Delta Rae Raises the Vocal Bar in Pop

Not many acts these days in
any genre feature four-part vocal harmony. There’s Little Big Town in country,
and legendary Christian jazz group Take 6, of course, takes it even further
with six people harmonizing. But acts whose members can actually sing well
enough to pull off that kind of harmony on pitch are a rarity, and the music business isn’t really much geared towards that type of thing these days anyway. But Delta Rae may soon be changing that.

Based in Durham, North Carolina, the members of Delta Rae, although still in their 20s, have been singing together for many years, with three of the singers being siblings. Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes have the family harmony blend, and with longtime family friend Elizabeth Hopkins adding a fourth part, the band’s sound is both new and old at the same time. The press materials describe the group as “Mumford & Sons meets Fleetwood Mac,” and the description seems apropos, except that those groups don’t have the vocal blend that only families like the Everlys or the
Osmonds achieve. Guitarist and vocalist Ian Solljes said that, more than
anything, the tight harmony is what sets the group apart.

“The most exciting thing about our sound is definitely our four-part harmony,” he said. “When you listen to people like the Mamas and the Papas and Fleetwood Mac you just have to love that. There’s an almost gospel sound to that kind of harmony that’s missing these days, and I think it’s really cool.”

The band’s history has seen its members traveling coast to coast before they were even working musicians.

“I’ve known Elizabeth since we were about 12 years old in California,” Ian said. “All of us (siblings) were born in North Carolina but pretty much raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. My brother and I went to school at Duke (University, in Durham), and after he graduated we had everyone in the group come to North Carolina.”

Nine months after they started performing in public, their Delta Rae EP was released, and has since sold thousands of copies. In addition to the Holljes siblings and Hopkins, the band also includes the Raleigh-recruited rhythm section of bassist Grant Emerson and drummer Mike McKee. Vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist brother
Eric, who has his own publishing deal with one of Nashville’s largest music
publishers, is noted for having written the top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Cooler Than Me” with modern pop artist Mike Posner.

Ian and Eric are the band’s primary writers, although they were honored to have been able to write a song called “Memphis,” which can heard performed live by the band on YouTube, with Nashville songwriting legend Marcus Hummon (Dixie Chicks, Rascal Flatts). “Eric met Marcus through his publishing deal and they hit it off,” Ian said.

In addition to performing across the country for the past two years, including in New York and Los Angeles, Delta Rae is creating a buzz between both music lovers in general and those who know how music is made. In the Nashville area the band has performed at such venues as 12th and Porter and Puckett’s Grocery in Leiper’s Fork. This is a group whose vocals don’t depend on Auto-Tune computer technology, or a producer or engineer whose ears are better than theirs, to make them sound good. “The harmony is what we’re about,” Ian said, “and we love playing live, that’s really where it’s at for us.”

Ian said Delta Rae isn’t a country group even though they’re based in the South, but that country music in sometimes in the ear of the listener. “We consider ourselves a pop band with a Southern twist,” he said. “But we were playing in New York City and a girl came up and told me that she usually didn’t like country music but she loved us. So even though we’re not really country, I guess we might fit in there as well in
some people’s minds.”

Now that the group is becoming established as a national live act, having opened for the likes of Edwin McCain and Hanson, they’re working on what their next career move should be. “We plan to do this for the long haul,” Ian said, “so we’re trying to make the best music we can and get it out to our fans by whatever means we can. We’ve done some label showcases, but we’re well aware of the state of the industry these days and we’re evaluating what the best approach will be.”

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1 Comment

  1. Delta Rae is so refreshingly un-overly-produced-and-filtered and seemingly authentic. America is getting so hungry for that.

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