Rainy Eyes Interview

Rainy Eyes Interview

By Nigel Sharpe for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Born out of revelry and resolution in a redwood cabin tucked into the California coast, endowed with a spirit simmering in wanderlust, and ornamented with the rich traditions of the Louisiana bayou, Lonesome Highway marks the resilient return of Irena Eide aka Rainy Eyes. Its eleven songs are punctuated with perseverance and perspective that sober up the soul and send it back stronger onto the blacktop. If Rainy’s 2019 folk-infused debut, Moon in the Mirror, revealed the truth, Lonesome Highway tells of the consequences.

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Much of Lonesome Highway was written over a ten year period, as Rainy reflected on the juxtaposition of her circumstances. Basking in the joy of motherhood, she was simultaneously confronting a troubled relationship that had turned toxic. “Songwriting was my therapy. It was basically how I dealt with the pain and the trauma. The music helped me heal,” says Rainy. “This album is about how I had to help myself. To take that pain and use it. For it not to destroy me, but to make me who I am.”

A Norway-native raised mostly by her mother, Rainy grew up dividing time between the urban congestion of Bergen and her maternal family’s sheep farm on the rugged islands of western Norway. She found nature there, in one of the rainiest climates on earth, and relatives eager to shine some light through music; a guitar-playing uncle introduced her to the classics: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones; Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan and more.

Her father, a Serbian musician, was an inspiring, if itinerant presence. A natural performer, she started singing as a young child, and after seeing her dad for the first time in years, she recorded her first demo with him at 12. Having a rough time in her teens witnessing her father’s addiction and abuse, Rainy grew up fast. At 17, she moved into her own apartment and at 18, she left Norway for Denmark. Within a year, she met and fell in love with an American free-jazz saxophonist and eloped to San Francisco. “There’s this part of me ever since I was young that has to keep moving,” she says.

Her time in the Bay Area was spent teaching children old-time folk songs and honing her multi-instrumental chops on bluegrass and roots music, while her nights were arked at underground jazz clubs in the Tenderloin. Among the influential musicians she befriended during this period were Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Peter Rowan. In addition to running a music space in San Francisco, she hosted camps and kids music classes. In addition to Lonesome Highway, this Fall Rainy will release a collection of 70 original and traditional folk songs for children, entitled Little Folkies on Smithsonian Folkways.

Throughout her splintering marriage and in the process of healing from the difficult separation, she wrote and recorded constantly at her Bolinas cabin. She gathered with friends and experimented with songs, sounds, and psychedelics. Ric Robertson and Gina Leslie from New Orleans, Phoebe Hunt from Nashville, as well as locals Sam Grisman and Jeremy D’Antonio all played a hand. Together a creative spark was lit and and helped the initial vision for come alive.

As her situation in Northern California became untenable and her wandering spirit called, Rainy found herself once again leaving everything behind. She’d relocate to South Louisiana, drawn by the music and culture of the region where she connected with the roots of her musical influences and found time and space to slow down and work on her craft. Forging a collaboration with noted Lafayette musician and producer Dirk Powell, she shared with the demos from those cathartic cabin sessions in Bolinas with him. Powell heard a potential album within songs like the title track, “Idaho” and “Faded Away.” They hunkered down in his studio on the bayou and set out to fulfill the promise of what she’d begun. He suggested Rainy track a few more recently written songs, including “Misty Mama,” “Just a Little Rain” and “You Just Want What You Can’t Have,” adding local Lafayette musicians Chris Stafford on pedal steel, Eric Adcock on B3 and Dirk’s daughters Amelia and Sophie Powell on harmonies.

Lonesome Highway marks a hope-filled and assertive new beginning for Rainy Eyes. As electric guitar and drums now join fiddle and banjo. As highways and mountains offer optimism and escape. As leaving leads to self discovery. Breaking cycles, trusting the universe, and allowing the higher self to lead the way.

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