that are authentic in genres that I have been of my favorite of all time. I got to contribute these songs and have it out there in the public consciousness where people can enjoy it. Once it's done, it's done – songs take on their own life. It took a certain amount of guts to go do it, but on the other side of it, it's like it's totally worth it. I never would have been able to do that without working with Timbaland and doing this now.

Chris calls JT

SheKnows:What has it been like performing live with these songs in your arsenal?

Chris Cornell: It's funny because the only real concern I had about the big picture and how this fits was how it is going to go live. I just didn't see it how it was going to integrate with older stuff. Over the last few years I've done basically anything I want from my history live and want to continue doing that. There's a lot of music I still can play. But, I wanted to be able to switch up and play two-and-a-half hour set one night and a completely different one the next night. How do I play the new and old material and have it live together? What ended up happening was, not only was it not a problem, but it's given me a larger dynamic reach. Sonically and rhythmically I have this new place to go that can only be reached by doing songs from this album. It really adds to a set. I was looking at it as an obstacle. Instead it was this huge asset. I didn't know it until I went out and did it. The funny thing about it was that one of the few people I talked to about it was Justin Timberlake.

Chris Cornell is currently touring on his Scream album

SheKnows:You're kidding. He does it effortlessly.

Chris Cornell: Yeah, I've seen his HBO special and he is able to go in and out of an organic to a more electronic sound pretty seamlessly. I asked him, 'how do you see it. If I'm bringing this live?' His attitude was 'don't worry about it. It's not a problem.' He was right. Not only was it not a problem, it's ended up being an asset where I'm having more fun live than I've ever had in my life.

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