Plenty of new Christmas music under the tree this season
When folks think of the winter holidays, it's snow, sleet and Santa that come to mind. But that doesn't mean there's a lack of spirit on the West Coast.
Singer/songwriter Colbie Caillat took that theory and spun it into the seasonal album "Christmas in the Sand."
"I wanted to show how a lot of people spend their Christmases who live in Hawaii or California, which is where I'm from, and just the tropical side of it," Caillat told SoundSpike.
The Malibu-born, platinum recording artist brings her easygoing rhythms and breezy style to "Christmas in the Sand." It features four original Christmas songs, including the humorous, mid-tempo title track, which was written by Caillat, Jason Reeves and Kara DioGuardi. She also recorded classics like "Merry Christmas Baby," featuring Brad Paisley on vocals and guitar, and "Baby It's Cold Outside," featuring Gavin DeGraw on vocals. Grammy-winning producer Ken Caillat, who is Colbie's dad, produced the album.
Caillat, who began work on the album in February and wrapped it up in the summertime, in between touring with Gavin DeGraw, said it was fun to work with her dad.
"It was also fun recording the duets with Gavin DeGraw and Justin Young and Jason Reeves," she said. "I didn't get to do the duet with Brad Paisley because we're in different areas. He recorded somewhere else. It's always funny recording a song when you're not in the same room as the person."
Caillat, who recorded the album in her bathing suit, will embark on an acoustic Christmas tour this holiday season. Visit her website for more information.
The "Bubbly" singer's collection is one of dozens that were released this year. Here is what other artists had to say about their holiday gifts to fans.
"Santa Claus is Back in Town" (single)
With a drum introduction that resembles Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher," "American Idol" contestant James Durbin wasn't sure how people would take his spin on the Elvis Presley classic.
"It literally was a shot in the dark," Durbin said. "One day we just decided, 'Let's play this Christmas song and see if it works. Then lo and behold ...."
Available on iTunes, "Santa Claus is Back in Town" was fun for Durbin to record. He did so at the request of his wife.
"My wife has been begging me to do a Christmas song," said Durbin, who is in the midst of writing a new record. "She wants me to do a whole album. Next year we might do an album. It was actually a lot of fun looking through different Christmas songs. I knew which one I wanted to do, though. I said in interviews before that 'Santa Claus is Back in Town' is my favorite Elvis song, let alone Christmas song."
"Home for Christmas"
The members Celtic Woman -- Chloe Agnew, Lisa Lambe and Meav Ni Mhaolchatha -- had so much fun recording its first holiday album that they had to do it again.
"We brought these songs on a symphony tour last Christmas in America," Lambe said via email. "It was a fantastic experience singing holiday favorites underscored with a different symphony orchestra in each city we performed in. This amazing experience for me is what sparked thoughts about capturing more Christmas magic in an album and 'Home for Christmas' was born."
The 12-song album includes tracks such as "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Silent Night" and "What Child is This."
"It was a wonderful journey making this new album, especially having Christmas classics like 'Silent Night,' 'I'll Be Home for Christmas' and Celtic songs like 'Auld Lang Syne,' which means 'Old Long Ago' featured on the album."
Columbia Records and Nickelodeon celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with the release of "Merry Nickmas," featuring Big Time Rush, Rachel Crow, the casts of "Victorious" and "How to Rock," as well as Drake Bell and SpongeBob SquarePants.
Crow, whose Nickelodeon TV show debuts in 2013, told SoundSpike that she's thrilled to be featured on the nine-track Christmas album.
"It was funny because it was really hot outside," said the effervescent Crow, who offers "Santa Claus is Comin' To Town." "The vocal producer who did the album blasted the air conditioning and hung up Christmas lights so we could get in the spirit."
(Madison Gate Records)
Kirstie Maldonado, of Pentatonix, the vocal group that won the third season of "The Sing Off," loved recording Christmas music because it's "so happy and so cheery."
"I think the arrangements are really fun to sing," Maldonado said via telephone from Chicago where the a cappella quintet was performing. "I just had a really good time."
"PTXmas" features six classic holiday songs and the group debuted a video for "Carol Of The Bells" on Nov. 13.
"We got to sing a lot of our favorite Christmas songs, which I thought was really cool," Maldonado said. "It made the entire album really special. We are really proud of it. To see that people are enjoying it and purchasing it is really awesome. We're really happy."
Surrounding the EP release, Pentatonix will be making various appearances, including performing at the Hollywood Christmas Parade (set to air on the Hallmark Channel in December) and appearing in its only L.A.-area Christmas performance as special guests of radio station 94.7 The Wave's Christmas Concert at the Nokia Theater on Sunday, Dec. 16.
"Home for Christmas" (EP)
Classically trained singer Chris Mann, who appeared on "The Voice," strived to do a traditional, beautiful, orchestrated Christmas record. This summer he got his wish as he recorded the EP "Home for Christmas," a Walmart exclusive release.
Mann told SoundSpike that favorite tracks on the EP are "O Holy Night," which is performed a cappella with 24 voices, and "I'll Be Home for Christmas." "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "White Christmas" and "The First Noel" have traditional orchestral arrangements from Walter Afanasieff. "Home for Christmas" is his second release this fall; he also sent to stores his debut album, "Roads."
"I feel really lucky and proud to have two records out at once," Mann said. "Both of them are on the charts, which is really fun."
