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Rainy Eyes

rainy eyes royal potato family

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. These are 11 songs of triumph, punctuated with perseverance and perspective, here to 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 poignantly and poetically of the consequences.

Much of Lonesome Highway was written as Rainy reflected on the juxtaposition of her circumstances. As she basked 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 in the country’s rugged, western islands.  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. Rainy was a natural performer, singing as a young child.  At 12 years-old, after seeing her dad for the first time in years, she recorded her first demo with him. Enduring some rough times as a teenager 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 days in the Bay Area were spent teaching children old-time folk songs and honing her multi-instrumental chops on bluegrass and roots music, while her nights were marked by hangs at underground jazz clubs in the Tenderloin. She befriended storied musicians Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Peter Rowan. And ran a music space in San Francisco, while hosting camps and kids’ music classes. This fall, in addition to the release of Lonesome Highway, Rainy will issue a collection of 70 original and traditional folk songs for children, entitled Little Folkies, on Smithsonian Folkways.

Throughout her splintering marriage, as she processed her 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. There was Ric Robertson and Gina Leslie from New Orleans, Phoebe Hunt from Nashville, as well as locals Sam Grisman and Jeremy D’Antonio, all lending a hand. Together, they generated the initial spark that brought Lonesome Highway to life.

“We had this epic weekend of recording this music,” Rainy says. “It felt like a creative explosion.”

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 tradition-rich region. She connected with the roots of her musical influences, finding the gift of time and space to slow down and work on her craft. “I’d already been in love with Louisiana,” Rainy says. “So when it was time to make a move, it felt like a natural fit to head down there.”

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