What: Delta Rae
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St., Denver, 303-291-1007
More info: larimerlounge.com
T here are two sides to Delta Rae’s success story: The hard work, and the luck.
This is the case for a lot of bands, but the folk rock sextet seems to have bottomless, natural wellsprings of both. The luck, of course, is the easy part, and it they had an amazing bit of it on their way to Colorado.
“We actually got our first flat tire this morning on the trailer,” Ian Holljes said in a Wednesday interview. “But what’s incredible is where we got the flat was right in front of the tire place that’s been there for 90 years.”
Then there’s the genetic luck. Ian, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, is one of three Holljes in Delta Rae. His brother Eric plays the keys and is also a singer and songwriter. His sister Brittany sings and plays percussion.
“What’s funny is neither of my parents are particularly musical,” Ian said. “I don’t know exactly where it came from, but when Eric and I were 10 or 12 years old, we’d been singing our entire lives and we just started writing.”
Their early inspiration is surprising. It includes the music of Billy Joel, the Backstreet Boys, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion’s hit-making songwriter, Diane Warren.
“It was just fascinating for me, condensing all of the emotions down into these sort of short vignettes that took advantage of lyrics and melody.”
The brothers would sit at the piano and write together, but they could hardly keep it between themselves. Ian once tried to submit a song as an eighth grade graduation speech, for instance.
“I tried to insert songwriting in the places where it had no business being,” he said. “It’s a means of expression that always felt like it was bubbling over.”
Years later, they’d meet singer Elizabeth Hopkins and even later, the siblings convinced her to follow them to Durham, N.C. Ian was working there, and spent his free time searching for a place they could all call home. That’s when he found the cabin in the woods.
“I found one out in the middle of the woods, and it was pretty dilapidated, but I was looking for one that was big enough for all of us and to sort of have an anchor in North Carolina,” Ian said. “That’s really when Eric and I sort of started writing [Carry the Fire]. It really did start to take shape and songs started to fully come to life once we moved into the house and we were ensconced in some quiet and nature and solitude.”
Not long after Hopkins was on board, Mike McKee and Grant Emerson joined in on drums and bass. That’s where the hard work — and talent — come in. Carry the Fire‘s beautiful four-part harmonies and gutsy folk instrumentals sound so carefully crafted, it’s hard not to picture the band holed up in a room going over everything until it’s perfect.
“The first songs that are on the album started to come together about three years ago, and the first songs the band started performing as Delta Rae were “Morning Comes,” “Holding On To Good” and “Bottom Of The River.” And some of the songs have roots back years ago. We started recording in December 2011 and finished in mid-January,” Ian said. “It all felt like it happened really fast, but, you know, I think part of the reason we were able to make it happen so quickly is that we’ve been road testing the songs…for the last year and a half.”
It seems like Delta Rae is always on the road now and is somehow not worn down by the traveling or the shows.
“It’s a funny lifestyle, but we’re actually accustomed to it and I actually look forward to the long stretches of driving. I love road trips. I look forward to the hijinks that we get up to,” Ian said. “The dynamic of being in a band is you’re on the road so long at a time, and there’s so much hurry up, wait and there’s nothing happening, then you get in front of a crowd and all this pent up energy comes pouring out. It really is a lot of fun. It’s amazing.”