Ike Reilly Talks Inspiration Behind Anti-Trump Travel Ban Song “Bolt Cutter”

Lin Brehmer’s 25th Anniversary Live Broadcast was a monumental occasion. Not only were we celebrating our best friend in the whole world’s 25 years at XRT, we saw the debut of a song written for Lin Brehmer.

When Ike Reilly took the stage at the live broadcast, he told Lin he penned a song just for him.

That song is called “Bolt Cutter” and will be getting an official release on April 28th via Firebrand Records. A master of storytelling and songwriting, Reilly tells the tale of a man wanting to pick up his wife & daughter from the airport when they get detained due to Donald Trump’s travel ban. The man enlists the help of a local DJ (Brehmer?!?) to come to the airport and bust his family out with a pair of bolt cutters.

We caught up with Reilly ahead of the song’s release (which you’ll be able to purchase wherever digital music is sold) to discuss inspiration for the song, his experience debuting it at the broadcast, and working with fellow Libertyville resident Tom Morello.

You first debuted “Bolt Cutter” at Lin’s 25th anniversary live broadcast telling Lin you wrote a song for him. What’s it like playing a song in front of an audience for the first time?

It was exciting to play a song that nobody had ever heard before live on the air. Lin was broadcasting from a bowling alley so it didn’t have the studio vibe and there were plenty of morning drinkers in the house so that took the edge off…that and the fact that I had a drink or two that morning. Free fruit too.

At the same time, the song was played right as President Trump’s first travel ban came into effect. How much did the events surrounding the ban act as inspiration when you penned the lyrics?


I was really pissed when i saw and heard about the ban. I hate the word “ban”. I was writing the song as a story…like a Chuck Berry song. Where s$&! is going down in order. A place, a person , a problem & a solution. At the same time I got an invitation to surprise Lin at his anniversary party at Liberty Lanes. That was when I inserted the DJ into the song. There’s something funny about a sentence with both the words “insert” and ” DJ” in it. Anyway, I think the original lyric was “best friend in the world” as a direct reference to Lin.

Did you attend any of the travel ban protests? What was that experience like and how did that play into the songwriting process?

I went on the road right after that so no, I wasn’t at the protests. I posted a performance of me singing that song from my studio in the middle of the night before I left. I was a little surprised that at most every place I played people were requesting that I play that song. I walked out of a bathroom at a bar in Los Angeles and a woman was wearing a shirt she made with bolt cutters right over her chest.

I continued to play it on the road and several weeks later I was playing a show with David Pasquesi and TJ Jagadowski at the Town Hall Theater in NYC. The Town Hall is a magnificent place with pictures of all the greats on the walls. Pretty humbling and inspiring. So I open with “Bolt Cutter” and now after every verse people are kinda screaming …almost testifying kinda s#&!. I’m in NYC not really realizing that Trump is more hated there then anywhere so I when I sing “golden showers from golden towers,” people go nuts. The song is funny to me but seems to have releasing effect on folks.

“Bolt Cutter” is getting an official release on April 28th, are there plans for more music to accompany this song?

Yeah, “Bolt Cutter” comes out tomorrow. April 28. We are finishing up another batch of songs right now. Hope to have them mixed in the next month and set a release date for the fall.

You’re working alongside fellow Libertyville native Tom Morello and are releasing “Bolt Cutter” on his label Firebrand Records. What’s that process been like?

It’s like this. I record the song with my band and of course Phil, Dave, Pete and Adam deliver the goods. Phil produced and we record it at his place. I send Tom the song and he’s says that’s a good song and he asks me what it’s called and I tell him it doesn’t have a name and I ask him to name it. He names it “Bolt Cutter”. I say we should release this as a single. He says that’d be great and tells me call this person named Karen. I call Karen and she knows why I’m calling and then Karen gets it released. Pretty easy.

You & Lin have a strong friendship. If you wrote a song about Lin, what would the title be?

“My Heart Is Huge, My Hands Are Tied”


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