“…I always think of it you know I always have, you have to remain in touch with the fan inside yourself and I always use as a benchmark if I wasn’t in this band would I buy this record? Would I play this record? Would I love this record? And the answer so far has been yes.”
From Bio: Beyond the instantly identifiable riffs and equally recognizable vocals, Jerry Cantrell will always be known as a songwriter, first and foremost. Those songs comprise his influential catalog as co-founder, vocalist, and lead guitarist of the iconic Alice In Chains and as a solo artist whose music resounds across culture. He penned two acclaimed solo albums—Boggy Depot  and Degradation Trip Volumes 1 & 2 —and appeared on chart-topping records by everyone from Metallica and Deftones to Ozzy Osbourne. His music can be heard in the films of Academy® Award winner Cameron Crowe and Judd Apatow in addition to blockbuster franchises such as John Wick and Spider-Man. Throughout his career, he’s garnered eleven GRAMMY® Award nominations, logged multiple #1 hits at radio, sold north of 30 million records, and received the 2020 Museum of Pop Culture Founders Award as part of Alice In Chains. However, he continues to put the songs first on his third full-length solo offering, Brighten. Led by the single “Atone,” and now “Brighten”, these tunes are a worthy addition to Cantrell’s repertoire and the larger American rock ‘n’ roll songbook.
In Los Angeles, Jerry Cantrell gave us a call to talk about his new record ‘Brighten’, its creation, timing, solo records, The Stones, some Alice In Chains, and more…
Of course we are here because you’re new album ‘Brighten’ is on the way. Now as it is your third solo album so can you give me three words you feel sums up this record perfectly?
Kicks Fuckin’ Ass *laughs*
*laughs*That’s awesome please don’t elaborate on anything that’s the best answer ever.
Nineteen years though is a long time between solo albums why was now the right time for a Jerry Cantrell album ?
There’s just this little side project have been trying to get off the ground for thirty four years called Alice In Chains, yeah it takes a lot of time, I think give us another year and I think we’re going to get there.
I’m rooting for ya…
*laughs* Yeah you know in all seriousness like you know I’ve been in this band for almost thirty four years, this December will be thirty four years and you know it’s been my true love and it’s where all my focus really lies. I have had the opportunity in those thirty four years it’s a lot of time there where I’ve had some windows where it seemed like I had the opportunity to maybe explore some work outside the band so I was I was glad to have that again, of course I was not intending for it to be this long of a period *laughs* I was trying to get this record out last September but as we discussed in the top of the interview while we were cutting basic tracks in March that’s when the shutdown order came. So you know it’s funny how things work out though you got the bright side of other stuff like it is a bummer that it took longer than I wanted it to but I think the record is better and it’s a little bit more, there’s some things that happened along the way that would not have happened it would have made it a not good record but it would have been a different record let’s put it that way. Abe Laboriel junior, Duff McKagan, Vincent Jones all three of those guys would not have been part of this process if we weren’t forced to take a little bit more time and I’m really grateful for that because I think their addition along with all of the other musicians and the production team of Tyler Bates Paul Figueroa, Joe Barresi and myself you know it was a real group effort and a labour love and it was making music with friends, and friends of friends and I think you can hear that when you listen to the record.
Yeah I was going to ask about that because was it a situation where it was kinda like your ring Duff and go “I know you’re not doing anything right now Duff you want to play on a track?”
*laughs* Yeah yeah well you are correct, you are absolutely correct you know Abe’s got a pretty good gig playing with Paul McCartney in the last couple of decades, Duff’s got a tiny little band he’s been trying to get off the ground for a while and all these players have their own careers and their there and they’re pretty god damn big bands you know? So that was good knowing that nobody’s working, hey I know you’re not doing anything *laughs* cause I’m not doing anything you wanna come over? *laughs* So you know that’s another positive you know, and I’m just really honoured that that everybody you know, number one chose to be a part of this, and two brought everything that I knew they would and the record has benefited from all of that.
So what if anything though did you want to or set out to do differently compared to ‘Boggy Depot’ and ‘Degradation Trip’?
Well the cool thing about making records is a record is kind of like a time capsule of a period of time, and it’s a group of people and it’s unique to the group of people that you go through making that record with so it can’t be repeated you know? Just by definition of it being a different group of people and the time that it’s made in it’s going to be unique, and that’s cool the thing that you carry with you is maybe after doing it for a while you can rely on the fact that you have a distinguishable musical fingerprint and you know that you carry that with you so you don’t have to really worry about that. It’s just about making something that’s going to first excite you and that you’re going to be OK representing, you know representing you or your band and if it crosses that sort of a qualification like I always think of it you know I always have, you have to remain in touch with the fan inside yourself and I always use as a benchmark if I wasn’t in this band would I buy this record? would I play this record? Would I love this record? and the answer so far has been yes.
Now I’ve had to listen through a few times and I always like to ask about one song when I do this sort of thing, now the one that stuck in my head was ‘Nobody Breaks You’ is there a story behind this one you can share?
Oh cool, it’s really cool you know I’ve been doing a lot of press over the last couple of months and it’s always interesting to see people gravitate towards different songs and today it’s been ‘Nobody Breaks You’ you’re the third person has brought that song up. I don’t know I think I’m simply… you know it’s an oversimplification and I’m really loathed to do it because it’s not just about this I kind of write a little bit in a mosaic kind of way you know on a lot of different levels but I just I think what it’s basically saying is that nobody’s harder on you than yourself you know I mean? and then I think we’re harder on ourselves even more so than others you know and so I guess if there’s a theme maybe that that’s what I’m trying to touch on you know?
Now the stupid question of the interview is, Jerry what brightens your day?
