Interview: Delta Rae talk the meaning behind their name, A Long and Happy Life, being with an amazing label (Big Machine), Paganism and more

Delta Rae were without a doubt one of the most successful artists over the C2C Festival weekend. So many people came away fans and fans came away even bigger fans as the groups astounding vocal harmonies and stage presence captivated everyone in their audience.

Delta Rae consists of three siblings Ian Hölljes (vocals and guitar), Eric Hölljes (vocals, guitar, piano and keys) and Brittany Hölljes (vocals), as well as Elizabeth Hopkins (vocals), Mike McKee (percussion) and Grant Emerson (bass guitar).

We caught up with Eric, Mike and Brittany during C2C and they are some of the loveliest people in the industry. The group shared the fascinating story behind the name Delta Rae, wanting to return to the UK, Paganism and much more.

 

Hi guys, welcome to the UK. It is so exciting to have you here –  this your second time here?

Eric – yes, it’s our second time.

Brittany – Second time professionally, but my third time here. The first time I was studying abroad in Italy and I popped over for a visit.

Nice, what were you studying?

Brittany – (laughs) Paganism!

Oh, wow!

Brittany – Yeah, haha – of all things; it was part of my major and it was very fun.

I’ll bet it was.

Brittany- It was very interesting and – useful?

Eric – Well, you use it every day.

Mike – We all use our majors everyday!

Brittany – That’s the thing with musicians who go to university – it’s pretty much useless, haha. We do do a number of mystical gothic songs, so in that sense I call on my pagan knowledge, ha.

I think it’s a great thing to have so you can deliver interestingly brilliant music.

Brittany – Well, thank you!

The last time you came over as a band was…

Brittany – 2015? We did The Great Escape Festival in Brighton and we played at The Barfly and also in Liverpool.

Liverpool must have been fun – lots of British artists from there. Are you into the British Music Scene at all?

Brittany – We have had huge influences from British artists. Even today, especially with your Americana artists, as you do it so well over here.

How has this visit been so far? You played the Big Machine Showcase on Wednesday, which sadly I was gutted to be unable to attend.

Brittany – I have to first point out that ’gutted’ is something I hear so frequently over here and we don’t say it in the States.

Mike – It’s a great term.

Brittany – We usually talk about fish being gutted and that’s about it.

Do you say ‘bummed’ instead?

Mike – We say that, yeah; that’s about it or ‘dragged’, ha.

Brittany – Saying ‘bummed’ doesn’t quite capture what I feel; gutted is good.
But yes, Wednesday night at the showcase was so fun with Danielle Bradbery and Midland, who are all friends of ours. We only had three songs, which is high pressure. We played our first single A Long and Happy Life and our recent single No Peace and Quiet, which is a ballad and then the first song we wrote as a band,  Bottom of the River which is a gospel song with a dark, swampy mysterious thing.

 

You have been brought over by your label Big Machine, who we love – mostly because they are so good at bringing their acts over here. How did signing with Big Machine come to be?

Eric – We were with Warner Brothers before Big Machine but everyone at Warner Brothers who was there when we signed had left, so we felt that we had lost our champions at the label and we were looking elsewhere. We were in Nashville recording a song and we reached out to Scott Borchetta (CEO Big Machine) to see if he was interested in having a meeting. We said to be at Star Struck Studios at 10am on this day and we will have a sit down. Star Struck Studios I think is owned by Reba McEntire and is such an amazing studio. We were there at 10am and we set up for an acoustic performance; Scott came in, we chatted for a minute and then we performed for him and by the end of that meeting he says, ‘You have a home here.’

Mike – We were not with Warner at that time, so we were kind of floating around looking for our next chapter and he was like, ‘You have a home here’ and so we signed pretty quickly.

Eric – Since then it has been pretty amazing – it has been kind of an awakening for us. We wrote 75 songs for this EP that we just put out. My brother and I do most of the writing for the band and we just kept digging deeper and deeper and deeper, trying to find our best material. We actually recorded a full album, but we only released half of it in this EP and the other half we are really excited about as well. I am not sure yet when we are going to release that, but it’s been amazing. Usually, in our past experience the label has kind of been hands off, but with this label they have been so plugged in with A&R, finding the right songs, setting up gigs like C2C, finding ways to get exposure and it’s been wonderful.

Brittany – I think that’s why we wanted to sign with Big Machine because Scott Borchetta is at the helm and the Valory team (label division) is very solid. It is a different experience from Warner, where people were kind of coming and going. It’s nice to have a champion.

They do seem to have a family feeling.

Brittany – A family feeling, yeah – and we are a family band, so it works.

One thing I have noticed about Scott and the label is how much they encourage acts to build a fan base in the UK, and we are so grateful for that.

You were saying earlier that you wrote 75 songs – how do you narrow it down to four songs on an EP?

Eric – Those songs raised their hands as front runners, but it was also just the ones that we were most excited about when we recorded them.

Brittany- The whole purpose of the EP was to focus; we have put out two albums that have run the gamut genre-wise, and that was fun and exciting. What we wanted to do this time was make a statement about who we were and where we were from – which is the Southern United States, with its specific sound and energy – and so that is what the EP captures.

Tell us the story behind the name Delta Rae.

Brittany – Well we have our mum to thank for the band name. Our mum is a writer and when we were growing up she had/has been working on this book. It has taken her twenty years to come up with the exact storyline and the characters – which I think is normal for a mum who is writing a book, raising three kids and working – so fair enough. When she finally did come up with the perfect name for her lead character in this young adult fiction novel she is writing, she came to us and she said “Guys, I am so excited. It’s Southern, it’s epic, it’s got a bit of a Greek influence – this book is all about a girl from the South who awakens the ancient Greek gods.” This taps into my paganism which is a family fascination. She called that girl Delta Rae.

And is the book available?

Brittany – Not at this point. Mum is working on draft number two – she is a bit of a perfectionist. I will say that it is brilliant and when she puts it out…

Mike – It will be on our merch table.

I read Young Adult books so sounds right up my street.

Brittany – If you are a Harry Potter fan, then you will be happy.

 

Any plans to return to the UK?

Brittany – I am literally messaging our bookies right now about Bush Hall?

Ooh!

Brittany – That seems like a good venue.

Yes it is – and The Borderline too; all wonderful venues which Country artists use regularly.

Well, thanks so much for talking to me today – and I can’t wait for you to come back soon.

All – Thank you so much!

Listen to Delta Rae here

Purchase Delta Rae here

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