MERRY CHRISTMAAASSS (or Grinchmas if you’re that way inclined).
Right. I don’t think this is much of a secret, but there has been an explosion of Christmas Country tunes in the UK scene this year.
So I wanted to do some digging and ask, To Christmas Song or Not To Christmas Song. And what goes into making one? I sent round some questions to a few artists who released some banging singles for this festive season and got their reasons To Christmas Song.
Let’s dive in!
Why Do A Christmas Song?
On the surface a Christmas song might be a great way to spread cheer and give a little end of year boost for an artist when the gig season usually winds down (for original artists at least). But could there be a deeper reason?
Well this year definitely seems to have had an effect on the reasoning behind releasing a Christmas single for some! The majority of responses mentioned the ability Christmas songs have to bring joy and cheer. I think we can all agree this year that joy and cheer have been somewhat sparse and these artists jumped at the chance to make others feel less alone and, dare I say, happy…
It could also be used to demonstrate versatility, as Three Chords Management (Managing Becky Lawrence) told me, there is no pressure or requirement for artists to release a Christmas song however ‘it shows an extra facet’ to an artist’s abilities in an admittedly large niche.
Another reason To Christmas Song was ending the year on a high note. Much like a last hurrah before being launched back into the whirlwind of ‘normal’ musician life. But again, in this strange year, ending on a high note takes on a different meaning and circles back to the spread of joy and cheer (and nothing else please. Wash your hands when you’ve finished reading this).
Another reason that has been echoed by a few artists was an opportunity to fulfill a dream. Christmas songs are obviously a relatively unique style of release, with only a couple of month’s time frame in which you can realistically get away with releasing one. And, if you’re familiar with my Release Vlog series on YouTube, you’ll know that releasing a single at any time of year usually takes a lot of time and work. This means that some of these singles were planned months ahead.
Oh look, a lovely little segway into the next question…
How Does the Magic Happen?
As mentioned above, it takes time to put releases together and I was happily surprised to find a wide variation in time frames from pretty much everyone interviewed! Some had begun writing their potential Christmas hit during the previous festive period, whereas some took a leap of faith and pushed hard to jump aboard the little train that travels around the bottom of the tree and create some Christmas magic within a few months.
Another interesting aspect has been collaborations, of which we’ve seen a few. For example the largest(?) Christmas collab this year must be the Together Country project, which I was asked to be part of. Rachel Sellick (Scarlet River Management) told me how she and Dom Crooke (of Country Chat with Dom) brainstormed the group project together, deciding to feature artists they had discovered over the course of the year. Then the original song was written by Tyler Spicer, segmented into parts and brought to life through some hard work and careful planning over the course of several months.
On the other hand, there were some more last minute projects such as Becky Lawrence, who was talked into living her Christmas dream by her mother and crammed a whole lot of work into a short space of time, even managing to fit a Country choir in at the end of her song. Impressive work!
Biddy Ronelle and Tommy Taylor are another notable collaboration, which bought a rocky edge (I can and will admit, I really enjoyed) to their Christmas spirit. And if tradition is more to your then you may have chilled out to Gary Quinn and Sophie Hanson’s cover of O Holy Night, which was another leap into a project just in the nick of time.
Now before I move onto something a little less magical, like numbers and statistics, I can’t write this article without a nod to the BCMA who’s name has been echoed in my inbox due to their commissioning of some fantastic Christmas content and support of these treats that have blessed our ears this season. Head over to their social media pages to see what the little elves have been up to.
I need to chill with the festive talk now.
Onward dasher, dancer… someone stop me.
Because the stark reality of an independent musician’s life is that in some way, we are always playing a numbers game, I asked my interviewees if they had seen a shift in those sometimes stubborn follower numbers.
The general answer is yes! It’s a Christmas Miracle! Turns out Festive Songs can be a lovely way to break down some genre prejudices and open up new listeners to an artist.
Caitlin Mae saw her numbers ‘soar’ after releasing not one, but two Christmas crackers and a video!
Both Becky Lawrence and Gary Quinn reported new listeners and increased streaming and follower numbers after their cheery releases. Gary Quinn also had an international boost through his collaboration. I can see a Swedish fanclub on the horizon…
So overall, there seems to be a few benefits to releasing a Christmas song but the next question
is cover or original?
This seems to depend 1. On what talents the artist wants to show off. Is it versatility in musicianship only or songwriting too? And 2. what self-life are they hoping to get for that song? These were the most divided answers with some saying a Christmas song only lasts one year before it’s discarded and audiences move onto the next. Others had an original music is always better stance. I definitely see the point of both but I suppose it’s all down to a case of personal preference!
So, the question still stands, To Christmas Song or Not To Christmas Song. I hope you didn’t read all the way down for a definitive answer because all I can give is my two cents, and that’s do whichever the hell you want as long as it makes you happy.
Oh, and wash your hands.
Merry Christmas and hopefully a far better New Year! Xx