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Saturday 18 November 2017

Looks like Rain and she's rising -- just like every other Phoenix

The singer sister of River and Joaquin talks about her life less ordinary to John Costello

River and Joaquin Phoenix
River and Joaquin Phoenix

John Costello

When it comes to living a life less ordinary few people can compete with Rain Phoenix. She was busking by the age of three, had an agent by the time she turned five and was playing to a packed Hollywood Bowl aged six. But then again, few can claim to be a member of one of the most talented, creative and unpredictable families in showbiz.

Her eldest brother, teen heartthrob River, died of a drug overdose aged 23. Rain's younger brother Joaquin, is a twice Oscar-nominated actor. While her younger sisters -- Summer and Liberty -- regularly play and sing with Rain's current band Papercranes, which has just released its new album, Let's Make Babies in the Woods.

As their children's names suggest, Rain's hippy parents fully embraced the flower-power dream after meeting in 1968 while hitchhiking. They married less than a year later, worked as missionaries in South America and then travelled throughout the States living a laid-back, free-spirited existence.

They soon changed their surname to Phoenix (John and Arlyn Bottom just did not have that hippy vibe about it) and had five children as they moved their family from city to city while encouraging their kids to embrace their creative passions."

"Travelling was a big part of my childhood and one that I value very much," says Rain. "In some respects I can't help but be a bit of a gypsy as an adult. I get fidgety if I'm in one place for longer than three months."

After settling in Los Angeles in 1979, however, it wasn't long before all five children were journeying towards stardom.

River was the first to fulfil his promise and, just aged 18, received an Oscar nomination for his part in Running on Empty in 1988, based on a family on the run from the FBI.

Rain made her debut at the age of 15 in the movie, Maid to Order. The memories of which still make her cringe.

"It was terrible timing," she says with a laugh. "I was in the absolute throes of puberty. My hair looked like I had an Afro and I'd just gotten my period. lt was probably the one time you don't want to be permanently captured on celluloid for the rest of your life."

As their childhood careers began to blossom, her parents once again decided to take the family on the road to help shield them from the excesses of Tinseltown.

Sadly, however, the very excesses her parents were trying to help them avoid ended up taking the life of her brother River Phoenix.

Both Rain and Joaquin were with River the night he died outside the Hollywood nightclub the Viper Room in 1993 after taking a lethal cocktail of heroin and cocaine.

As Joaquin called 911, Rain sat beside her brother trying to calm him as he lay vomiting and convulsing on the pavement.

"Of course there is a sadness with not seeing him in the physical world but everything I do, he is a part of," says Rain. "Through my music I am forever able to stay connected to my brother. We are always infinitely collaborating in spirit."

Rain now lives in LA near her brother Joaquin, who she sees often and is incredibly close to.

"There was never any competitiveness between us," she says. "We realised there was a shared aspect of success -- that at different times each individual was poised to shine, and that supporting was the most important thing."

Let's Make Babies in the Woods is released by Manimal Records.

Irish Independent

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