NYCS First Impression: Delta Rae ‘The Light’

By Micheal Pietrzak

Detla Rae THe Light

The Light is Delta Rae’s first independent album which was funded by the Kickstarter campaign. The band managed to raise $450K with $30K coming in 30 minutes. Formed in 2009 as a four-piece around the talents of siblings Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes, along with Elizabeth Hopkins, the North Carolina-based band expanded to a sextet the following year with the additions of Mike McKee and Grant Emerson. For more about the way the band formed, head to our Swag Spotlight from 2018, here.

“We started Delta Rae ten years ago to create magic through our music and story-telling. We are a band of six best friends, with four singers and three siblings. After five years of waiting to release a studio album, we wanted our next project to fully capture both our joyful, gospel-inflicted anthems but also the mysterious, southern gothic dreamscapes that have always characterized our sound”, they explain on their website.

Delta Rae’s album The Light is like a warm breeze in the spring, the drop of water during a drought, the light that shines bright in dark times. Especially now the world needs such a positive-sounding album. If you have 40 minutes of free time, spend them on listening to The Light. The whole record has positive melodies and rhythms but some songs have melancholic lyrics, it leaves you with mixed emotion because you don’t whether you should be sad or happy. “Take Me There” is a great example of positive tones and rhythms but the lyrics tell the story of longing and frustration. “No One Will Miss Me” is about a loss and end of a relationship but tunes pass along a ray of hope for better tomorrow. The project also features songs that spread joy. “Any Better Than This” is simply an ode to joy and “Back To The Garden” is about the places that make us feel good and happy. 

Everything has an ending, even such a unique and excellent album. It ends with the calm tracks that make you want to listen to more Delta Rae songs but unfortunately, you have to wait a year for The Dark album a mysterious, witchy and raw sister record.  

Concluding, The Light is something different and refreshing and the band’s exceptional harmonies bring optimism to the darkest of times. 

To keep up with Delta Rae follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

The Light is now available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music on our “New Country Music” playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.



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What We’re Listening To: November Picks

We recently welcomed a team of writers to the NYCountry Swag Squad. With that, we’re excited to share a new monthly feature with our “What We’re Listening To” playlist, where we’re highlighting the wide range of our team’s favorite songs and artists when it comes to the country music genre.  At the end of the day, we are all fans first with a passion for country music and are eager to share with you all what we’ve got on repeat each month.

Find below each of our team member’s favorite songs and why in our November picks. Then be sure to give our Spotify account a follow and listen to our favorite tracks!




Stephanie Wagner, Founder

Pick: “Rules of Breaking Up” – Brandon Ratcliff
Songwriters: A.J Babcock, Brandon Ratcliff, busbee, Pete Good

“Brandon Ratcliff is a brand new artist to hit the scene, but he is sure to make a big impact in the country music world. I first heard his song “Rules of Breaking Up” when one of our writers sent me a 30-second video clip from the song during a writers round she attended in Nashville. I watched that 30-second clip maybe 100 times that night alone. I was immediately hooked on the chorus and knew it was going to be a jam. Fast forward a few weeks later and the song was officially released on all music platforms. I’ve pretty much had it on repeat ever since. The song proposes the realistic idea that a break-up is easier said than done and puts that thought into relatable and catchy lyrics. Paired with a fresh and unique sound, “Rules of Breaking Up” is a standout song in the slew of new country music songs being released.”

“Whoever wrote the rules of breaking up never kissed your lips, touched your skin, had the world at their fingertips / Didn’t have a clue what heaven was / No, they didn’t have to lose that kind of love / And if they ever saw that smile, ever felt your vibe, they might know what I’m going through / Whoever wrote the rules of breaking up, never been broke up, broke up over you”


Christina Bosch, Managing Editor 

Pick: “When I Was His Wife” – Pistol Annies
Songwriters: Angaleena Presley, Ashley Monroe, Miranda Lambert

“What is better than one badass female country artist? Three badass female country artists.  Pistol Annies have never backed down, never shied away from writing and singing the truth and with their latest release, Interstate Gospel the truth isn’t the only thing they are serving up.  After Lambert’s very public divorce, the ladies have more than enough material and “When I Was His Wife” takes heartbreak to a whole new level.  The song which was written by the Annies focuses on the veil of love that blinds you in when a relationship is new, only to realize it isn’t all it seems to be as things start to fall apart.  It takes the stance of the ex singing to the new woman in her man’s life.

