The Valory Music Co’s Delta Rae didn’t exactly plan to release a new EP this holiday season. According to the band’s Eric Holljes, it just worked out that way.
“It came together so quickly – within the past few weeks, really,” he tells Billboard. “We went into the studio at the end of November to record one song – ‘Silent Night’ – as a partner track to our current single ‘No Peace In Quiet.’ We went into the studio, and I think we had about ten or twelve hours.” As it turned out, the group didn’t need that long.
“We actually finished ‘Silent Night’ a little bit early. We still had all of this extra time in the studio, and it’s Blackbird Studios,” he said, in reference tor Blackbird’s position as one of the most-respected studios in Music City. “We started brainstorming really quickly about what else could be done, and it all came together very quickly. We talked about what cover songs we could record, and The Eagles had been on our mind all year with the passing of Glenn Frey. ‘Seven Bridges Road’ had become such an iconic song for our band. We started every show with that. It’s like a southern hymn, and we just loved it. But we never had recorded it. So, we cut that. And, since we were at Blackbird, we thought the Blackbird song by the Beatles would be a good one to cover. We tracked that one in about two hours, and then we wanted to cut a Celtic piano/acoustic version of ‘No Peace In Quiet’ with our friend Gideon Klein, who plays fiddle. It all came together very quickly. We walked out with four mixes, and were listening to the music over Thanksgiving. We played it for the label, and they said that we needed to put it out by the end of the year. Everyone just rallied together, and it turned out well. I’m excited for people to hear what we were able to capture with it.”
The EP, The Blackbird Sessions, was released last Friday (Dec. 15), and Holljes says that the project would have never seen the light of the day if it wasn’t for the maverick spirit of the label’s Scott Borchetta, whom he says takes action when the passion strikes – a rarity among label heads.
“My perception of labels has really changed over the years,” he admits. “I always thought if you signed with a label – you got stuck creatively, and they controlled you. I have discovered that they can be great partners if the artists have an idea that you are inspired by, they can help you with your vision to get it out. That’s what happened. The label wanted to get us into the studio to record ‘Silent Night.’ It’s been really cool to have Scott and Valory as such advocates for our music. We’ve been very lucky.”
Just what is it about the environment at Blackbird that gives it the reputation it has? According to Holljes, it’s an artist’s dream location to create. “They pay such incredible attention to detail, and the environment there is so well taken care of. You walk in, and their arms are stretched wide open and they are ready to accommodate you with what you need to get done that day. For example, on ‘Blackbird,’ we needed a double of the guitar part that day – and I had only brought my one guitar. I asked them and they said ‘Sure.’ Within five minutes, they brought down three acoustic guitar option – all beautiful vintage guitars. Whatever you want, you have access to. They accommodate whatever the vision is for the project and have the most incredible gear and instruments. I’ve never been in a place like that. It’s worthy of their reputation, for sure!”
Of the band’s current single, Holljes stresses it’s an emotional lyric – one he knows first-hand. “I went through the biggest heartbreak I have ever went through. It’s the reason I moved to Nashville. I broke up with the first person I ever loved in North Carolina. It was my fault that we ended the relationship. I couldn’t stay alone in my apartment anymore. As soon as she walked out the door, I couldn’t be there anymore. Everything reminded me of us. I was just haunted by it, and that feeling spread through Raleigh, NC – every store I would drive by, there would be a story that I would remember. I ended up having to move out of that chapter of my life, and into a new start. I had always wanted to live in Nashville, but was intimidated by how much talent is here. When I got here, it was the first song I wrote – about not feeling safe in the quiet and being by myself. I played it for the band, and I wasn’t ready to sing it. It had just happened, so I asked Liz to sing it for me. When we went in to re-cut it, I wanted to capture some of that energy that we had when I did the work tape. I feel we did just that,” he beams.
Delta Rae has some exciting plans for 2018 – including some appearances on some major tours and festivals. While those haven’t been announced just yet, the band has ended 2017 on a high note – with placements on several Artists to Watch lists, including one just announced last week. “CMT just announced the ‘18 of 2018,’ which is such a huge honor. We love making music videos, so to have CMT and Leslie Fram’s support is so cool. I’m very excited about that.” He considers the highly-respected CMT exec to be a visionary, so to have her behind their music is something he doesn’t take for granted. “She’s amazing. If you follow her on Instagram or on social media, it’s amazing how great and passionate she is at promoting country music and what’s coming. To be among her list is a real honor.”