Ever since Jeff Rains first caught the music bug at age 15, he’s been doing things his own way. Even though the Indiana-based guitarist/vocalist wasn’t signed to a label, Rains regularly wrote, recorded and produced his own original music.
Having spent three solid years touring with the likes of Five Finger Death Punch, Hatebreed and Black Stone Cherry, Rains recently took some time off to be with his family and to finish his sophomore release, From The Ashes.
The new album, which will be released June 17, features more of the melodic hard rock sound Rains has become known for. Tracks like “Radio Song," “Better Man” and “Believe” delve deep into Rains' psyche while “Hero” crosses over into a more mainstream arena. From The Ashes even includes a dynamic cover of Kanye West's “Heartless."
I recently spoke with Rains about From The Ashes and more.
GUITAR WORLD: It’s been a few years since your debut album, Stories, was released. Why such a long wait?
I don't really have a band, so I do everything on my own. I record all of the instruments, write all of the songs and produce everything. That makes the process of making a record take a little bit longer than most. We also went through a few management changes during that time, and the singles were really lasting a long time on the radio. Ideally, I wanted to get the record out faster but there were circumstances that kept happening and I didn't want to rush it.
How would you compare From The Ashes to Stories?
Songwriting-wise, it's a lot more developed. I've never been one of those people who likes to write love songs and all that crap. I'm more into telling stories about myself and my life. This album is a little bit broader.
Where do you find inspiration?
It can come from anything. I could just be driving around and see something that sparks an idea. But I never try to force it. It all happens in my head. I usually don't even touch an instrument until I’m ready to record. So if it takes me three months to write whatever it is that's in my head, then that's how long it takes. A few of the songs on this record were actually written while I was recording the last album.
Can you tell me the origin of “Radio Song”?
I actually wrote that song a long time ago. It was on the very first record that I ever did. Right around the time when MySpace was first getting started. I remember selling 13,000 copies of that first demo, and the original version of “Radio Song” was on that. It was a completely different version but the lyrics were the same. I listened to it again and decided to re-write the music to make it heavier. It's one of my favorite songs on the new record.
What’s your recording process like?
I'll usually start out with drums or maybe an acoustic scratch track and from there continue to build. Producing yourself is a hard thing to do because there are no outside opinions. It's just me questioning a lot of things all the time. I think that’s why it takes longer.
What made you decide to want to pursue music?
A few of my family members were musicians and I was always attracted to it. I remember one day my dad bought me a Randy Rhoads-style guitar. He told me I didn't have to pay him back. The only thing was, I had to learn a certain amount of songs every week — and he got to pick the songs. So it was always John Mellencamp, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and all that kind of stuff. Looking back now, it was pretty awesome that he did that.
Who were some of your other influences?
All of the Seventies rock bands were huge to me. Then I really got into the whole Seattle scene — Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. That’s where a lot of my writing style comes from.
What excites you the most about the new album?
I remember on the last record there were a few songs I loved that didn’t really get as much attention from people as they deserved. For this one, everyone’s more on the same page, which is very exciting to see!
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.