Mic Check: 10 Questions with Delta Rae

The North Carolina Americana band on creativity in the virtual world, a new-for-them project and their favorite Raleigh acts.
as told to Addie Ladner

Americana band Delta Rae will bring its magnetic energy to Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh for a special two-night show in December. The first show will be a full performance of their album Acoustic, recorded in February, with some fan favorites to round it out. The second show will be a full performance of their recently recorded holiday album Hours Before Morning, plus a mix of other Delta Rae fan favorites. “We always look forward to coming home to North Carolina to play a hometown show,” says band member Brittany Hölljes. “Some of our favorite live experiences of all time have been in Raleigh at the Lincoln Theatre and, as our only headlining shows of the year, these two nights stand to be especially magical.” Delta Rae band members Ian Hölljes, Eric Hölljes, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mike McKee and Grant Emerson live all over the country. We caught up with them over Zoom to talk how their creative process has changed over time and a new project on the horizon, a musical production inspired by their first single.

Where are you all right now? 

Brittany: Grant, Mike and I are in Nashville; Eric is in New York City; Liz is in Raleigh; Ian is in Miami.

How are you all still creating and making music together with being spread out across the country?

Brittany: It’s been really fun and exciting to do it this way although different. We used to be in a house together every day. Now we virtually get together regularly and a week or two before doing a tour or album, we “meet” even more. It’s a new world we‘re all in but it’s nice because we can really be in the places that align with us individually, yet still create something communal. We all have these different sources for creativity and writing but they come together. 

What are you all working on right now?

Ian: We are working on a musical called The Ninth Woman. It’s about a witch trial during the 1600s, set in early Puritan America. It‘s actually inspired by our first single, ”Bottom of the River.” We did the first public preview for it earlier this year and had a huge reaction from our audience. It‘s been the most gratifying public experience. Since we had a break touring we’ve been able to spend a lot of dedicated time working on it. It’s been a realization of a dream and felt so ambitious but we‘re pumped.

Where will you be producing the show?

Right now we‘re mainly producing it in the ether. Our cousin Casey LaFalce has been doing depictions of the scenes and we are in talks with a Tony-award-winning production company in New York interested in bringing it to the stage, but it’s still in the early days. We think we’ll have the full musical portion of the show as of January of next year and hopefully an album version.

Was this something you’ve had in the back of your mind, tapping into this way of creating, or did it just came to you?

We have always had this dream. One of the strange gifts during the tragic period of Covid was having the time to create it. When we promised it as part of our 2019 Kickstarter effort, it felt so ambitious and scary and now it’s really happening.

There are so many different genres used to describe you all — indie, Americana, folk. When you’re talking to someone who has no idea who you are, how you would describe your music to someone else?

Brittany: We’ve had this conversation a lot. It’s definitely a challenge especially since genres are always evolving. For example, folk music a long time ago is different than what it is today. We more than anything gravitate towards Southern gothic storytelling, that is our niche. And I think that’s under the umbrella of epic or theatrical Americana. I think a lot of people who we’ve been honored to share the bill with on stage have that same way of creating this moving type of music. 

Ian: I always go back to Fleetwood Mac. They’re so important to modern culture but what genre would you put them in now? They’re still making art and following their inspiration and that model is so influential to us. 

Where are you drawing inspiration from nowadays?

Brittany: You know at our core, we’ve always been influenced by the South and singing church songs. We still have that spiritual influence but it’s less tied to religion and the music is really imbued with the social landscape. It’s what we’re witnessing and being affected by and feel passionate about. Right now with the election, we’ve been sharing a lot more of our more protest songs. We also have amazing fans who are part of our subscription service, Behind The Door, which has allowed us to make our Acoustic album and Holiday album in a unique way. We were able to record those albums in real-time and have fans be able to watch and witness the moment with very little post production.

Tell me about the Acoustic album. What was the process like?

Liz: We’ve been apart for a while but come together in Nashville on a fairly regular basis and have some great partners in Gallatin, Tennessee, an hour from Nashville. We recorded the Acoustic album on Valentine’s Day in front of a live studio audience. They were in the room with us and it was the first time we’d played one of our newest songs that Ian wrote, “Still Waters.” It was the first time we recorded it top to bottom and it was capturing lightning in a bottle. It was so ephemeral. People flew and drove in the be part of it and it was so special. We did the same thing with the holiday album.

Finally, what are your favorite North Carolina music venues to perform and be a spectator at, and favorite N.C. musicians?

Mike: Chatham County line. I’m friends with all those guys. I went to their very first show in 2004 or 2005, they’re so great. I think we all love the Avett Brothers, they’re insanely infectious. Liz just went and saw their musical.

Liz: Yes, Avett Brothers is a great answer, I saw their musical in California. In terms of venues, the Cats Cradle has a piece of my heart. NCMA’s amphitheater is also a great place to make music. We’re really lucky in NC to have to many great venues. 

Eric: Lincoln Theatre is such a special place. We’ve played there more than any other place and even have a live album out from there. It’s such a classic. 

Ian: I love Carolina Theatre and the Ritz. Also I love Ben Folds and lately have been loving G Yamazawa, a rapper based in Durham.

Brittany: Carolina Chocolate Drops and Haw River Ballroom, it’s a magical space

Lastly, Liz, what are your favorite places for coffee, dinner and exploration?

Liz: Favorite place to grab coffee: The Optimist for their great vibes and patio. Favorite place to grab a drink was C Grace, but it closed. Second favorite place to grab a drink: El Gallo Pelón. Their margaritas are fire.

Catch Delta Rae at Lincoln Theatre on December 7 & 8 at 126 E. Cabarrus Street; lincolntheatre.com

This article originally appeared on waltermagazine.com in November 2022.