“He’d never cheat, he’d never lie / He’ll love me forever, till the day that we die / He’ll never take me for granted / I said that too when I was his wife”

“Holy Matrimony” this track from the new album is real and raw, showcasing the southern belle’s heartbreak and the storytelling that traditional country music is known for. I will always love a good emotional wreckage song.


Nicole Bochinis, Contributing Writer

Pick: “Love Heals” – Levi Hummon feat. Alison Krauss
Songwriters: Levi Hummon, Marcus Hummon, Tom Douglas 

“I heard “Love Heals” for the first time back in August when Levi Hummon came to Stamford CT. I was blown away by the song and the story behind it. Hummon’s voice is truly amazing and it pairs perfectly with Alison Krauss’ beautiful vocals.  The song was inspired by his mother and her Thistle Farms charity. The organization provides support and employment to victims of sexual assault and human trafficking. This song just gives a hopeful message to all of the women who have suffered. I also feel that this powerful message is for anyone who is struggling. No matter what you are going through, and no matter what is going on in the world, love is powerful, and love heals.”


Kelly Cunningham, Contributing Writer

Pick: “How Do I Get Close” – Nick Wayne
Songwriters: Nick Wayne, Josh Kerr, Hannah Ellis

“The first time I heard Nick Wayne sing his upcoming songs at The Listening Room in Nashville he sang this with his friend Josh Kerr and his girlfriend Hannah Ellis. The vocals on this song are insane and the harmonies are even better. He just recently released this song in October and it’s long overdue for the world to hear him. Wayne’s a game-changer to the country music scene and I can’t wait for his upcoming project to drop.”


Molly Holmberg, Contributing Writer

Pick: “Miss Love” – Julia Cole
Songwriters: Andy Timmons, Julia Cole, Simon Gugala

“Now I may be biased towards my pick of the month, maybe because I was just on tour with her or because I shot her new single cover, but nonetheless Julia Cole’s new single “Miss Love” is nothing short of amazing. The Houston, Texas native is stunning fans with her perfect combination of country, R&B, and pop and has caught the eyes of many in the country music world including CMT! “Miss Love” is a song about resisting the urge to fall back into an unhealthy relationship with the wrong person just because you miss the perks of being in love. This catchy upbeat song gets everyone singing along during her concert and you will too after the first time you hear it. This single is just a part of a full-band EP that is set to release in 2019, so be on the lookout!”


Nicole Piering, Contributing Writer

Pick: “Do You Ever Dream” – Delta Rae
Songwriters: Brittany Holljes, Eric Holljes, Ian Holljes

“From the opening line of Delta Rae‘s “Do You Ever Dream?,” I was immediately captivated by the discernible ache in the lead singer’s (Brittany Holljes) voice. While the song begins acapella, the music builds around the vocals, with guitars, drums, and harmonies adding to the song, rather than detracting from it. That musical build climaxes all the way at the end of the song, and the result is absolutely magical. In some ways, “Do You Ever Dream?” reminds me of country music from the early-2000’s, and that is NOT a bad thing. It’s been on repeat for me since I first heard it, and I can’t wait to hear more from this band. In fact, I’d argue that if this song was released by Little Big Town, it would be a huge hit, and it deserves to be a breakthrough moment for Delta Rae.”


Olivia Reese, Contributing Writer

Pick: “This Feeling” – The Chainsmokers feat. Kelsea Ballerini
Songwriters: Alex Pall, Andrew Taggert, Emily Warren

“There have been numerous collaborations between pop and country artists in the past few months, but “This Feeling” captures the unique blend of The Chainsmoker’s electro-pop sound and Kelsea Ballerini’s country background to create a one of a kind song, that I think is perfect for both a Saturday afternoon drive or a night out.

The song brings back the nostalgia of high school or college and going after someone you are crazy about, that your friends don’t like as they try to convince you out of it, to “Think with my head, not that thing in my chest/They got their hands at my neck this time”. Despite their pleas, in your best interest, to reconsider you don’t listen because “They don’t know what this feeling is like.””


