Making the big time

Grant Emerson '08 dreamt of playing bass in a band. Now, just four years after graduating from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a bachelor's degree in music, he's been in  Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines and has performed on Good Morning New York, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

11.26.12 Tonight Show performance

Tonight Show backstage interview

He's living the life every working musician dreams of - touring the country with the band Delta Rae and celebrating the debut of their first album  Carry the Fire, released June 19 by Warner Brothers Records.

It only took Emerson a couple of years to get connected with the right people, and in 2010, after moving back home to Raleigh, he met the members of Delta Rae and became the band's sixth member, joining siblings Brittany, Ian and Eric Holljes, along with Elizabeth Hopkins and Mike McKee.

"One of the coolest moments we've experienced was playing for vice president of Warner Brothers Records, Seymour Stein. After 10 seconds of playing in his office, he stopped us, so I was thinking that he didn't like it, but he called in some of his coworkers to listen and we ended up playing for them for about an hour," said Emerson. Stein, who signed music giants like Madonna and the Talking Heads, certainly liked what he heard, signing Delta Rae on Jan. 26.

"The band is incredible, and it's going to be enormous," Stein said in the June 23 issue of Billboard.


Delta Rae has since exploded onto the music scene. Their debut music video for the single "Bottom of the River" has received more than 230,000 views on YouTube. The song was such a hit that the group was asked to perform it June 25 on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Emerson takes pride in the band's unique sound that features four lead singers whose harmonies flawlessly blend together. After hearing their music, it's no surprise to learn that three of the group's singers are siblings.

"Our live show is super energetic. We can make a lot of noise, or we can strip it down," said Emerson.  Some concertgoers enjoy watching the band perform acoustic, enabling the vocals to shine. A bass solo by Emerson is featured in the track "Fire."

Frank Bongiorno, jazz coordinator and music department chair, recognized Emerson's talent early on. "We are certainly very thrilled to hear that he is performing and doing so well," said Bongiorno. AT UNCW, Emerson was under the tutelage of Steve Bailey, world renowned jazz bassist.

Emerson admits that while living out of a 12-passenger van with six other people can be tough at times, he feels extremely lucky to be doing what he is doing and wouldn't have it any other way. "We just want to make timeless music. This has been an awesome experience," he added.

His advise for aspiring musicians: "Work your butt off and then work some more. Find people you love playing with and can trust. Most importantly have fun! Thank your parents for tolerating the racket coming out of your room, they are your No. 1 fans."