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Delta Rae: Americana Storytellers


Brittany Holljes of Delta Rae said Joni Mitchell was her go-to music while growing up, and the one artist who stuck with her over the years.  Give credit to her parents, as Mitchell was also her mother's favorite singer, and said her father would even pump himself up for high school and college wrestling matches listening to Joni Mitchell.

"I can image Michael Phelps making that face before he swims listening to Joni Mitchell," laughed Holljes. "His connections to her lyrics calmed his nerves and centered him."

Holljes also mentioned other 70's based bands including Fleetwood Mac and Queen as huge influences, and said she and her siblings are lucky that they and their parents share and hip each other to different styles and decades of music.   So it was a bonus when Delta Rae producer Rob Cavallo convinced his friend Lindsey Buckingham to record a guitar part for a song on Delta Rae's latest album "After It All," even though she didn't get to meet him.

"Lindsey came by when we were on tour.  Our producer played him our song 'If I Loved You.'  He just fiddled around on his guitar and came up with a brilliant work.  He's Lindsey Buckingham," said Holljes.

The name "Delta Rae" comes from a character in a book being written by her mother.    The novel centers around a girl from the south who awakens the Greek gods on Mount Olympus to save her Dad.  Quite a bold premise, but Holljes said similar to music, storytelling is a valued commodity in her family, singling out her father as not only a great storyteller, but as someone who often fell into character on a moments notice.

"Every night he would make up stories for us," recalled Holljes.  "There were recurring characters and storylines.  He also played a lot of characters in the games we played, he fully took those characters on and would not break those characters.  For example, he'd be carrying groceries into the house and we'd say 'you're ... that guy ... you're ... that character!'   And he would drop the groceries and become the character.  Eggs cracking on the ground, it didn't matter.  He was NOT going to let you down."

Holljes is one of six members of Delta Rae, and one of three Holljes siblings in the band that has incorporated many styles into their sound in the short time together. She said they're still refining that sound, and getting closer to what they hear in their head.

"I think the album we're about to release is the most disciplined album we've created," said Holljes.  "We're sharpening the tip of the spear.  I think the two albums we've made so far are real artistic expressions and exploratory.  At some point though you want to find what works for you and be able to settle into a groove. And I think we've found that groove.  I would call it Americana.  Bonnie Raitt once said 'Americana is just good music.'  So if we can at least qualify in that regard, I'll be happy."

Delta Rae plays the Castle Theater in Bloomington Wednesday, November 30.

Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.