It was just a year ago that a story about Delta Rae, a young vocal group that has called both Marin County, California and Durham, North Carolina home, was published in the Nashville Music Guide. At that time, the six-person group was pushing hard, banking on the original songs and four-part vocal performances on the Delta Rae EP, and opening spots for acts like Edwin McCain and Hanson, to help carry them to the top. Comparisons with Little Big Town and Fleetwood Mac were all the buzz. But talented as they were, Delta Rae’s chances honestly seemed no better than anyone else’s considering the thousands upon thousands of musical acts striving for the brass ring.
Fast forward less than a year from the publication of that article, and you will see that hard work, perseverance and perhaps a little luck can add up to success. Because today, Delta Rae is celebrating the release of their new CD Carry the Fire on Sire Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, and they were signed by music industry legend Seymour Stein, responsible for the careers of Madonna and the Ramones, among others. But it doesn’t stop there. The group was selected, though ultimately not winning, by Rolling Stone magazine as part of its “Women Who Rock” female artist competition, and the group appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and VH1 over the summer performing their single “Bottom of the River.”
Comprised of siblings Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes, longtime family friend Elizabeth Hopkins, and the rhythm section of drummer Mike McKee (who actually plays a trash can with a steel chain on “Bottom of the River”) and bassist Grant Emerson, Delta Rae has a sound that draws from practically every form of music of the past 150 years. Like so many acts that are called “Americana,” Delta Rae is assigned to that genre as well. But that’s because nothing really fits them, the way that artists like Joni Mitchell defied characterization. Eric Holljes, in addition to being an integral part of Delta Rae, has his own publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in Nashville and is the co-writer of “Cooler Than Me,” a top ten hit for singer Mike Posner. He said that the group is both grateful for, and energized by, its success.
“Everything’s very exciting now,” he said. “It’s pretty much more of what we were doing anyway, but the intensity has picked up.” As far as the group’s appearance in front of millions on The Tonight Show, Eric said he was a bit nervous, but more excited than anything. “It was an experience, as we’d never done a show like that before. Everybody was just taking it all in. It was definitely something I’ll never forget.”
Eric said that being signed with a major label has turned out to be a real blessing, unlike some stories he’d heard about bad record deals. “We signed with Warner’s in January, and we handed the album over to them when it was done and they loved it and didn’t change a thing,” he said. “They’ve been nothing but supportive and I can’t express how lucky we feel to have the deal. We’d heard a lot of negative things about being on a major label, how they try to change you and want you to be what they want you to be. But I’ve been very blown away by how wrong that perception was, and how they haven’t tried to make us something we’re not.”
The Delta Rae sound is compared to Fleetwood Mac, Little Big Town, old-time Gospel music, and any number of artists and musical styles. But in the end, Delta Rae’s sound is really influenced by the life experiences and music the six members have just absorbed during their brief lives, and is really a sound all their own. There’s no one like them out there.
Delta Rae will be appearing in Nashville at the Rutledge on Wednesday, September 12th and at 3rd and Lindsley on Sunday, October 7th. For more information go to www.deltarae.com.
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