Delta Rae: From Bouncy Stages and Walk-in Coolers

Delta Rae is a band that is a little bit difficult to describe or at least the music they make is hard to describe, in terms of the genre that is. The first  song I heard from them, “Bottom Of The River” is as soulful, pure and raw of a song you will ever hear with shades legendary delta bluesman Son House sprinkled all over it. The harmonies they create cut through the listener like a knife and they’ve been compared to Fleetwood Mac and had Lindsey Buckingham playing on part of their last album. It’s not so much that they sound like Fleetwood Mac but the fact that the band is comprised six extremely talented musicians. Four  of the six are singers and they don’t just sing well but any of them could front their own band or make a solo record, they sing that well.

Said Elizabeth Hopkins(Liz) about Fleetwood Mac and other influences for the band:

“Fleetwood Mac is a pretty significant influence on us, but we also wanted to make sure we weren’t just trying to be Fleetwood Mac for the 2000s. It’s pretty important to us that we have our own different influences;  But they are one of them for sure.

Ian and Eric are the ones who write for the band and they have several different influences.  Eric is our piano player and  he’s very influenced by Billy Joel. Ian’s  very influenced by Coldplay and they’re both very influenced by a lot of singer/songwriters that they grew up listening to with their parents. Artists like  Carly Simon, so there’s a lot of 70’s going on”.

The two female singers in the band have contrasting vocal styles, Brittany Holljes has a brighter, crisper voice while Liz possesses a raspy, Stevie Nicks type set of pipes. Put them in the same room or on the same stage and these best friends meld those two voices together into something magical. We asked Liz who her biggest influences were and weren’t a bit surprised by her answers.

 “I absolutely love and had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Sheryl Crow. She’s always been a huge influence for me and I’ve always admired the way she’s tough, but she also has a bit of a soft side.  She has great range and I love a lot of her songs like  “My Favorite Mistake” and “Strong Enough”. Bonnie Raitt is also a big influence, I really, really admire her voice and I had the opportunity to see her perform live a few years ago at the Americana Music Awards and she brought it all; 60-something and looking and sounding unreal.  So Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and I also love Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald. Etta James has such a great inner voice, but then there are some really pure moments during her songs that I really like that she can hit that dichotomy, and I aspire to doing that as well. I love the level of her voice and “All I Could Do is Cry” is one of my favorite songs of all time, I could listen to it 75 times in a row.  Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson are also huge influences on me”.

With a group this talented it brings  up the question as to how they decide who is going to sing which songs.  We of course asked if they draw straws or had some other methods like that to determine who’d be a good fit.  Hopkins explains the process the band goes through.

“That’s  good question. We’ve never tried drawing straws, but we immediately should try it. It’s pretty organic, honestly. A lot of the time, the way it happens is either Ian or Eric will bring a song to the group, they’ll just play it for us either on their guitars or sometimes it’s just singing and stomping because all they’ve got is the melody in there. And it usually just feels naturally like it’s propelled into someone’s mouth. It feels very natural. It’ll speak to me in a very personal way, or sometimes, like, in the case of one song we sometimes perform called “Whatcha Thinkin’ ‘Bout Baby?”. Ian performed it for us and said, “I was thinking Liz could sing this”, but then the rest of us sort of overrode him and we told him, “Well, you sound really good singing it, so we think Ian should sing it.” It never comes down to argument or any sort of resentful exchange, it’s usually honest and organic and very natural.

When Ian played “If I Loved You” for Brittney and I, and that was the song that was our most recent single, I at first thought it sounded like it was too low and also too high for Brittney. It jumps an entire octave when you get to the chorus. I was feeling a little bit iffy about where it was in my range too, but the contents of the song absolutely hit the nail on the head in terms of experiences of past relationships that I had been in and something I had dealt with.  Ian later told me that he was thinking of me and what I’d went through when he wrote it.

The song was very personal. It was unfortunately an experience I’ve had a couple times. But it feels good, it’s a form of catharsis, definitely, and I’ve seen the way that song can resonate with so many different kinds of people that have gone through it as well. It was amazing to find that it was therapy for me singing it, but then to realize that it was also therapeutic for others in the audience,  people would just be screaming the chorus back at me”.

The band also has proven from the very beginning that they don’t need any gimmicks and sometimes not even instruments to impress the listeners. Part of the history of the band involve a meeting in an office in New York when the six of them were asked to start singing, kind of like when you meet a comedian and you say, “Tell me something funny”.  So they break out in song and within ten seconds they were asked to stop by the label guy, not because they did something wrong but he stopped them and told some of his colleagues to come in and listen. The band spends a great deal of time on the road touring and we wanted to know what the worst gig they’ve played was.

“Okay, so it’s a tie.  There was a show we played in  Delaware at a brewery. Which, their beer was very delicious but their stage was like 5 feet by 4 feet or something and of course there are six of us in the band. It was literally the size of a drum riser. And it was also made out of plywood or something like that and it so flimsy and bouncy. The entire focus of this event was people that would travel from all over the northeast to try all of this different beer, and so everyone in the crowd was talking the entire time. The stage was so flimsy that every time one of the other singers would jump, the rest of the stage would bounce and it would have this domino effect on the rest of us. Throughout the entire show, we were just all bouncing like how you would if you had a baby in your arms, and everyone in the building was talking the entire time, not even looking at us, so we could’ve just not played and nobody would’ve noticed. So that one was pretty rough.

And then there was another one that we played in this little college bar in  North Carolina. Pretty much no one came, and there was no green room. We were all relegated to a very small, very cold room, which, after about twenty minutes we all put together that we were actually inside the kitchen or the walk-in refrigerator. “Why is it so cold in here?” one of us asked, so we started looking around and there were onions everywhere with a giant refrigerator and Tupperware. That’s when we realized we were in the walk-in cooler. And it wasn’t until like 30 seconds before the set that someone came in and said, “Hey, do you realize this is actually a cooler you’re standing in? There’s a greenroom upstairs.” One that no one had thought to mention to us, until two minutes before we were going on stage”.

Delta Rae will be at Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde on April 5, The Crocodile on April 6 and then they head to Boise for a show on the 9th. Check out their website here for more info on this exciting band:  Delta Rae

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