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Delta Rae Takes Southern Roots on 50-Date Headlining Tour

May 11, 2017 04:00PM ● By Nicole Gould

Photo by David McClister

With their southern roots and passion for music, six artists brought their talents together, forming American folk band, Delta Rae.

Hailing from Durham, North Carolina, this six-piece ensemble includes Grant Emerson (bass), Liz Hopkins (vocals), Brittany Holljes (vocals), Eric Holljes (vocals/piano), Ian Holljes (vocals/guitar), and Mike McKee (drums).

Since forming in 2009, the band has performed over 100 shows a year and become festival favorites. Delta Rae looks to bring their new single, “A Long and Happy Life” to fans all across country radio. The EP, under the same name, consists of four different tracks, displaying their unmistakable sound and artistic songwriting skills.

Although considered to be in the country genre, Delta Rae explores an assortment of sounds from country, rock, blues, and even a little alternative pop throughout this EP.

“It’s sort of a soundtrack to the best summer of your life. I hope people use it as their mix tape for the summer when they have friends over and are just hanging out. There are a few somber ballets that I think are really beautiful and reflective. I hope it carries people through the summer and through the best of times. But mostly, I hope they find it comforting and it brings them happiness.” – Grant Emerson

Grant, Liz, and Mike were teachers before joining Delta Rae and, as such, the band has started “Tickets for Teachers” to honor educators that inspire and challenge them to be the best versions of themselves. Throughout the tour, they will be giving away two tickets for the winning teacher per show. Have someone you’d like to nominate? Head over to their website and enter your nomination for a chance to win!

Born with the heart and soul for music, don’t miss Grant Emerson along with the rest of Delta Rae at the Avalon Theatre Sunday, May 28th, 8 p.m. as part of their A Long and Happy Life Summer Tour 2017. Opening for the band will be Lauren Jenkins. Tickets are $25. Can’t make the show? No problem! Delta Rae returns Thursday, August 24th, 7 p.m. at the 9:30 club. Tickets are $25.

Image Courtesy of The Valory Music Co.


What originally sparked your interest in music and has it always been something you set out to pursue or did it develop overtime? What directed you towards playing the string instruments of percussion, guitar, and cello?

I fell in love with music from long car rides. I had family in the central part of North Carolina and on the coast of North Carolina, so I would do a lot of driving between cities and I loved listening to music, it really made time pass. When I was 16 and everyone was getting a car, my mother bought me an electric bass and I couldn’t put it down. That was a time when music made an impact on me and I discovered the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There’s something really freeing about music and it was magnetizing.

I had two friends that played guitar and they wanted to start a band. I had the choice between drums or bass, but I figured my parents would be more okay playing the bass in my bedroom over being loud with the drums. Once I joined Delta Rae, there’s been such a wide breath of genres to cover and I love learning new instruments, so at any moment when there’s an opportunity, I would stay up all night, drink some coffee, and learn it as best as I could.

The bands most recent EP, A Long Happy Life, was also the group’s first single released on country radio. What has the experience been like being a part of the country genre and having this song played in a pool of top country artists. What was the inspiration behind the lyrics of this song?

It’s pretty amazing. I’m excited about it every day, especially when I have my friends texting me pictures of the song on SeriusXM The Highway and family members calling me to tell me their friends are talking about it. My mother is always telling her friends about the band and finally, everyone is starting to hear it. It’s been really amazing hearing it come on next to some of my favorite songs on the radio. It’s sort of unbelievable. I’m just soaking it all in. I’ve been wide eyed and grinning since it’s been out.

Eric and Ian wrote song and their inspiration was great southern storytellers. They weave in the title of four novels: Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides and The Water is Wide, William Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness, and Reynolds Price’s A long and Happy Life. We all tour so much and are reading books. Pat Conroy has been one everyone has resonated with. That and drawing on imagery that we see around us and that we love.

The four tracks on A Long Happy Life, seem to tell different pieces of a story. What would you say is the story behind this album as a whole and what are you hoping fans will take away after listening to it?

