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By Joshua Maloni
"Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart," the lead single from Chris Cornell's solo album "Higher Truth" (out today), has placed the Soundgarden singer back on top of the charts. The track was the most added song at adult album alternative, active rock and mainstream rock radio at the end of August. Cornell performed it Thursday on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."
While the singer-songwriter's success doesn't surprise his fans, or music critics, it was somewhat bewildering to him.
"I think, for me, it's always mystifying, to be honest," Cornell said in a recent phone interview. "It never makes any sense to me. What gets reacted to and how it gets reacted to is always a mystery.
"I think it feels great to connect; always. But, it's because of the fact that I've never really understood. It's kind of helped in that, when it comes to writing songs and making albums, I don't really ever worry about bearing the burden of trying to write for radio. I wouldn't know where to start (laughs).
"Ultimately, I think it's a good thing that I don't understand it.
"I started out, even as a little kid that liked the seventh song on the record the most, and the one that was more the deep element and doesn't ever get played on the radio. And I think that the experience of just kind of being a lonesome listener as a kid sort of towed me in the direction of that, kind of.
"In some ways, I want all my songs to be about that. So, if I write a song that connects with radio, it's almost always an accident. But maybe that's true of most artists? I'm not really sure."
The album's title track, meanwhile, was a revelation to Cornell.
"The (album) title came from the song, and the song ... 'Higher Truth,' I was like sitting in bed working on songs and going through a period where I was, like, sort of sleeping with my guitar," he said. "It was the last big songwriting session that I had for this album, and I just sort of picked up the guitar and started singing and playing the chorus. I didn't really know what that meant to me. ... 'I want the truth/the higher truth.' That's it. That's the chorus (laughs). And I had to sort of figure out what that was, because I felt like that was the beginning of what could be a really great song.
"So I wrote it. The focus and the idea of what that concept can mean - it could be almost anything. It almost has the sense of higher truth - like you're giving enlightenment ... that a higher truth is a better truth. Or it's more important or it's smarter.
"That isn't the message I wanted to convey, but it seemed like something that's at least engaging as a title - even for the album. My image of it, really, comes from being a father and seeing a baby come into the world. And see how they're fascinated by something as simple as, like, shaking keys above their head.
"I think I realized after I was living around that, and seeing that as a daily experience, how corruptible humans really are. And the sense of truth is really simplicity, and just kind of stopping them for long enough to see how amazing life is, and how miraculous everything around us really is. And staying in touch with that -which I think is really easy to do.
"To me, it's not like a heavy-handed concept or a religious one or even a spiritual one. It's just sort of like this obvious thing that's right in front of our face - that the higher truth really is just paying attention to where you are and what's around you. And being open to the idea that maybe that's pretty great, regardless of hardships and what you might have."
Cornell performs Sunday, Oct. 11, at UB. Tickets are available weekdays at the Center for the Arts box office and online at www.tickets.com. For more information, call 716-645-2787, 1-888-223-6000 or visit www.ubcfa.org.