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Chris Cornell Kicks Off Songbook Tour, Calls New Soundgarden Album 'Diverse'

Soundgarden's Chris Cornell July 20, 1962 (age 48)

Chris Cornell says the greatest challenge of his upcoming solo acoustic Songbook tour may be the temptation to talk too much.

"Yeah, I have to stop myself sometimes in terms of just talking," Cornell, who stars the trek this Friday (Mar. 25) in Aspen, Colo., and continues it through April, tells "I suppose it'll give me an opportunity to talk about the songs a little bit more than I usually would. I just try to comfortably walk that tightrope of, 'Don't let it turn into standup comedy.' It's OK to talk to the audience, talk about your songs, be funny -- but don't start talking about how stupid things are set up in airports."

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Cornell performed some acoustic shows during the 80s and played solo acoustic segments in concert with Soundgarden and Audioslave. "It gave the audience a break from the sonic assault," he recalls. "I guess there was something about that I liked." He acknowledges that the prospect of a full-scale show is "intimidating," however, but he also finds the prospect exciting.

"You get, in a sense, addicted to that feeling...of when it actually works and people liked it and you've actually done something a little daring," he explains. "And there's this kind of thought that's always followed me, which was, 'How much of a musician are you, really, if you can't just walk into a room, pick up and instrument and entertain people by yourself, playing some songs?' I guess that's always haunted me because I was always in a very aggressive band with a lot of volume."

Cornell's Songbook tour repertoire will encompass material from his bands and solo albums, though he notes that "there's many, many songs that just don't really translate to an acoustic performance at all. The initial 'Spoonman' demo I did at home with an acoustic guitar, and yet it doesn't really work as an acoustic song." He'll also plug some covers into the shows.

"In that case it's kind of anything I want," he says. "I suppose that'll be sort of an ongoing process as I'm out on the road, sitting around learning other people's songs just for fun, thinking about, 'If I'm going to Minneapolis, who's from Minneapolis that I can cover tonight?' "

The tour comes after a productive few weeks with Soundgarden, who reconvened earlier this month to work on the group's first album since 1996's "Down on the Upside" at Cornell's studio in Seattle. "We're pretty far into our record now," Cornell reports. "I don't really know how to describe it musically, because typically with Soundgarden...every time we write a song we always take it for what it is and try to make it the most it can be. It's very diverse, I can tell you that."

But he's not offering any predictions about when it will be finished and ready to come out.

"We went into this with the idea that we wouldn't worry about scheduling or timing," Cornell explains. "We would worry about making a great record; that's kind of where we're at. It's been a pretty fast pace, considering everything. We've really gotten very far very quickly, and it's really exciting. But we're not putting any pressure on ourselves or around the music and just want it to organically be finished without being concerned that, 'Oh, we have to master this on this specific date.' We're not in a situation where we have to rush, and this is one time we're lucky enough that we can afford to...let the album decide when it's done."

Here are Chris Cornell's Songbook tour dates:

Mar. 25: Aspen, Col. (Belly Up)
Apr. 1: Austin, Texas (Paramount Theatre)
Apr. 2: Houston, Texas (House of Blues)
Apr. 3: Dallas, Texas (House of Blues)
Apr. 5: Atlanta, Ga. (Center Stage)
Apr. 6: Asheville, N.C. (The Orange Peel)
Apr. 8: Bridgeport, Conn. (The Klein Memorial Auditorium)
Apr. 9: Boston, Mass. (Berklee Performance Hall)
Apr. 10: Glenside, Pa. (Keswick Theatre)
Apr. 12: New York, N.Y. (Town Hall Theatre)
Apr. 13: New York, N.Y. (Town Hall Theatre)
Apr. 15: Atlantic City, N.J. (Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa - Music Box)
Apr. 16: Montclair, N.J. (Wellmont Theatre)
Apr. 17: Washington, D.C. (Sixth & I Historic Synagogue)
Apr. 19: Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (Bardavon)
Apr. 20: Toronto, Ontario (Queen Elizabeth Theatre)
Apr. 22: Chicago, Ill. (Vic Theatre)
Apr. 23: Milwaukee, Wis. (Pabst Theater)
Apr. 24: St. Paul, Minn. (Fitzgerald Theatre)
Apr. 26: Edmonton, Alberta (Winspear Centre)
Apr. 27: Medicine Hat, Alberta (Esplanade Arts & Heritage Center)
Apr. 29: Victoria, B.C. (Royal Theatre)
Apr. 30: Coquitlam, B.C. (Red Robinson Show Theatre)
May 1: Seattle, Wash. (Moore Theatre)
May 3: San Francisco, Calif. (The Fillmore)
May 4: Los Angeles, Calif. (John Anson Ford Amphitheatre)
May 5: Los Angeles, Calif. (John Anson Ford Amphitheatre)
May 6: San Diego, Calif. (Humphreys Concerts by the Bay)