*laughs* Ah what brightens my day? I like any activity or participation in something that doesn’t make me where I’m not thinking about anything other than what I’m doing you know, and then I have a lot of those in life, and you know music is one, you know golf is another, playing poker, fishing, there’s quite a few activities where I can kind of just kinda of a little bit of a meditative exercise where while you’re doing it you’re only thinking about what you’re doing, you know that brightens my day.
Also, I saw that you were you just out the other night with a few mates of yours out of the stones gig?
Yeah *laughs* I was with a with a bunch of folks at the Stones, that was pretty cool to see man. I was talking about that earlier to a couple of guys one in particular who was there at that show just to see that, just see that you know to see Mick Jagger just ruling a stage you know at my dad’s age and still rocking everybody under the table you know it’s really impressive that career if you really think about it. I mean I love The Stones and just the longevity of the band, and if you think about it you know you could make some argument that maybe there were some front men before Mick but I don’t think so. I think every front man for a rock band is cut off the cloth of Mick Jagger, I just don’t think The Beatles didn’t have it they were like guys with guitars and they kind of bobbed their heads and stuff, and you know you had like Elvis but you know he was a singer and it wasn’t really a front in a band you know what I mean? Like Mick Jagger you know is the archetype of the front man for a rock and roll band and I think everyone down the line after him has definitely taken a page out of his book and if you haven’t you should *laughs*.
Now 2020 and even this year have been absolute doozies for everyone as we talked about, what if anything has this whole situation taught you you’ll now maintain throughout your life and career?
Well I’m in a job and I’m in a business where you need to remain adaptable because anything and everything that can happen will happen and you gotta be able to deal with it on the fly. I don’t think that’s you know too dissimilar to an anybody’s walk of life you know, there may be a pattern or a set routine that you’re used to but shit happens man *laughs* you know you gotta be able to deal. So this is a doozy you know I don’t think anybody was prepared for this obviously with the way you know things were handled at the outset but you know if you really look at the picture we’ve rallied you know as a globe and we’re on our way to getting it together you know in a pretty short order of time. If you look at the past of events like this you know you gotta thank the state of medicine that we have these days you know and so you figure it out you make do. You know I was really lucky that I had this record to focus on and that most of the work most of the big work was done and the remaining work which is just stuff I had to do sing, play guitar, do stuff like that and I was lucky enough to have a couple of friends come on board but that wouldn’t have been in the process had it gone to schedule you know so it’s important I think to remain teachable, be flexible and to use the old Marine credo adapt and overcome.
Now I want to look back a little bit ’cause looking back over your career can be very easy to say what can change overtime but what for you is the one thing that has always remained the same?
I think you know for me it’s really the power of music you know standing there and whether I’m the one on the stage standing there in a group of people, or I’m sitting there three nights ago watching The Stones amongst however many tens of thousands of people and we’re all different and we all think different things and we all belong to different tribes and for that three hours we put our shit aside and whatever troubles were having in the world we let them go for a minute. We all kind of enjoy a moment together that’s pretty beautiful you know, and that’s what I really always admired about music and I think one of the things that’s always drawn me to it and you know it’s an elevating experience, it’s a shared experience and that for me has always remained the same and I’m you know honoured to be a chapter in that book, or a link in the chain and hopefully you know maybe somewhere along the way maybe you know I’ve inspired somebody else to kinda to maybe take that ride themselves ’cause it’s a beautiful thing you know music.
I have to ask about Alice In Chains very quickly has there been any talk of new music from the band?
Well I’m kind of in the middle of dealing with this you know. I pretty much been focused on this, if the pandemic hadn’t happened we probably would be talking about Alice In Chains right now *laughs* but I’m gonna follow this through you know, I’m a guy that finishes his commitments and so I’ve got a record dropping here in a week and we we’ve got a couple of singles ‘Atone’ and ‘Brighten’ that have been really cool to see the response I can’t wait to get the whole thing completely out of the nest that’s going to happen in a week and more importantly to get on a stage in March and do some shows through 2022 and 23 in support of this and work from my career.
Now I do want to look back one last time because ‘Dirt’ that album that you’re still working on a try and make it a hit turns thirty next year, so it came out when it sixteen very important musical time for me, when I heard ‘Dirt’ for the first time I heard ‘Would?’ and it was the song that just jumped out at me it stuck with me. What do you remember about that time putting out that album that just became massive for the band?
And ‘Facelift’ turned thirty last year! You know I mean it was it was really organic, I mean nobody I don’t think any of us thought that it would have the type of impact that it did but you could definitely feel something was in the air and you felt a part of something. You felt like you were doing the right thing you know? At least for me individually and also as part of a group you know we felt we felt we were where we needed to be, and it’s always cool to have anybody pay attention or celebrate your work and so you know I’m not the big anniversary guy, my brother and sister still have to remind me to call my dad on his birthday *laughs* I mean like I’m not the guy that “hey it’s thirty years let’s call everybody and have a party about our record” *laughs* you know I just don’t think about stuff like that but it is cool you know anytime anybody pays attention to work and people certainly did pay attention to it then, and it’s still around today and it’s part of a bigger output locally from my hometown, and then we were a bigger worldwide move and movement of a change in music and that’s a cool thing to have been a part of that.
Lastly, I always like to get people to look ahead to the future with a prediction so I want you to finish this sentence for me in 2022 Jerry Cantrell will…
oh man, play some shows. Just play some shows finally. There we go!
Jerry absolute pleasure to talk to you, thank you so much for talking the time, the record is amazing I can’t wait for people to hear it.
Thank you so much for supporting I appreciate it.
From: Los Angeles, USA
Latest Release: ‘Brighten’ (Out Now)