Producer Crosstalk: Peter Cornell

Seattle native, musician and producer Peter Cornell was a sworn member of the city’s rarified rock roster of the 90s. Later he moved to New York and began to record with his bandmate and friend Keith Mannino, who had his own studio. Together they experimented with sounds, learned lessons and honed their craft. This inspired Cornell to build Champion, his home studio in Brooklyn, and he produced several records including Champion, his first solo outing. He soon realized that he both loved production and was adept at it. Since then, he’s worked with many artists and, last fall, was tapped to produce Candlebox’s acoustic rendition of “Riptide,” originally from the band’s 2021 record Wolves.

We all have connections and use them when and how we can. In Cornell’s case with “Riptide,” his wife Amy Decker manages Kevin Martin, lead singer of Candlebox, so he didn’t have far to reach. “We pitched it,” Cornell recalls of the song, “because I was interested and love it. I felt that I had a handle on what I’d do with it, acoustically, to take it away from the record version. It was a blessing to be able to call up a guy like Brian Gibson and have him play strings. At the eleventh hour, Kevin and I decided that the song needed piano. So I asked Brian about it and he told me that he could ‘play [stuff] like John Lennon,’ which was perfect. He laid down his parts [and they] were impeccable in one take. Everyone played great—a few quick times through and we were done.”

Most producers and/or engineers have a favorite piece of gear, often because it’s enabled him or her in some way. For Cornell, that magic tool is Logic Pro. “I’m not an idiot when it comes to computers,” he observes, “but Pro Tools has just enough complexity that it escapes me. So if we’re going to use that DAW, there’s got to be someone in the room that’s fast and comfortable with it. As a guy producing for himself, Logic was so easy to navigate. I need to create and record when I’m thinking about it; to strike when the iron is hot. You can’t lose that inspiration.” 

For any artist, it’s sometimes easy to become mired in frustration or to feel that the world has conspired against you. But being able to weather those challenges and emerge from them stronger is likely one mark of a true artist. “There were times I would have quit along the way because I didn’t feel that I was on the path for which I was destined,” Cornell admits. “But I’d have these different projects pop up out of nowhere that I hadn’t thought about or predicted. It connected the dots and kept me in music until I was able to make some great records.”

Cornell now lives in Nashville and divides his time between music, Cornell Brothers Coffee, his shop and roaster in nearby Nolensville, and Riptide, an Austin-based, youth-focused charity. Together with Decker and several others, he co-founded the philanthropic outfit that helps young people who’ve aged out of the foster care system. He’s now developing several songs and, alongside Martin, he foresees a cover album of some of his favorite rock tunes. His brother was Chris Cornell, the late Soundgarden frontman. 

Contact cornellbrotherscoffee.com, riptidesociety.org