Delta Rae’s Eric Holljes Discusses Recording ‘The Blackbird Sessions EP’

Photo Courtesy of The Valory Music Co.

“Silent Night.” No doubt most of us know how that goes. In fact, most of us have been singing up until about two weeks ago, or at least listening to different versions. And we probably all have our own opinions of who sings it better. Well, we have a new version for you, especially if you’re into harmonies. Four part harmonies to be exact–in the form of a group made up of siblings and best friends. If you don’t know who they are already, you will this year.  In fact, they are the only full band recently named one of CMT’s #18for2018. And they just released their critically acclaimed Blackbird Sessions EP, recorded at none other than the famed Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN.

Curiosity peaked yet? Good. Now meet siblings Ian, Eric, and Brittany Holljes who have teamed up with friends Liz Hopkins (vocals), Grant Emerson (bass), and Mike McKee (drummer) to form Delta Rae, a North Carolina turned Nashville band signed to The Valory Music Co.  Delta Rae, who draws their name from their deeply rooted Southern heritage, may have a record deal based out of Music City, but according to Eric, that doesn’t mean they are all currently in the same area code right now.

“I’ve only been in Nashville for the last year or so and I stay gone so much, I haven’t even had time to explore it. I just moved my sister Brittany here and then our bassist, Grant, just moved here also. The rest are all hoping to relocate out here within the next year or two-that’s the plan.”

So it was no easy feat getting everyone together for a recording session at Blackbird Studios back in the fall. Originally intending only to record “Silent Night” for a Christmas release, the band’s readiness allowed them to fly right through the recording much earlier than anticipated. And since they had already paid for the space for a quite a few more hours, they figured wasting it wasn’t such a good idea.

So another hugely popular (and often highly critiqued when covered) harmonic song took on a life of its own that day. Delta Rae recorded their own unique version of “Seven Bridges Road”, a song that they have used to kick off their shows for the last year or so on tour. And it is sure to send chills down your spine. So why the Eagles?

“We’ve always been huge fans of The Eagles—one of best harmony bands in world. We’ve always loved Seven Bridges and wanted to do it justice because people who really know it love it. The goal was to put our spin on it with the four part harmonies and announce our love of the south. It’s where we’re from-it felt like home. Hopefully, we did.”

Another edition to the mix: “Blackbird” by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. And while all three covers showcase their raw talent and knack for coming up with their own unique arrangements, the gritty emotion of heartbreak shines bright in their original, “No Peace in Quiet.” Although previously recorded on another record, the group decided on a more acoustic version with a violin and piano as the center instruments. In fact, Eric wrote the song on piano more than a year ago after experiencing one of the worst breakups he had ever gone through.

And the song takes on new meaning once again just in the last few days. If you follow the band on Instagram at all, you may have noticed the post by Liz Hopkins laying out her heart about losing her dad during the holidays eleven years ago.

“’No Peace and Quiet’ is about losing someone you love and getting used to life without them. . . the line ‘there’s nothing I hear louder than the words I never said’ captures something I still feel. I never got a chance to say goodbye to him.  . . If you’re experiencing loss, you may be learning that the pain lessons but never full goes away. . . . The good news is you don’t have to go through it by yourself. “ (Liz Hopkins, Instagram, Jan 3, 2018)

And that’s why, as we found out from Eric, it was important to have Silent Night as a counterpoint to No Peace. Eric says that Silent Night is “perfect because it’s all about finding peace in the quiet. And we wanted to cut a Christmas song alongside the sad song to breathe a little hope into the year so even if you’re going through something tough right now, you will get through it and there will be peace again.”

Thank you Delta Rae for that reminder. And even with the heartbreak and loss they’ve gone through in their personal lives, they now have cause to celebrate. Brother Ian and wife Rebecca just had their first baby, Leo. The six piece group is working on a full length album and hitting the road in 2018. No stranger to festivals like Austin City Limits and Bonaroo, the band has two new festivals on the schedule. And while they can’t be revealed quite yet, they are on Eric’s “bucket list” to play.

Eric says the band’s strategy has been one of the “drip method.” In an industry where stars seem to burn out almost as quickly as they form, Eric says they would rather take the time to slowly introduce themselves and their music to people so that they have a lasting impression.

“Most times albums tend to get promoted well for two months and then they go stale. Not a lot of people in the country know us yet. We 100% believe in ‘Peace And Quiet’ and want it to be heartfelt and sincere to everyone else.” And how can it be anything but heartfelt when the best friends are all standing around a specially crafted microphone made by Eric’s own two hands.

Eric, a skilled craftsman, designed a custom piece with which to perform “No Peace and Quiet” live. Made out of Red Oak to honor Raleigh, the city of oaks and a place they called home for years, Eric worked tirelessly through stubborn pieces of wood that almost didn’t work to his advantage. But he was able to finish his masterpiece and even carved the DR logo on front.  You can click on Delta Rae’s Instagram to get the full story.

In the meantime, check out for all things Delta Rae, including upcoming tour dates. Should we also mention they were just announced one of Billboard’s ‘Ones to Watch’ for 2018? Between the honorable mentions and the EP, we have a feeling there won’t be any Peace and Quiet for Delta Rae for a good while. And that is a very good thing!


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