Music for the Soul: Delta Rae


Reynolds Price once said that we can survive without some of the most basic things such as love, shelter, or food and water for at least a little while – but we can not survive without telling stories. There are talented artists that have not gotten the chance to share their stories, but in the case of the young men and women in Delta Rae, their talent is giving them the opportunity to do just that. Ian Holljes who apprenticed under Price, managed to pull a group together to develop a musical project called Delta Rae a 6 piece Alt-Pop group. Delta Rae was named after a classically influenced novel about a southern girl who summons a Greek God, so the Greek Pantheon and literature is as integrated into Delta Rae as the time signature on their sheet music or the pitch of their instruments. The connection to such humanistic qualities suggests that Delta Rae is not any ordinary group of harmonizers. In the Greek fashion, they are a group brought together by the forces of the Muse.

A note on “The Muse”: The idea that ‘the muse’ is the source for creative inspiration has been around since before the Hellenic period. Plato’s myth about the cicada says when the Muses were born, men never stopped singing, not even to eat or drink. Eventually, they sang until their deaths, but from them, the tribe of locusts arose. Being granted a gift from the muses, the locusts were able to sing continually without the need of food, water, or basic sustenance on one condition – they were to report back to the Muses who honored them the most.

Plato’s myth is grounded in the long standing belief that the muse and human being are firmly tied together in creative indulgences. Indeed, the muse has had an impact on our society and can be explicitly seen, for example, in the etymology of the everyday words “music”, “museum”, or “mosaic.” Though, in Greek, music means a lot more than it does in English. In Plato’s Dialouge of Phaedo, Plato represents music as anything that relates to the mind. Plato puts a premium on the the intellectual worth of music by arguing that education should begin with “music for the soul.” Not only that, Plato claims that “music ought to end in the love of the beautiful,” and Delta Rae’s muse has an affinity for this abstract conscientiousness.

Delta Rae is composed of three siblings and three close friends. Ian Holljes, Eric Holljes, and Brittany Holljes moved from Cobb County, Georgia in 1996 to San Rafael, California where they met Elizabeth Hopkins as grade school students. As a sophomore in high school, Brittany decided to fast track to Berkely and while her brothers got their high school diploma’s she graduated Berkely at 19. In 2003, the Holljes brothers moved to Durham, North Carolina to attend Duke University where they began campus band, “Running Lights.” By the time of their graduation in 2007, Eric had met and begun writing with Mike Posner, which resulted in the song “Cooler than Me” being written, Posner’s 2010 #6 Billboard and double Platinum record. Ian, though, was the driving force and inspiration to get a practicing band started.

As the last of a total 25 caretakers, Ian apprenticed under terminally ill Pulitzer Prize Nominee, Reynolds Price who was treated for a malignant spinal tumor with radiation therapy which left him paralyzed from the waist down. Ian looked after Price in exchange for his own space and time to write alone, which is when Ian began writing songs. Ian saved enough money from his fellowship with Price to buy a house out in the secluded woods of North Carolina with his two other siblings and close friend Elizabeth, where they could live together and make music at all times of the night and day.

In September of 2009, Delta Rae played their first rehearsal in the secluded woods of North Carolina. Less than a year later their first EP was release. Mike Mckee and Grant Emerson added a rhythm section to the 4 part vocal ensemble shortly after. Then, in a two month period, the band was able to raise 28,000 dollars to produce their first full length album through an online fundraising campaign via Kickstarter. Soon thereafter, the band went on the road and even stopped by my home city Atlanta for Project 99x: Unplugged in the Park at the Park Tavern with Carbon Leaf.

The muses have bonded Delta Rae together – allowing the members to grow organically. Cultivated for no one genre, pulled together from across the country and planted in one house in the smoky hills of North Carolina, the grassroots efforts of Delta Rae has yielded a genuine sense of intimacy with their fans. Spreading like pollen from a dogwood, the group is traveling across the country and even performing on quaint national talk radio shows. Reaching deeper and deeper for the seed that will grow into a reckoning musical force, nurturing the ebbing bud of their skill, they’ve shown a quite a bit of range, so far. Delta Rae’s four vocalists Ian, Eric, Brittany and Elizabeth can harmonize in any fashion: as a group, solo, all at once or none at all – so expansive they even act as the percussion sometimes. Delta Rae has captured audiences with a religious gospel, “Down by the River”, to a cover of Kanye West’s, “All of the Lights.” The season is coming for Delta Rae’s crop of music to flourish. Ian says “all good music transcends boundaries” and it’s certainly clear here that Delta Rae does not fit easily into one field. Delta Rae is “a hell of a lot of Harmony,” Ian said, but they are not just that, they are also passion. Talented passion bred within a nursery of music for the soul.