Eric Holljes, a member of a recent favorite, Delta Rae, and a professional songwriter, wrote this song “Good in my Hood” years ago, and every time I hear it, it brings me straight back to my senior year in college, at an outdoor campus festival. It was pouring rain and Eric and his brother Ian had the stage. What better atmosphere for Eric to start playing “Good in my Hood,” one of my favorites of his, and to hear his voice beating out the strong gusts of wind and powerful rain was a true testament to the first-class singer that Eric has proved himself to be. None of us has umbrellas or rain boots – just as the song tells us is the best way to go. It was messy, it was wet, but it was memorable and decorated in colorful sound.
Eric made a video for this song previously, but he’s out with a new version, by the same director, another Duke graduate, Lawrence Chen. Talk about a creative thinker – using Apple FaceTime to create a music video. This is just the promo release – the full video is coming our way on October 24th. Can’t wait!
Wake up, sleepyheads! It’s Thursday and my good friend Eric Holljes has a beautiful acoustic tune for all of us. There’s a good little six-degrees-of-separation story here, are yall ready for this? I’ll make it simple and put it in bullet points.
- I went to college with Eric Holljes
- Eric went to college with Mike Posner
- Eric and Mike met in the Fall of 2007 and immediately teamed up musically to create Mike Posner & The Brain Trust
- Eric & Mike cowrote and recorded “Cooler Than Me”
- “Cooler Than Me” reached Platinum status
- After his success with Mike Posner, Eric later got signed as a songwriter by Warner/Chappell Music
- Mike Posner always said that one of his greatest inspirations was Paul Simon
- Here we have Eric Holljes, as a single act, doing a cover of Paul Simon
- As a side project, Eric is in a band called Delta Rae
- Delta Rae has been featured on Sunset in the Rearview several times, most recently in their acoustic cover of Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”
So that’s a bit scattered – but it is in real life, too. It’s just a testament to the juggling that Eric Holljes does a musician. His plate is full, but he somehow manages to hit the ball out of the park with every project he touches.
Eric Holljes, who was the co-songwriter, beside Mike Posner, for “Cooler Than Me,” which is now hitting radios nationwide, is a multitalented man! Not only did he form one third of “Mike Posner and the Brain Trust,” he also has been in bands, does solo work, and does songwriting for other hit pop artists. Currently, what seems to be his main project is his 6-man band by the name of Delta Rae. One half of this band consists of Holljes offspring, and it blows my mind that each one of them is so musically talented.
I went to their Debut EP Release party on Monday evening and decided to write a formal review of it right here on Sunset. Now, one might think that I am biased because Eric is a friend of mine, but I myself have given Eric some harsh criticism on some of his work, and particularly his work with Delta Rae. But what I saw on Monday night was far different from what I heard when the band was just beginning. (However, I am still going to try to be as honest of a critic as possible, with the main intent being to help Delta Rae move forward in certain areas.)
This piece here, “Morning Comes,” was not only the opener of the show but it is also the opener on the EP. And if you ask me, they couldn’t have made a better decision. This piece is, in my opinion, their strongest and the most catchy. Right as they started playing, hands and feet scattered around the crowd started clapping to the clap-along beats that begin right around the 0:25 mark and repeat twice throughout the song. Talk about a hook! The second time the clap came around, the whole bar chimed in. And now, after listening to the song over and over again in my car to and from work, I feel I might be clapping in my sleep. Wonderful song, and I have little doubt that it’s as great as any hit folk song out there right now.
I’m not going to go through every song on the EP in detail, but I will tell you this: my favorites are “Morning Comes,” “Darlin’ If,” and “Holding On To Good.” I believe the band is on the path to success, but there are a few areas that I would change up a bit if I were them, and here’s what they are:
1. It’s a great quality and showcase of talent to have 4 of the 6 band members blessed with incredible pipes, but my concern with having a different main singer on every song but one, in the long run, is that the music will not be very recognizable as Delta Rae material. If I had to choose one main singer, I would choose Eric. I think he has the strongest voice of them all. I think Ian may have the weakest voice (he sings “Young and Pretty”), but keep in mind this is comparative. If I could ever be given the power of Ian’s voice, I would never stop singing. Between the two girls, it’s hard to say whose voice is better. Brittany (sings “Holding On To Good”) has some super soul in her voice, but I think Elizabeth has a bit more of an easy-listening voice on the softer vocals. Either way, I would pick one dominant singer when we’re talking about the long-run. And may I add, I think I would melt if they had a song that did a bit of call-and-response or boy-to-girl vocals. I think they’re the perfect group for that.