It’s sort of a soundtrack to the best summer of your life. I hope people use it as their mix tape for the summer when they have friends over and are just hanging out. There are a few somber ballets that I think are really beautiful and reflective. I hope it carries people through the summer and through the best of times. But mostly, I hope they find it comforting and it brings them happiness.

How would you say the band has grown from the very first album up until this release? Through all the festivals and performances, the band has done, has there ever been a particular moment that you’ll always remember?

We’ve gotten lot better. I don’t know how many hundreds of shows we’ve played, but we’ve just gotten better at writing songs and performing. There’s six of us, so we know when to step back and let someone else take center stage and weave that in and out of our live show and with the songs. We’re able to let someone be able to have the focus and everyone else support them.

There are certainly a few. The time we were playing at the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama with Kings of Leon, Stevie Wonder, and Tom Petty. We played on the same day as Tom Petty and it was wild and an honor to play on the same stage he played on. It was awesome to see him play and hear his amazing songs. I was really glad to be alive on earth the same time as Stevie Wonder. It was incredible.

Another one was at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. I’m a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan and have a tattoo on my arm. That year Flea was playing with Thom Yorke from Radiohead. I very awkwardly had the chance to meet, say hi, and take a picture with him. He’s one of my biggest inspirations. I was beside myself, but I got it out of the way and checked off meeting my ultimate hero.

Being a member of a six-piece band sounds like things could get crazy at times. How do you all work together without butting heads? If you had to give a characteristic to each individual person in the band, what would they be?

There are three siblings in the band, so their actual family, but the six of us are the closest best friends. Even when we’re not out on the road we hang out with each other. We’re connected and care about each other, and to keep things light, we’ll go have ice cream or go to the movies. We try to make sure we can have a little bit of fun while were traveling.

Mike: He’s the funny man and a comedian.
Brittany: She’s sort of the mother of the band. She’s very into space and the stars. When it’s your birthday, she’ll want to read your astrological sign and figure out what’s arising.
Eric: He’s the one who’s always refining the show and wanting to make sure were being the best we can be and I always appreciate that.
Liz: She’s our dolphin. She loves the water and she’s an amazing singer.
Ian: He’s the thinker in the band and I’m always getting my reading suggestions from him. He’s always reading, all the time. I don’t know how he does it.

We're all very thoughtful and caring people. I would say I’m the grumpy one in the band. I grew up as an only child and never had to say sorry to someone when I made them mad, working so closely with everyone, it’s helped me be a better friend and makes me really maintain relationships.

Image Courtesy of The Valory Music Co.


What’s the one thing that makes Delta Rae unique from other bands in the music industry? What would you say has the best part about being a member of this six-piece ensemble?

We’re six people, southern storytellers, and were very genuine. We care a lot about what we’re making and care about our fans. When we’re playing shows, we’re leaving it all out on the stage. It’s just very cathartic for us, no matter what’s going on in our lives or in the world, we hit the stage, we hit the stage in high gear, and that’s it for us.

It’s been being part of the best band I’ve ever been in, making the best music I’ve ever made in my life, and creating friendship inside the band that I really love. It’s great knowing that you can have really beautiful friendships with people and knowing that people really do care. That’s something I always come back to whenever I’m reflecting on it.

What are you looking forward to most hitting the road for a 50-date headlining tour across the U.S?

Just doing it. I’m excited to bring all these new songs to everyone around the country and see what they think about it and talk to them. I also do a lot of distance running as a way to counter down being in a band, so I’m looking forward to seeing the country and the parks early in the morning before we have to get to the venue for our sound check.

Outside of performing with Delta Rae, what sort of activities do you enjoy in your spare time?

Distance running and reading. I try to read a lot in the quiet because traveling with a band gets really loud. On my runs in the spring, I take cool photos of flowers while the earth is blooming. It’s silly, but it brings me a lot of joy and makes me feel good.