Over the past few years, a new brand of country music has become popular. Maybe it’s due to the growing interest in the genre or perhaps there are some better new bands that are emerging. Regardless of what theory you subscribe to, North Carolina’s Delta Rae are one such outfit. Formed by siblings Ian Hölljes (vocals and guitar), Eric Hölljes (vocals, guitar, piano and keys) and Brittany Hölljes (vocals) (in addition to non-family members Elizabeth Hopkins (vocals), Mike McKee (percussion) and Grant Emerson (bass guitar)) in 2009, the group’s brand of Americana meets alternative meets country has a little bit of everything for everyone.
From a young age, the Hölljes became fans of music, even if their address changed as often as Congressmen get elected. Their parents had great musical taste like many who grew up when they did, and artists like James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon influenced their children.
After writing songs together while growing up, when they graduated from Duke University in Durham, Ian and Eric decided that they wanted to make writing . They convinced their lion-voiced sister to join them, as well as an old friend, Elizabeth Hopkins, whose singing they had always loved.
The quartet set up shop in an old house in the woods, which could be the cause of anxiety for some, they set out on a musical exploration in order to discover what did and didn’t work musically and thus, figuring out who they were as a band.
Their first EP was released in 2010, which laid the foundation for the band’s eclectic sound. Though it was certainly a fine way to show the world that they could play, at the same time, it also demonstrated that the band, if they honed their sound and songwriting, could become a hit band.
Like any band who has had success, Delta Rae cut their teeth touring. Slowly, but steadily they began to build a following, opening up for bands as random as Edwin McCain and Hanson (yes, THAT Hanson).
Through the entangled web of music connections, the band was able to secure a meeting with legendary music executive Seymour Stein of Sire Records in New York City. Having never heard the group before, the exec asked the sextet to perform a song. Needless to say, Stein liked what he heard and signed the group almost instantaneously (which in music, never means on the spot).
When their debut album, Carry The Fire, was released in June, it received accolades from many publications that lauded the group’s inspired four-part harmonies that makes their brand of Americana so accessible. With songs about topics ranging from unemployment to caring for loved ones to tough life decisions, Delta Rae are both earnest in their songwriting and deeply personal, all of which listeners can truly understand and get what they’re singing about. Of course, the perfect mix of gospel, blues and pop helps bring this to a larger audience as well.
No matter how you cut it, Delta Rae is a band on the rise. When you’re able to seamlessly blend genres to make them your own, there’s not only talent, but a sense of rich musical history. Although they only have one album out, expect for their sound to keep maturing and growing, as a real band doesn’t hit their stride until at least two or three albums into their career. If the sextet can keep growing and exploring, then they’re going to be on your radio for years to come.
Photo by Shervin Lainez