“In an evening packed with exceptional guests and many amazing performances, Brandi’s was amongst the standouts,” Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil tells Rolling Stone of Brandi Carlile’s appearance at the 2019 Chris Cornell “I Am the Highway” tribute concert, where she sang “Black Hole Sun” alongside an all-star band that included Peter Frampton and the surviving members of Soundgarden: Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron, guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd.
Soundgarden’s one-time performance with the Seattle-raised country singer resonated so much with the group that when Carlile, in her role as Record Store Day Ambassador, approached the band about recording something in the studio, they jumped at the chance. “The studio collaboration sounded like a super fun project and a great opportunity for Ben, Kim and myself to play music again with Brandi,” Cameron says.
The result is A Rooster Says, a 12-inch vinyl featuring Carlile tackling a pair of Soundgarden classics backed by the surviving members of the legendary grunge band. For the single, Carlile and her longtime collaborators “the Twins,” Phil and Tim Hanseroth, reentered Seattle’s London Bridge Studio — where Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love and the Temple of the Dog album were recorded — in November 2019 with Cameron, Thayil and Shepherd to record Superunknown‘s “Black Hole Sun” (a studio take on their powerful Cornell tribute performance) and an electrifying version of Badmotorfinger‘s “Searching With My Good Eye Closed.”
“That was Brandi’s choice and it was a good one,” Cameron said. “‘Searching With My Good Eye Closed’ is one of Chris’ greatest songs, it has so much depth. It’s a colossus. Hearing Brandi and the twins completely rock the fuck out on that tune was amazing. I love how it turned out. Kim’s solo is pretty incredible too.”
Thayil added, “I assume that Brandi chose to record ‘Searching With My Good Eye Closed’ because it’s a beautiful song that is accommodating of her vocal style. I’m really happy that she chose this song, because her interpretation is absolutely amazing. It’s beautifully emotive, floating and trippy. Her version sent shivers down my spine.”
While the band was tempted to countrify their music — Cornell “absolutely loved” Johnny Cash’s country take on the band’s “Rusty Cage,” Cameron said — due to time constraints, Carlile and Soundgarden kept their A Rooster Says renditions closer to the songs’ original form.
When A Rooster Says — currently only available in its physical Record Store Day form — was announced earlier this year, Seattle native Carlile said that she remembered encountering Soundgarden in the Nineties at London Bridge. “Soundgarden were just gods to us back then. Total pioneers and unreachable to us in every way,” Carlile said at the time. “We went about making our demos and cleaning the studio when we couldn’t afford the bill never knowing that in November of 2019 we would go back to London Bridge and RECORD TWO SONGS WITH THEM!! [Chris Cornell] was as great as a human singer can get and now he’s an angel. Thank you Kim, Ben, and Matt. I’ll never forget this day for as long as I live.”
“We felt honored that she asked us to take part in her Record Store Day project,” Cameron added. “We had a blast. I think most people assume the three of us over and done with since Chris passed away, but that’s not the case. It’s nice to know that people still want to hear us play together.”
Thayil was similarly enthusiastic about another collaboration with Carlile, as well as another opportunity to play with his Soundgarden band mates. “It was so natural and fun to play with Brandi, and the twins, and playing with Ben and Matt is second nature for me,” the guitarist said. “Any opportunity to play with all of them again whether live or in the studio, I would embrace without hesitation.”