Over a steady-chugging acoustic-guitar vamp, light drums and a harmonica wail, Reilly tells the story of a man waiting to pick up his wife and daughter at the airport when they’re suddenly detained due to President Donald Trump’s disastrous first travel ban. To bust his family out, the man calls up his local radio DJ who arrives at the airport with a pair of bolt cutters.
“The DJ cut my baby and her mama’s chains,” Reilly sings. “And said, ‘Welcome ladies to the U.S.A./The car was at the curb and I threw him the keys/We went to Gene and Georgetti’s with the refugees.”
Reilly debuted “Bolt Cutter” – which didn’t have a title at the time – during a radio appearance in Chicago celebrating longtime WXRT DJ Lin Brehmer that happened to coincide with Trump’s first travel ban. Reilly then sent the song to Morello, who dug the track and asked what it was called. When Reilly offered Morello the chance to name it, he came up with “Bolt Cutter.”
“‘Bolt Cutter’ is about breaking somebody free,” Reilly tells Rolling Stone. “It’s about not taking any shit and taking back what has been taken or stolen from you … your voice, your rights, your family, your dreams.”
Reilly released his most recent album, Born On Fire, via Rock Ridge and Firebrand in 2015.