Out of the six band members in the North Carolina-based country-folk band Delta Rae, only person isn’t truly a Southern-born musician. That person is Liz Hopkins. However, the singer is just as captivated by the history, culture and stories of the South as her fellow bandmates, Ian Hölljes, Eric Hölljes, Brittany Hölljes, Mike McKee and Grant Emerson.
Originally from San Francisco, California, Hopkins now resides Durham, Carolina, where the band was first formed. She said her new Southern surroundings are a “beautiful place” with a clear and distinct passing of the seasons, settings reminiscent of Delta Rae songs.
“The whole land really has a personality to it,” Hopkins said in a phone interview. “And I think that’s why we’ve always been a Southern storytelling band. We’ve always just written and played what inspired us, ranging from gospel music to Americana to blues to pop. But we’ve always been the world of country music because our music is storytelling. That’s where storytelling lives now.”
With half of the band now making its second home in Nashville, Tennessee, the masterful storytelling only continues to grow. Although often associated with country music, Hopkins said Nashville is more like “a melting pot of music” at this point in time. It’s not uncommon for bands to find their way to the “Music City” at some point.
Combine the history and reputation of Nashville with Delta Rae’s primary songwriters, Ian Hölljes and Eric Hölljes, and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Both grew up in the South and found it to be a “very inspiring place to write from.”
Hopkins stressed that the band doesn’t just write about South. Touring, she said, has allowed the band to see more of America’s landscape, inspiring the band even further. But how did Hopkins happen upon all her Southern bandmates? They met while taking part in performing arts in California.
“We all loved singing in the style that gospel singers did – not just singing with your voice, singing with your whole heart and your whole body and your whole soul,” she said. “We really connected on that musical touch point. They reached out to me when we were all about to finish college and asked if I would join this band with them in North Carolina.”
To Hopkins, it sounded like a great adventure. And now here she is: living in the South since 2009 and singing for a living.
“I get to go up onstage and sing, which is my absolute favorite thing to do in the world,” she said. “I get to sing for people who are listening and who I feel connected to. The exchange of energy that happens between the audience and the performer is something I get an absolute thrill out of. It never gets old to me. The fact I get to call that a job is just incredible.”