“Home Made Christmas”
This song is based on real life experience. When I was growing up we went through some pretty lean years when we didn’t have enough money to buy each other presents for Christmas. Not to be deterred, we would make homemade gifts with whatever we could find. I remember one year when I went into the woods and cut a small white birch tree to make candleholders for my mom and dad, grandparents, aunts & uncles. Thinking back on those times was the inspiration for writing “Home Made Christmas.”
“That’s What I Love About Christmas”
I had been doing some co-writing with my producer Stephen Mougin for a couple of years or so. I was over his house one afternoon before we started recording the Christmas album for a songwriting session. Out of the blue he said let’s write a Christmas song and started playing this very cool jazz chord progress on his guitar. Only took a few hours and we finished writing “That’s What I Love About Christmas.” This is the first “real deal” jazz song I’d ever written, and became the title cut of the new album. Stephen is an incredible guitarist, and to this day I have no idea what chords he was playing when we wrote that song….just that there were lots of them!
One very unique thing about this record is that we used background singers on three of the numbers. It is a throwback to the old days, reminiscent of how they were used on artists’ recordings like Ray Charles among others. We were fortunate to get three phenomenal vocalists for the project: Andrea Merritt, Scat Springs, and Vicki Hampton. They have all performed and recorded with some of the top names in the music industry and are “crazy good.” They added so much to this album…. I can’t thank them enough!
Still hard for me to grasp, but this Christmas album was recorded pretty much live in three sessions with very few “fixes.” All the musicians on this album are truly incredible… some of the most outstanding in their field. We would just record two or three takes of each song and pick the best one. I was able to attend one of the sessions and was totally blown away with what I heard. It was a treat to the ear!
One thing that amazed me that most of these songs were recorded with a jazz trio…. just three musicians. One consisted of Electric guitar, bass and drums, the other piano bass and drums. With only three instruments, they succeeded in creating a full and complete sound. That was completely new to me. I have so much respect and admiration for all the musicians on the album…. it cannot be measured.
Hard as it is to believe, two of the songs on the album are actually demos. Both “Looks Like Snow” and “Christmas Every Day Of The Year” were recorded as demos so I could pitch them to other bands/performers. When I first heard them I fell off my chair they sounded so good. That’s when the idea of recording a full Christmas album came to be. We kept both songs exactly as they were originally recorded, just adding background vocals to one of them.
“Snowfall” was one of the only instrumentals I’d ever written. It was originally titled “Inspiration” and written for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Years later I was listening to the tune in my studio when it started snowing outside and I re-named it “Snowfall”. I never thought we’d actually ever record the song…. but I guess you just never know.
“Christmas Every Day Of The Year”
This song was written as an up-tempo swing number and appeared on my first Christmas release “The Season Of My Heart.” When we were considering songs for the new album, Stephen thought it work well slowed way down with a jazz feel. Turned out to be a great idea!
“Looks Like Snow”
This is actually the first Seasonal song I ever wrote where I was able to capture the that feel of some of the Christmas classics from the ’30s and 40’s. It came about when I was thinking back to my childhood and remembering what it was like just before a big snowstorm. All we had in our home was a small transistor radio to listen to listen for the weather. When our dad heard snow was coming he’d rush outside to made sure everything was put away, get the snow shovels out, and bring in some more firewood. Sometimes we did’t get much notice.
My brothers, sister and I all all got very excited as we love the snow and there was always the chance school would be called off the next day. Those were truly wonderful times in my life and glad I was able to capture it in song.
One of the most interesting aspects of this recording project is that I was not familiar with or had never met most of the musicians and singers who performed. Conversely most did not know me as well. It was the songs and music that brought us together, and we will forever be connected.
I had never recorded an album featuring piano before, but was very excited about the idea. Stephen brought in Joe Davidian, one of the hottest young jazz pianists in Nashville for the sessions. He is amazing! We recorded four songs in one afternoon and every take was breathtaking. Joe, thank you so much!
On Writing Christmas Songs
As a songwriter one of my greatest passions is writing Christmas and Seasonal songs. I draw inspiration from listening to my vast collection of Christmas albums and re-visiting old family Christmas photos. When winter rolls around I usually spend most of December and January working on new material. My Christmas song catalog is substantial (over 60 songs) and I am adding to it every year. I’ve recorded two Christmas albums to date, and am planning yet another somewhere down the line. Someday I’d like to host a songwriting workshop on writing Christmas and Seasonal material. As my mom would say “if it was meant to be, it will happen”
Christmas Concert Tour
Since the release of “The Season Of My Heart” in 2003, I have been part of an annual Christmas Concert Tour in the New England area.
Starting out as one show a year in Northbridge MA, it has grown to a six concert tour in three states (NH, MA, CT)….. Usually the first two weekends in December. The show consists of three acts: Blackstone Valley Bluegrass, Amy Gallatin & Roger Williams, and Rick Lang & Friends. All the concerts take place in churches, and we continue to draw a large audience wherever we play. In my part of the show we perform my original Christmas numbers. As I am always coming up with tunes, it is a great way test them out in front of a live audience.