Beyond the instantly identifiable riffs and equally recognisable vocals, Jerry Cantrell will always be known as a songwriter, first and foremost.
Those songs comprise his influential catalog as co-founder, vocalist, lead guitarist and main songwriter of the iconic Alice In Chains and as a solo artist whose music resounds across culture. He penned two classic solo albums - ‘Boggy Depot’ (1998) and ‘Degradation Trip Volumes 1 & 2’ (2002) - and appeared on chart-topping records by everyone from Metallica to Ozzy Osbourne, Glenn Danzig, & Deftones. 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 a member of Alice In Chains.
“I’ve been in the band for almost 34 years now,” he says. “It’s always my first and foremost commitment, but it’s nice to explore different things and add another chapter to a growing body of work. After the last AIC tour wrapped, I geared my mind towards the possibility of making another record of my own.”
In December 2019, Cantrell played a pair of sold-out solo shows in Los Angeles joined by an eclectic group of musicians and friends, several of whom appear on ‘Brighten’.
“Tyler Bates not only introduced me to a lot of cool players, he also helped me put the band together for the shows, and performed with me. It was fun to play tunes I hadn’t played in years from ‘Boggy Depot’ and ‘Degradation Trip’.”
Shortly after the shows, Jerry entered the studio to begin work on ‘Brighten’. The album was produced by Cantrell, Tyler Bates, and co-produced by engineer Paul Figueroa. Basic tracks were wrapping up just as Los Angeles shut down due to the pandemic. Work continued in one-on-one sessions and small pods, or with the musicians sending tracks back and forth electronically.
“It was like an old school seventies record where a multitude of musicians played,” smiles Cantrell. “So it’s not a set band. I got to make music with a bunch of guys I never had before, along with friends like Duff & Tyler & Gil who I’ve worked with previously.”
“I’ve always been a fan of bands that were heavy on harmony. I’ve been lucky enough to have that relationship with Layne Staley and now William DuVall. Greg and I worked together in a similar fashion and blended nicely. We were creating and changing this thing all the way up until the end. It took way longer than I wanted it to, but it became an even better record.”
Cantrell introduces the record with the first single and album opener ‘Atone’. Right from the jump, the riff rolls like a runaway freight train underscored by cinematic twang. As the momentum builds, he intones the hummable hook before a psychedelic break.
“As a fan of Ennio Morricone scores and Sergio Leone movies, it’s got a bit of that outlaw vibe, with a cool psycho hillbilly stomp” he explains. “It’s been kicking around in my head for like 20-plus years, haunting me. Sometimes it takes a while for a good idea to find its best form. Such was the case with ‘Atone’.”