Well, if anything was going to ‘brighten’ this year, it’s the release of Jerry Cantrell’s latest solo album Brighten. I bloody love Alice In Chains, having worked with the group for 30 years, always hailing them as my all-time favourite band. But I have always admired Cantrell’s solo soundtracks too.
Words: Sara Harding
In fact, Boggy Depot inspired us to go to deepest, darkest Oklahoma to track down said album cover depot (pronounced ‘deeeeep – oh’ in them there parts of the US of A) where Jerry used to hang out as a kid.
In an exclusive chat with us at MetalTalk, Jerry laughs at my pronouncement of ‘Deeeeepot’. It’s colloquially correct, he laughs, and then we both try to pronounce ‘colloquially’. Not easy with my teeth.
So to the new album, which Jerry says is an organic, indie solo record made with friends and peers. “The album was already well on the way before the pandemic hit,” Jerry says, “but the time off touring with AIC due to the lockdown gave me the opportunity to finish this album and to team up with some incredible collaborators giving Brighten a new depth.”
Brighten has country vibes and a movie soundtrack feel courtesy of his neighbour film composer Tyler Bates, famous for John Wick and several other Hollywood blockbusters. And because of the pandemic, a lot more musicians had more free time, such as Abe from Paul McCartney’s band, and their additions have made it a bigger, fuller, richer album.
“I’m thrilled with the outcome,” Jerry says. “It’s been fun running this out of the trunk, and this is the first album I’ve completed without a record company. We learnt a few things along the way, making this a full indie production. It was super organic and made with friends, and you can hear that.”
Duff McKagan was thrilled to join in on bass duty. “Yes, it was great to work with Duff again,” Jerry says. “He came over to only play a couple of tracks, but when I had him in the seat, I ended up throwing him a lot more. It’s always cool playing with Duff, and I got to play bass on a couple of tracks with Duff producing me.
“Obviously, my main role is with Alice In Chains. The band is in a great place, but this was a good time to create some new stuff outside the band.”
Jerry says he plans to hit the road with Brighten in the States from March to May next year, and then in summer, he is hoping to come to UK and Europe, with gigs from Alice In Chains to follow later.
With a very busy couple of years coming up, does he still bloody love what he does? “Of course, I don’t know what the hell I’d do otherwise,” he says, laughing.
Brighten is always on loud in the MetalTalk office. Atone is up first on the album and is a belter. It is packed with Cantrell’s DNA but has this incredible country-esque tinge, giving the song a deeper level. A track so simply sublime and so frikkin’ catchy, I literally cannot stop playing this around my rock HQ.
Brighten, the album’s title track, is a lighter song with the class of guitar you would expect from Cantrell. His voice is on point, too – rather than sing the main lyrics to any AIC song – I always attempt Jerry’s parts.
Prism Of Doubt again has that slight country vibe, and JC brings it down a notch with this stellar song. Black Hearts and Evil Done kick off with acoustic Cantrell at his finest, stripped back and classic.
Up next is Siren Song with a bell tolling and slow slide into an incredible song. Literally, I had goosebumps listening to this track. Had To Know is an upbeat song but with that Cantrell darkness that makes his songwriting so unique. That detuned sexy sound – wow!
Nobody Breaks You is an intense, gripping journey of a song. Like when you’ve heard Down In A Hole for the first time – it’s an aural trip.
Dismembered – I won’t forget that title in a hurry. Again a real homecoming style song with a fine bit of country geeeee-tar!
Goodbye is the final song on the album. This track highlights Cantrell’s incredible singing chops. An anthemic legacy piece with subtle classical hints. It’s his cover of a classic Elton John track that Jerry really admires.
There are no filler tracks on this incredible solo production at all. Brighten is full-on Jerry Cantrell and his collaborations at their best.
We end the interview with a catch up on when we last hung out two years ago, at 4 am in New York City after an AIC/Walking Papers gig where Jerry introduced us to his favourite spicy chicken wings, and I can’t wait for another portion soon.
This album is immense, and I’m going to slide off, cook some spicy chicken wings and listen to it again – whilst attempting to pronounce ‘colloquially’.
Brighten is available from lnk.to/brighten
Jerry Cantrell will stream An Evening With Jerry Cantrell on 2 December 2021. Recorded in Los Angeles yesterday evening, the show features a six-song set with storytelling and a Q&A hosted by Jeff Garlin.