Jerry Cantrell Says He Uses The Same Songwriting Technique As Keith Richards

Alice In Chains’ founder Jerry Cantrell spoke about his songwriting technique and revealed that The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards was a huge inspiration and emphasized the importance of acoustics in rock songs.

Cantrell is the primary songwriter of Alice In Chains, and with a career that spans over 30 years, he has written countless songs, including some for his solo albums. The guitarist only became the band’s lead vocalist after Alice In Chains’ initial vocalist Layne Staley passed away in 2002.

Every writer or composer has their own technique, way, and source of inspiration to write a song. Some composers and writers are organized, some are messy. Some wait for the right inspiration, and some do activities on purpose to help them get inspired. However, no matter how they get the ideas for their writing, they should eventually feel comfortable playing it acoustically in front of thousands of people.

According to Cantrell, playing a song acoustically on stage exposes the structure of the song, and this way the listener can spot out faults. Therefore, he is playing it safe by initially writing his songs using an acoustic guitar and then moving on to electric to ensure there are no faults in the structure. He continued to state that this was also the thoughts of The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and gave an example from his interview when he said that acoustics are very important in rock songs.

Here are Cantrell’s words:

“For song structure, playing on acoustic is a really good indicator if you’ve got a good idea or not. We’ve done tours where it’s just like MTV Unplugged — where you can’t hide, man. That’s where it really reveals the structure of a song. If it works on that level, it’s gonna work scaled up.

Acoustic guitar is a really great texture. It’s percussive. I remember listening to a couple of interviews with Keith Richards about how important the acoustic is underneath the rock guitar in the Stones. For a lot of the music that I grew up on, that was the real backbone.”

You can listen to Alice in Chains’ ‘Down in a Hole’ written by Cantrell, and decide on the quality of their acoustics below.