Nicole Sellati, Contributing Writer

Pick: “Float Your Boat” – Ryan Follese
Songwriters: Adrienne Follese, Cameron Montgomery, Jamie Follese, Keith Follese, Ryan Follese

“I’ve been a fan of singer-songwriter, Ryan Follese since he was the lead singer of Hot Chelle Rae. Ever since then I have kept up with his career and was happy to learn he was working on a solo album in country music. I had the chance to see him perform again on last years tour with Sam Hunt and have been listening to his music non-stop. His entire album is on repeat but in particular the song, “Float Your Boat,” making it the perfect November pick for me. I love how the song is all about living in the moment and doing whatever makes you happy, which is exactly how I try to live life. I can’t wait to see what comes next for his career!”


Danielle Tornatore, Contributing Writer

Pick: “It Ain’t You It’s Me” – Kane Brown
Songwriters: Kane Brown, Taylor Phillips, Josh Hoge, Brock Berryhill

“Kane Brown is one of my top five favorite country artists and I have been anxiously awaiting the release of Experiment since it was announced. I’ve had it on repeat since the clock struck midnight last Friday and “It Ain’t You It’s Me” has been the standout for me. For some reason, I’m always drawn to the heartbreaking tracks of albums. Though this one is a bit more upbeat, the message is all the same. I’m hoping this will be on his setlist for the ‘Live Forever Tour’ next year!”


Shanna Vitaliano, Contributing Writer

Pick: “Last Shot” – Kip Moore
Songwriters: Kip Moore, Dan Couch, David Lee Murphy

“Kip Moore’s “Last Shot” takes a different outlook on the true meaning of loving someone. I came to really admire this song as I understood the genuine meaning behind the lyrics.  There’s no doubt that Moore’s rugged and infectious vocals can reel you in, but the meaning behind living life to its fullest and enjoying it with the person you care about is what makes the song so special.
Lyrics such as: “If you were my last breath, I’d just want to hold ya/ If you were my last night I ever had on wheels/ I’d wanna drive you like I stole ya,” makes you think of how you’d want to spend the last moments with a person you love.

It is the perfect reminder to show how much you cherish someone as well as who and what matters most in life.”


Erica Zisman, Contributing Writer

Pick: “Whole Lot In Love” – Austin Burke
Songwriters: Austin Burke, Sherrie Austin, Will Rambeaux

“My November song pick came pretty easy this month. Keeping with my theme of picking songs that resonate with me personally, while still having that aspect of story-telling that is such a staple of country music, this month I went with Austin Burke’s “Whole Lot In Love.”

Burke puts his own twist onto a love song, having a hard time expressing that he’s in love with his partner and exploring the consequences of admitting his feelings out loud. The song is relatable and catchy, while the singer’s unique voice gives it an edgy feel. On a personal note, I can relate to having some difficulty expressing how I feel in relationships, so this track definitely hit home for me.”



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Delta Rae

Delta Rae’s Beautiful Video for “Do You Ever Dream?”

Delta Rae made a triumphant return to country music with the release of their new song, along with a beautiful visual representation to match.  On a whim they flew to Iceland to shoot with film-maker, Law Chen, who directed their first music video, “Bottom of the River”. Chen always wanted to shoot in Iceland, making this the perfect opportunity for both creative teams to collaborate once again. “We picked the song that spoke to us the most at the moment, “Do You Ever Dream?” which perfectly fit Iceland’s surreal landscape,” the band states in a recent press release.

“Do You Ever Dream?” was co-written by lead vocalist Brittany Hölljes and her brothers/bandmates Eric and Ian. It’s a hair-raising ballad written about Brittany’s relationship with someone who didn’t share her vision for the future. The video is a pure representation of the song, showing the emotions of desire and love fading away. Brittany as the lead role can first be seen in Delta Rae’s hometown of North Carolina before transitioning to her dreaming, following a mysterious male figure into a breathtaking view of Iceland. She is seen chasing the figure barefoot throughout the video before following him off the edge of a cliff, where she then wakes up to the reality she lives in. Realizing the relationship is over, she drives away leaving it in her rearview.

