Delta Rae defies musical categorization
April 16, 2014
The Tortuga Music Festival (April 12-13) brings top names down to Fort Lauderdale to soak up some sun and tunes, all in the name of charity. While the two-day festival focuses on increasing the public’s awareness of issues like overfishing, shark finning and reef degradation, it also opens its stage to acts like Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Train, to name a few.
One group making its way to our sunny beaches is Delta Rae. The group, formed in North Carolina in 2009, consists of siblings Ian (vocals, guitar), Eric (vocals, piano) and Brittany Holljes (vocals), as well as Grant Emerson (bass), Elizabeth Hopkins (vocals) and Mike McKee (drums, percussion). Delta Rae has one album, “Carry the Fire,” and one EP, “Chasing Twisters.”
Band member Ian Holljes discusses musical encounters and close encounters, writing songs on tour and touring with family.
Photo courtesy Delta Rae
Exclusive interview with Delta Rae
Bianca Lopez: What songs can we expect to hear at Tortuga?
Ian Holljes: We will play everything off of our recent EP “Chasing Twisters” and a selection off of “Carry the Fire.” I’m very partial to the new stuff of off “Chasing Twisters.” I personally love “Dance in the Graveyards.”
BL: Who writes the songs and what inspires them?
IH: My brother [Eric] and I have been writing together since we were 10 and 12-years-old. The lines are starting to blur. [The songs] come from all different places. Driving through the southwest, the plateaus and salt flats were, for me, very transportive. It made me think of being in the southwest… epic and western. We are writing about stuff that has a sort of restless feeling to it. [Our songs have] been inspired by love, by death… they come from all over.
BL: What makes Delta Rae different from the other bands performing at Tortuga?
IH: One big differentiation is that our band has four lead singers. We are very excited to be a part of the Tortuga lineup, but we are not a traditionally country sound. We are pretty agnostic when it comes to genre… Country is where a lot of great acoustic and great traditional songwriting is still happening.
BL: Why do you mix genres?
IH: It comes from all of our different interests in songs; we tend to follow the thread that the song wants. I feel inspired to write in every genre of music. I love Motown, I love country, I love rock, I love pop, and it all comes through.
BL: Do you get nervous before a performance?
IH: Generally no, it feels very comfortable. It’s more fun than nervous.
BL: Do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions?
IH: Mike, our drummer, is forever playing on his drum pad… Right before we go on stage, we all huddle and we rally.
BL: What do you say in the rally?
IH: I’m afraid that’s classified information. (Laughs)
BL: What’s your funniest moment on the road so far?
IH: When we were driving through some town in Southern California, this will probably make us sound like crazy people, I had fallen asleep and everyone in the van was screaming at the top of their lungs. I look up and see huge bright lights in our front window. We thought we would crash. Our drummer starts veering the car off the road and the lights suddenly disappear. It was some sort of aircraft. We have no idea what it was. It was our experience with a UFO on the road. That was our close encounter. I was screaming in the backseat, “Go, go, go!” (Later) that night, we were Googling UFO sightings in the town.
BL: If you could jam with any other acts at Tortuga, whom would you choose?
IH: The top of the list for me would be Sheryl Crow; she is a personal hero. [Playing] “Strong Enough” would be at the top of the list. “My Favorite Mistake” is a favorite of mine.
BL: Going on tour with family, what do you guys fight about?
IH: With my brother and I, it’s about songwriting. It’s about the direction of the band, but we are generally on the same page. With my sister, it again tends to be about technical band stuff. I had a friendly argument with my sister today about where to eat brunch. [We are] generally pretty harmonious. We settled on a place across the street that worked out pretty well.
BL: Is there anything the audience should look for at Tortuga?
IH: Watch out for UFOs…We play on stage with a trashcan and a chain that we beat up. We have a hubcap that our drummer uses and a voodoo stick with shells, it makes these incredible rain stick percussive sounds.
BL: What does Delta Rae do in Miami?
IH: I spend a lot of time in Miami with my in-laws in Coral Gables. We spend a lot of time at Matheson Hammocks [and] in the Grove just hanging out. The last time the whole band was in Miami was for [my] wedding.
BL: Is there anything that you would like to say to the kids at Palmetto?
IH: I’m a big fan; my wife is a Palmetto grad… I hope we get to see some of them at the show.