2. The song structure is a bit too similar at times. The majority of the songs I heard start small, get heavier, and end quietly, with vocals backed by very little instrumentals. If this could be varied a bit more, the songs that do that would stand out more, and I think that would be a good thing. To add to that, one of my favorite parts of any of Eric’s songs is when he slides his hand down the piano keys in “Good In My Hood.” It’s BIG, it’s EXCITING, and it gets you pumped up. I think this move is a little overused in Delta Rae’s songs. It just takes a bit of the excitement out of things when it’s used too often.
3. I’m biased on this one because I’m not as keen on folky, country-sounding music as I am on more catchy tunes, though I wouldn’t venture as far as calling what I’m looking for pop. But I found myself desiring a bit more songs that are upbeat. Like I said, “Morning Comes” was unforgettable. “Darlin’ If” is a sing-along song. But the slower songs seemed one too many, and despite the truthfulness and soul in them, I think I leaned a bit more toward the upbeat songs. Don’t get me wrong-it’s great to have a variety, but in moving forward, keep producing some of those catchy tunes that will hook your audience!
That’s it for constructive criticism. It really was a great show. And like I said, I’ve given Eric some tough critiques about this band. But I was thoroughly pleased, and right when I thought I’d walk out wishing for a bit more out of such potential, they ended with a killer song that would remain stuck in my head for a full day (“Darlin If”) to sweep away my premonitions. Overall, great work by Delta Rae, and I really look forward to watching this band progress.
Live performance: 9.5/10
“Cooler Than Me (stripped)” – Eric Holljes
Eric Holljes, another Duke graduate, is the co-mastermind behind Mike Posner’s hit track “Cooler Than Me.” He and Mike teamed up to write the song that is now blowing up on radios nationwide. Here’s the stripped version, which should give you a great idea of the talent that Eric possesses. His musical knowledge is unparalleled. Lucky for us, he’s devoting his life to music. Currently, he’s doing solo work, songwriting for up and coming artists, and is in a folk-rock band called Delta Rae, where he shares the stage with his brother, sister, and close friend.
Eric is an artist born from two coasts. He grew up traveling between the southeastern states of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, but spent a good deal of his youth living in the San Francisco Bay Area as well. You can hear it in his music, which reflects both his southern soul and his Cali dreamin’ side.
Since age 12, Eric has been inspired to write music. “It’s not worth writing unless it’s coming from somewhere that’s personal and important to me,” he says. “‘Good in my Hood’” [featured below] for example is about my experience in high school, which was not my favorite time. I would almost always wear a hooded sweatshirt in those days and tended to keep to myself. It was my shield through the experience and allowed me to get through it without sacrificing who I wanted to be. That’s something I can carry with me and it came out in a pop song.”
Along with the fame Eric has seen from working with Mike Posner, he has also shared the stage with national touring artists like Edwin McCain, Vienna Teng, Brandi Carlile, Sister Hazel, and more.
I’m glad to rep the Duke talent, as a former Dukie myself. Enjoy the stripped version of “Cooler Than Me,” and as I bonus I’ve added “Good In My Hood” as well.
Eric Holljes (Duke!) singing and playing “Worst of All,” an Eric Holljes original. In my opinion, the piano section makes this song. The whole thing is great, but that’s just icing on the cake.
I like using this blog to support my friends’ music, but this would be on here whether or not Eric was a friend. His talent is really something else.
“Good In My Hood” – Eric Holljes
Eric Holljes (Duke ‘09). Music video directed by Lawrence Chen (Duke ‘09).
Prelude + Carol of the Bells – Eric Holljes
A friend of mine…same guy who is the pianist and one of the lead singers in the first song posted on this blog, “Cooler Than Me.”