“Filming in the wilds of Iceland was one of the most creative experiences of our lives and it has jumpstarted the next chapter for the band, The Delta Rae Revival, which is proving to be our most ambitious and creative yet, ”Hölljes says.  Earlier this week, Delta Rae played the first night of their 16-week residency at The Basement in Nashville. For those who missed this sold-out show, you can catch The Delta Rae Revival every Wednesday until December 19th in Nashville.  We first learned about the band and their inception earlier this year during our Swag Spotlight, read more here.



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NYCS Swag Spotlight: Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Photo Credit: David McClister

Har·mo·ny (noun): The combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect.

Our Swag Spotlight this week shines on Delta Rae, a six-person band that knows a thing or two about creating beautiful harmonies. The band members are siblings Ian, Eric and Brittany Hölljes, as well as Grant Emerson, Mike McKee and Liz Hopkins.  Hopkins took time to chat with New York Country Swag about the band’s inception and their unique sound.

After meeting when they were pre-teens, the siblings and Hopkins formed a strong friendship in high school when they were in productions together and forged a four-part harmony in a vocal group. Remaining close all through college, brothers Ian and Eric decided to form a band and reached out to their sister and Hopkins to join, reuniting the old gang back in 2008.  Eric, who had been in a band with singer/songwriter and producer Mike Posner, and who had written his smash top 10 hit “Cooler Than Me” when they were at Duke University, met drummer Mike McKee and held on to his business card for two years before reaching out and asking him to join their new band.  McKee brought bass player, Grant Emerson in to meet the rest of the band and they just knew they had found their signature sound.

Rehearsing and perfecting their sound while living together in North Carolina, Delta Rae was formed. They officially played their first gig together back in October 2009.  “It was a house that had been neglected so Eric was in there killing spiders and snakes and ripping down funky 70’s wallpaper and we rehearsed every single day,” Hopkins laughs about getting their start.  Now living separately in Raleigh and Miami, the band meets in Nashville at least once a month to record demos, try out new songs and gather before leaving for tours.  When discussing their songwriting process Hopkins explains “Little teams form and then we bring it to the group if it I feels right for Delta Rae.  Ian and Eric are primary writers for the band they have been writing music together since they were seven and nine years old so they have a bond and groove when it comes to that.” she tells us.  “Brittany and I are getting more and more into writing and we do have some cool songs coming from Brit’s perspective, so the women are getting into it.”


They work together to decide on harmonies or melodies, depending on the song and always decide as a group which songs they think will work best for them.  “We’ve been together long enough that we know when a song is in our wheelhouse, and when it fits our four-part harmonies or southern gothic mysticism, that’s sort of where we live.” Their latest single, “No Peace in Quiet” was written by Eric after a horrible breakup.  Realizing the song was just a little too personal for him to sing himself, he asked Liz if she would sing it. “I said absolutely, I really thought it would be something he would sing, but he has explained that it was too raw for him to sing a song that came from such a painful place so I said, of course, I’ll sing it and I love singing sad songs anyway,” she tells us. “I think also that song resonates with people on a lot of different levels whether it is a breakup or experiencing loss, many people have gone through that feeling of being alone but not wanting to be alone.”  The haunting song showcases the band’s exquisite harmonies and ability to translate emotion into song. “I think a lot of times in this culture we are sort of socialized to not cry, or not feel sad. we get told to get buck up. But there is a time and a place to process your feelings and let it out and sometimes music is the way that you can do that, I’ve been very glad that we have a song that can be that for people,” Hopkins says.

Looking forward, Delta Rae is constantly writing and recording new music when they are not on the road and are looking to release a new project this fall. They will be performing Friday, May 18th at Gramercy Theatre. Click here to snag your tickets.  If you are heading to the show you can expect a night of incredible four-part harmonies, lots of storytelling, and dancing.  Performing songs from their most recent EP’s as well as throwbacks to their first two albums and maybe even some new music, you can look forward to a great night of music from such a talented group of people.

Keep up with everything Delta Rae by following along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.



Thank You for supporting Country Music in NYC!

Subscribe to our Weekly Round-Up here 
for ticket giveaways, meet & greet contests, upcoming events,
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