Hi Blake, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’m doing great and thanks for having me. I’ve been very excited about and busy with the new album, which is coming out December 9th.
Can you talk to us more about your forthcoming single “Dear Brother”?
Sure. “Dear Brother” is a song I wrote about friends and family pining for a loved one who is lost at war. It’s a letter read aloud by the sibling of the missing brother, and he and everyone else are praying for his safe return home. Mentioned in the letter is some bad news on the family front regarding their mother, and also the constant reminder that his friends and family toast in his honor regularly, wishing his safe return home.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
No, but it’s a topic that’s all too familiar for a lot of families in America and the rest of the world. It just seemed like the right moment to come up with a hopeful tearjerker.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
I’m hopeful we’ll have a “Dear Brother” video in the future. In the meantime, though, our next single is called “Losing My Way.” The video should be finished and debuted closer to the album release.
The single comes off your new album Helicopter Rose – what’s the story behind the title?
I wanted to write the closing title track as a summation of the album’s theme—about being rescued from unfortunate situations in life. I began by comparing it to being trapped in a burning building or in a corner from making bad decisions in the past, and also to other stressful situations, and that’s when the metaphor hit me: the song should be about a gesture given to someone for helping a person in need or in a bad situation. Something like a flower you might give out during a ceremony or a celebration that represents more than just a flower. It’s a Helicopter Rose—a new word for something we all understand and sometimes need. I think it’s best summed up in this line from the chorus: Send a helicopter rose / A bird of love to rescue those / A flower of beauty to bring us all hope / A helicopter rose.
How was the recording and writing process?
It was an intense experience. The writing process was fairly fluid and came with relative ease, but there was a lot pouring out of me. Around the time of our last album, Love Don’t Cross Me, I was in a very prolific period and produced more songs I was happy with than ever before in my life. This continued during the making of Helicopter Rose and I’m still at it today. I hope it lasts. The recording process for the album, however, had its fair share of difficulties, but in retrospect it was an educational and rewarding experience. I’ve worked with [producer/engineer] Tim Delaney on many records in the past, so our relationship in the studio is pretty well oiled at this point. That’s not to say that we didn’t experience our share of nauseating headaches and worry. We struggled a bit with getting the sound in my head out and down to tape, mainly due to my unorthodox approach, but in the end, I’m more proud of this album than anything else I’ve ever worked on. Tim is a consummate professional in his engineering skills and in the fact that he’s very patient and very willing to explore new ideas.
How did Tom Waits and Elvis Costello get to influence this album?
Well, I guess their influence on me is the same as any other songwriter and their influences. It’s the same way the Beat Generation poets influenced Tom Waits’ albums and in the same way Cole Porter, Bob Dylan and The Band influenced Costello’s. You take what you love and you make it your own. Specifically for me, Costello and Waits are huge influences in the way they approach their lyrics and create their own worlds. They’re also both great singers, and obviously icons in the world of songwriting.
What role does Georgia play in your music?
I’ve lived in Georgia my whole life, so as you can imagine I have a love/hate relationship with the state. I grew up in Cedartown, Ga., which is very religious and conservative. I now live in Atlanta, a politically blue city in a sea of red. All of the characters in my songs experience some kind of struggle, and I think a lot of that comes from my sort of black-sheep background. I love being out in the country and all but I don’t identify with the majority of the folks who live out there. I’m thankful that I grew up with gospel music and country music alongside punk rock and classic American and British rock & roll. Helicopter Rose is an amalgam of all of those influences. To me, Merle Haggard sits nicely side-by-side with Sam Cooke and Joe Strummer.
What have you learned from your 15 years career?
I’ve learned, the hard way, to do only what feels right in your gut and don’t put up with anyone else’s shit. It’s also a good idea to surround yourself with people more talented than yourself who also have a positive and encouraging attitude. The older I get, it’s harder to find folks with good attitudes who you can trust. Entertainment is a dog of a business.
Any plans to hit the road?
I’m currently booking some solo dates, as well as some full band dates around the Southeast. And we’re hoping to make a trip out to SXSW in 2017 to promote the album and the new record label my wife and I started, Southern Lover Recording Co.
What else is happening next in Blake Rainey and His Demons’ world?
Lots of promoting the new record and the new label. Helicopter Rose is Southern Lovers’ debut release. I’ve also got a basket full of new tunes to teach the band for our next outing. I’m going to be busy for a good while.