Mike McCready Explains How Chris Cornell Empowered Him On 'Reach Down' Solo

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready says Chris Cornell provided him a valuable bit of encouragement during the Temple of the Dog recording sessions that has stayed with him more than 30 years later.

The one-off Temple of the Dog album from 1990 represented the first time McCready had performed in the studio on an album with record label backing. And to make matters more nerve-wracking, one of McCready's first tasks was to fill a four-minute solo section for the album's 11-minute second track "Reach Down."

In conversation with Q104.3 New York's QN'A, McCready recalled the "Reach Down" solo as a crucial early experience in the recording studio.

"It was like a dream come true for me," McCready said. "So I was approaching 'Reach Down' very calmly and kind of reluctantly. Because I wanted to be careful and not overplay. I wanted to be reverential to it.

"I did one pass of it, and I didn’t go totally crazy and Chris Cornell was like, ‘I’m gonna go back outside and have a cigarette. And when I come back in, I want to hear a different solo. And I want you to go crazy.’"

McCready, who's early influences included Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads and Stevie Ray Vaughan, was well-versed in how to 'go crazy' on the guitar. With permission from Chris, McCready emptied his bag of tricks on the second take and produced what it ultimately one of his proudest musical moments.

"We did another pass of it and I played whatever I was feeling, pulling out everything I knew, like the toggle switch stuff, stuff I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan do, like stuff at the top of the neck — I don’t really do that anymore…" he recalled. "But I was doing everything that I had learned at that time. I was pulling out all the stops and trying to feel it, and I was feeling it. And at the end of the take, I was still playing and my headphones had come off. So something had happened towards the end of it, where I was still playing but I couldn’t hear the song.

That was a great example of having freedom to play whatever I wanted to play. The fun in that and the release of that. To this day, I’m so proud of that moment that Chris let me do that."

Check out the full QN'A conversation here, where McCready dives into his approach to the guitar and celebrates the legacy of his most recognizable instrument: his 1960 Fender Stratocaster.

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