Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder decodes Chris Cornell's 'dark lyrics' on Lily Cornell show, talks about mental health
Eddie Vedder appeared on the sixth episode of Lily Cornell Silver's interview series 'Mind Wide Open', dishing some fond memories of Chris Cornell
Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder recently appeared as the latest guest on the interview series, 'Mind Wide Open'. It was hosted by Lily Cornell Silver, the daughter of the late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, who tragically ended his life in May 2017. As the third year anniversary of her father's death approached, Silver was struggling with mental health issues herself in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown and needed a productive outlet for her frustrated musings. Unable to find readily available and engaging resources online, Silver took it upon herself to create the episodic talk show, 'Mind Wide Open', which was inspired by a Chris Cornell lyric that went "Sleep is eyes closed to the light / Death is the mind wide open."
'Mind Wide Open' was created as a free-ranging and candid series of discussions with medical professionals, musicians, and celebrities, as they talked about mental health and other troubling topics, such as the death of George Floyd, the Covid-19 pandemic, and how to deal with grief and trauma. “My intention for this series is to destigmatize mental health and to normalize having an open discussion about mental health,” Silver revealed. She launched the series on her father's 56th birthday this year (July 20) and has since had five guests appear on the show, including Dr Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, Dr Marc Brackett, Sir Carter, Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses fame) and Monique Minahan. Eddie Vedder appeared on the sixth episode, and touched on various aspects of depression and inspiration during the interview, besides dishing up some fond memories of his fellow grunge god, Cornell, whom he had teamed up with, in the supergroup Temple of the Dog.
Vedder reminisced how he first heard the good news of Silver's birth, which ultimately coincided with a dark day for his band. On Silver's birthday in June 2000, Pearl Jam were playing the ill-fated Roskilde festival in Denmark, and it was later revealed that nine people had been trampled to death during their concert. But Vedder wasn't to know this at the time, saying, "We got the news that our good friends Chris and Susan had just had a child. Her name was Lily. We cried some tears of joy. We all gave each other a hug. That was a huge, huge moment. And then we went out with you on our minds. You, who we hadn’t even met yet, and we were feeling empowered and emotional. And then maybe 40 minutes into the show these terrible events happened."
Soon after hearing about the terrible loss of lives, Vedder admitted he went into a state of depression, guilt, and shock. He turned to the legendary guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who for advice. He confessed, "There I was in a fetal position, basically... I was doing a little bit of ‘Woe is me’ and ‘Why did this happen to us?’ And Pete said, ‘Because you can handle it.’ It empowered me to get my s**t together. Don’t feel sorry and don’t react. Respond." That tough love served Vedder well, and as he had admitted earlier to Silver, "I think that I’m good at taking advice. I think that I’m coachable. My advice would be to take advice." He also revealed that he now passed on advice to his own daughters as well, especially when it came to things like social media and technology.
Another inspirational rock star came in the form of Bruce Springsteen when Vedder revealed he was inspired by his 2016 book 'Born To Run'. “Bruce talks about depression in his book,” Vedder stated. “You watch him onstage and the hold that he has, he’s solid as a mountain. He knows how to make 60,000 people happy. But going home and being happy at home is a tougher thing. He credits not just his wife, but some great therapy. And now he’s a brilliant guy to seek advice from himself.”
Speaking of depression, Vedder also admitted that he was surprised when Pearl Jam's debut album 'Ten' became so popular. "There is some sad s**t on there," he remarked, saying, "'Wow, this is kind of depressing that tens of millions of people are relating to this.’ Who knew? It was probably a healthy thing for everybody." He also touched on his relationship with Cornell and other grunge rock heroes, saying, “Your dad and I talked about music or art as a place of release. Obviously he had [Soundgarden's] music and those are some dark lyrics. Kurt [Cobain]’s lyrics, those were some dark lyrics. Layne [Staley]’s lyrics. These weren’t people going, ‘I’m going to pretend to write a dark song.’ It was real for everybody. It became a thing to make fun of the dour grunge groups. I think people took it personally. They were like, ‘We weren’t f**king around.’ That’s probably why people liked it and seemed to need it. ‘This guy is speaking for me. I feel these things.'" Vedder revealed he felt the same way when listening to David Byrne or Pete Townshend, because their lyrics were so relatable.
There were also some lighthearted moments, as Vedder shared a funny anecdote about when he once went hiking with Cornell in 1991. “We went swimming in the coldest ice pools and we climbed these green mountains and then onto this rock mountain,” Vedder recalled. “The rocks [were] crumbling. All of a sudden, we were both just like two Spider-Man impersonators hanging onto the side of this thing, not being able to move. Just stuck and 50 feet above the fucking valley floor. We just started laughing almost to tears. The situation was so ridiculous. Nobody knew where we were.”
Another positive moment came when Vedder talked about former First Lady Michelle Obama's recent speech at the Democratic National Convention. “Every word resonated. She’s not just speaking to us. She’s speaking for us," he observed. “She had come out a week ago and said she felt it was like a low-level depression, which I think we can all share in. There are so many questions, so many loose ends and we don’t know when we will take a solid turn towards normalcy. It’s probably going to get harder with the election before it gets better. It’s a good time to be reminded and get some of those powerful words from Michelle." In the same positive vein, Vedder also admitted that times were changing, for the better. "With racism and same-sex marriage and so many issues out there, I think in one or two generations it’s not going to be how it’s been. It feels like the death grip to me of white supremacy. I feel like that’s why it’s so intense right now. In some ways, it could be the last grasp of that stuff."