There is no stopping Delta Rae
Ryan Summerlin January 29, 2013
The world won’t let Delta Rae take a breather.
The six-piece American folk-rock band that hails from Durham, N.C., has been on the go since brothers Eric and Ian Holljes began writing songs together when they were preteens.
"That sort of became a safe and fun experiment that quickly became something that we couldn’t stop doing," Eric Holljes said during an interview from Michigan. "The songwriting continued through middle school and high school and I followed Ian to Duke University to continue writing and performing together."
Once the two graduated in 2009, they asked their sister Brittany and friend Elizabeth Hopkins to join them.
"Ian and I were writing songs we knew we couldn’t sing on our own and we had always loved their voices," Holljes said. "We love harmonies and loved the ability to do things vocally, so as songwriters, Ian and I loved arranging for different voices and different perspectives."
Park City will get to hear those arrangements when Delta Rae plays the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Feb. 2.
"A month after we got together, we moved into a house and began touring up and down the East Coast," Holljes said. "We would always make it a point to play once a month in New York, no matter how many people came to the show."
That dedication caught the eye and ear of Warner Bros. Records’ Seymour Stein, who was instrumental in launching the careers of Madonna and the Talking Heads.
Shortly afterwards, the band, which also features drummer Mike McKee and bassist Grant Emerson, signed to Warner Bros. Records and released its debut full-length CD "Carry the Fire" last summer, and that has also added fuel to the band’s already building popularity.
"We actually raised money on www.kickstarter.com to make the CD and knew we wanted to make an album that was a collection of our best and favorite songs we had written when we went into the studio," Holljes said. "Up to then, Ian and I had written 20 to 30 songs, and had played them all live."
Throughout the process, the brothers weeded out the songs they didn’t like.
"Once we raised the money, our list had been distilled down to the 12 songs that we recorded for the album," said Holljes, who cited folk pianist George Winston, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers James Taylor, Billy Joel and Peter Paul & Mary as his major musical influences.
Of those songs, two — "Unlike Any Other" and "Dance in the Graveyards" — were very recent songs that Holljes and his brother had written.
"We probably wrote them a month before we went into the studio and wanted to include them on the project," he said.
Recording sessions began December, 2011.
"We did all the instruments in New York City and the vocals in North Carolina," Holljes said. " January, we had a finished album and it was a huge thrill and we were very proud of what we did."
The sessions were more intense than Holljes expected.
"We found it was more of a mistake to record in the winter, because of the cost, the timing and our health," he said after a laugh. "We had to maintain our voices through flu season in order to deliver the songs and takes we knew we were capable of singing.
"Also, I know some albums are recorded over time, but we weren’t used to that and recorded everything in a month, including strings and horn arrangements," Holljes said.
While it was a daunting process, the band experienced some thrilling moments.
"I remember when I was listening to the first mix of ‘Bottom of the River,’" Holljes said. "I was driving my car and had a freak-out moment, because I was listening to something Ian and I had written that was recorded in the best way possible."
Delta Rae worked with producer and multi-instrumentalist Alex Wong on the CD.
"Alex is an amazing classically trained percussionist and has an incredible ear for melody," Holljes said. "He brought a breadth of creativity and ideas to the table in terms of instruments and arrangements. He also brought a lot of care and craftsmanship that helped the band shine."
After "Carry the Fire" was completed, Warner Bros. Pictures decided it wanted the band to record a new version of Peggy Lee’s "Bless You (For the Good That’s In You)" for the upcoming movie, "Gangster Squad."
"They reached out to a host of artists to recapture and rerecord some of these types of classic songs," Holljes said. "We were lucky to be one of those bands, and they sent us ‘Bless You.’"
The moment Delta Rae heard the song, they knew it was for them.
"We got excited to put our own spin on it," Holljes said. "I love that style of music anyway and we did it with a great sax solo by Ryan Chriscoe."
The basic tracks were laid down by Holljes, McKee and Emerson in two takes.
"Then we moved on to the vocals," Holljes said. "We gathered around one microphone and tried to do it in the style of the era. It was great fun and had a wonderful energy that got us excited for our next album."
The Park City Performing Arts Foundation will present the four-part harmonies of folk-rock band of Delta Rae on Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. The show will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $67 and available by calling (435) 655-3114 or by visiting www.ecclescenter.org .