He will perform "O Holy Night" on NBC's "The Today Show" and the Rockefeller Tree Lighting Ceremony on Nov. 28. Mann, who plans to record a full-length holiday album next year, also filmed a PBS special that is set to debut in Detroit in December and nationwide in 2013.
"What Christmas Means"
Michigan-bred R&B star KEM is frank when asked why he decided to record a Christmas album.
"I was tired of people asking me about it," he told SoundSpike. "Seriously, I never really wanted to do a Christmas record because I didn't want to do a Christmas record full of cover tunes. The same old smash up of songs."
Slated to originally be an EP, KEM went rolling on the project recording five original songs and five covers.
"I'm really pleased with it," he said.
He said the biggest challenge was trying to write holiday tracks that weren't "cheesy."
"That was probably the biggest deal," he said. "I wanted the songs to be great. But I didn't want the album to have a lot of tinsel on it. I wasn't trying to make a festive Christmas record. I was trying to make a record that would emulate the records I grew up listening to like Andy Williams, and Sinatra and Nat King Cole. That was what I was aiming for. Writing and recording Christmas music in June presents its own challenges. But my hope is that people enjoy this record as much as I do."
For her Christmas album, "American Idol" alum Brooke White listened to the Carpenters' holiday release to get in the spirit. After all, she was in sweltering Los Angeles during the recording and the photo shoot for the album cover.
"I don't think when people think of Christmas, they think of California," said White, an Arizona native who penned the song "California Christmas" for her record. "They think of snow, a more wintery environment. California is 70, 80 degrees with palm trees."
"White Christmas," which hits all online retailers on Nov. 27, is an 11-song collection that includes holiday classics as well as three original songs. For production duties on the holiday album, White teamed with Chris Seefried who produced and co-wrote Fitz and The Tantrums' debut album.
For the classics, it was a trick to choose songs. She wanted to record them in a way that sounded fresh.
"Any time you do a cover song, you have to kind of create some sort of signature sound of it while at the same time maintaining its identity," White said. "I just would make lists. I'd sit down at the piano or guitar. If it didn't feel right, I'd cross it off the list."
The Classic Christmas Album Series
The Classic Christmas Album series, launched in 2011, rings in the 2012 holiday season with new collections by John Denver, Kenny G, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley and Luther Vandross. Each new album gathers 14 or more remastered tracks spanning the career of each artist, all of whom recorded multiple holiday albums through the years.
Here's a list of other holiday albums released this year:
Edie Adams featuring Ernie Kovacs, "The Edie Adams Christmas Album featuring Ernie Kovacs (1952)," (Omnivore)
Adelee and Gentry, "Waiting for Christmas"
Backstreet Boys, "It's Christmas Time Again" (single)
The Bank Cormorants, "Madonna and Rose" (Single Wing Records)
The Beach Boys, "Christmas Harmonies" (Capitol)
Beta Wolf, "The Slaybell Sessions Christmas EP"
Elizabeth Chan, "Naughty and Nice EP"
The Chipmunks, "Chipmunks Christmas" (Capitol)
Concino Children's Chorus, "Children's Christmas Choir" (MVD Entertainment Group)
Rita Coolidge, "A Rita Coolidge Christmas" (429 Records)
Cornershop featuring Trwbador, "Every Year So Different" (Ample Play Records)
Catie Curtis, "A Catie Curtis Christmas" (Catie Curtis Records)
Charlie Daniels, "Hallelujah It's Christmas Time Again"
CeeLo Green, "CeeLo's Magic Moment" (Atlantic)
Chicago, "Ultimate Christmas Collection" (Rhino)
Dragonette, "Merry Xmas, Says Your Text Message" (single)
The Eastern Sea, "First Christmas"
Vince Guaraldi Trio, "A Charlie Brown Christmas: Remastered and Expanded Edition" (Concord Records)
Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, "'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah:
Norah Jones, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (single) (EMI)
Lady Antebellum, "On This Winter's Night" (Capitol)
The Musical Battle between Christmas and the Festival of Lights" (RSR)
Matisyahu, "Happy Hanukkah" (single) (Fallen Sparks Records)
Scotty McCreery, "Christmas with Scotty McCreery" (Interscope)
The Midtown Men, "All Alone on Christmas" (single)
Christina Perri, "A Very Merry Perri Christmas" (Atlantic)
Polyphonic Spree, "Holidaydream" (Good Records Recordings and Kirtland Records)
Redtenbacher's Funkestra, "A Very Funky Christmas" (Wooden Hat Records)
Renee and Jeremy, "Sunny Christmas" (One Melody Records)
Blake Shelton, "Cheers! It's Christmas" (Warner Bros.)
Smashmouth, "The Gift of Rock" (Beautiful Bomb Records)
Sugar and the Hi-Lows, "Snow Angel"
James Taylor, "James Taylor at Christmas" (re-release) (Universal)
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, "This Christmas" (Universal)
Twisted Sister, "A Twisted Xmas --Live in Las Vegas" (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
The Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Family, "A Fiddler's Holiday" (Concord Music Group)
Kenny Vance, "Mr. Santa"
Various artists, "A Very Special Christmas" (Big Machine Records)
Various artists, "An Average Joes Muddy Christmas" (Average Joes Entertainment)
Various artists, "Christmas With the Rat Pack" (Capitol)
Various artists, "Now That's What I Call Today's Christmas" (EMI)
Various artists, "Isn't This World Enough: A Nettwerk Christmas" (Nettwerk)
Various artists, "'Tis the Season to Be Gotee Too" (Gotee)