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Brandi Carlile: I Want to Be Soundgarden’s New Singer

Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, whose excellent new album In These Silent Days is out now, keeps herself more than occupied with her own touring and recording career. But on next week’s episode of our Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, she reveals one side gig she’d definitely take on: Carlile “would make the time” to tour as Soundgarden’s singer, she says. “I am such a Chris Cornell fan,” she says of Soundgarden’s frontman, who died in 2017. “I loved him so much. I was so devastated when he left us.”

Carlile first sang with the surviving members of Soundgarden at 2019’s all-star Cornell tribute in Los Angeles, and went on to record a Record Store Day single, A Rooster Says, with them (and her longtime bandmates Phil and Tim Hanseroth), released last September. Most recently, the band joined her onstage in August for performances of the two songs they recorded together, “Black Hole Sun” and the Badmotorfinger cut “Searching With My Good Eye Closed.” Carlile grew up just outside of Seattle, and feels deeply connected to Soundgarden and Nineties grunge; she even first met the Hanseroth twins at London Bridge Studios, where Cornell recorded with Temple of the Dog. “We are inextricably linked to Soundgarden for life,” Carlile says. “They were our heroes.”

A Soundgarden spokesperson declined to comment on Carlile’s ambition, but the band’s drummer, Matt Cameron — who also plays in Pearl Jam — told Rolling Stone last year that Soundgarden isn’t over yet. “I think most people assume the three of us [are] over and done with since Chris passed away,” he said, “but that’s not the case. It’s nice to know that people still want to hear us play together.”  (Carlile also just sang “Better Man” with Pearl Jam at September’s Ohana Festival.)  

At the 2019 Cornell tribute, Carlile was originally scheduled only to duet on “Hunger Strike” with Chris Stapleton. But then an artist she wouldn’t identify — “a musician that notoriously doesn’t show up for things” — bailed on a planned performance of “Black Hole Sun,” and someone suggested Carlile. “I was like, ‘Not only can I do it, but, like, I’m there,’ ” says Carlile. “‘And I don’t need lyrics. I got this.’ ” She made sure that the Hanseroth twins were also onstage for that performance, which would also be her one demand if a tour with Soundgarden ever materialized “I would make the time,” she reiterates, “but I’ll bring the twins. Mama doesn’t leave the twins out.”

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