And So This Is Christmas: Our Favorite Holiday Songs and the Power of Nostalgia
Posted by Andrew C on Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
The Christmas season brings with it a swirl of conflicting emotions. We’ve all been there- you’re rushing through the mall, arms heavy with gifts, barely even able to see around a stack of things you’re hoping the recipients will find acceptable, and you start to lose sight of what Christmas means. But then you hear through the tinny loudspeakers a hint of clarity- your favorite Christmas song, bringing you back through the years, and reviving memories of loved ones, of Christmases past, and of the joy you know you’re going to feel on the morning of.
It’s strange, because while the external trappings- the trees, the lights, the shopping, the cookies- are more or less the same for everyone, we all have our own memories and emotions associated with the season. There are happy memories, like the first snowfall drifting over winter pines, putting up your favorite ornament (made for you by your grandmother), or that burst of wordless joy when you open a present that a second before you were positive you’d never get.
But mixed with these memories are a certain melancholia and aching nostalgia for your childhood home or the perfect and the unmatchable way your grandfather made hot chocolate. The contradiction fits with the nature of the holiday- a celebration of light during the shortest days and longest nights of the year. Our favorite songs often match these emotions.
After all, to an extent not found in any other holiday, Christmas is associated with music (quick- name your favorite Thanksgiving song!). These songs form the backdrop of our past, and the tunes carry with them echoes of our memories.
Everyone has their favorites. Sure, our taste in holiday music can evolve right along with our taste in rock n’ roll, country, or soul. But more times than not, when that certain Christmas song captures your heart above all others, it’s there for life—like a bookmark holding a place for a fond memory.
This is true even for professional musicians, even for ones from Australia, for whom Christmas comes during the summer. Indeed, the slight differences in experiences only serve to highlight the similarities, the commonalities, and the joint experiences of what Christmas means to all of us.
And so, as Human Nature sets out on tour in support of their first ever holiday record, The Christmas Album, it seemed like a good time to ask each of the guys for their own personal Christmastime favorites. And based on their responses, it’s pretty clear that the joy of performing a song with your friends can create the same sort of magic as hearing it for the first time on an old record player by the Christmas tree.
Michael Tierney’s Favorite Christmas Song: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
“I’ve always loved that song, even just the early Bing Crosby and classic versions. It’s just a great melody and one of the most loved Christmas songs of all time, and definitely one of my favorites. When we recorded it, though, we wanted to do something really unique with it— so it became this a-cappella version in a kind of doo-wop style. Great fun.”
Andrew Tierney’s Favorite Christmas Song: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
“For me it just feels like one of the great modern Christmas songs. It was actually one of the songs I was most looking forward to recording from the outset, and it’s probably the one I most enjoy performing at the moment. Every time it comes on the radio or plays in a movie or something, it just feels like the holiday season has started. So yeah, I love that song.”
Phil Burton’s Favorite Christmas Song: “Amazing Grace”
“I know it might not technically be just a Christmas song, but of the songs on our record, I think “Amazing Grace’ is one in particular that I really love both listening to and performing. It’s got a great vocal arrangement, and also the orchestral arrangement on top of that is magnificent. So this version sounds really great.
“You know, I’ve talked a lot about how we wanted this to be a soulful Christmas record, and here I’ve chosen a more classical sounding song. But I think that’s something we’ve done throughout our whole career, as well. We started in the school choir together, so that whole classical harmony aspect is very important to us. And it’s just such a beautiful song. I just think it really sounds grand and adds a really powerful element to our record.”
Toby Allen’s Favorite Christmas Song: “White Christmas”
“It has to be, right? When we recorded our version, we took some inspiration from an old Drifters version of the song, so it has sort of that doo-wop feel to it, which I love. …Also, Andrew and I share the lead, so you have the two deeper voices in the group, with me doing the low part and Andrew doing the sort of high delivery—kind of unique and a lot of fun to perform.
“We actually did a stop-action animation video for ‘White Christmas,’ as well, which is very cool. We worked with a guy in San Francisco– Martin Meunier– who’s done amazing work on movies like Coraline, Nightmare Before Christmas, and other great stuff. So he did a video with the four of us—four miniature versions of us—stranded in the desert dreaming of our white Christmas. We’ve started performing the song with the video in Vegas, now, as well. So that’s been really cool.”
Now, perhaps some of you are wondering how a gentleman from Sydney—where it’s the middle of summer at Christmastime—could fully contemplate the sentiments of “White Christmas.”
“Well it’s a very weird thing,” Phil Burton interjects, “because Christmas still feels like winter to us. All the decorations and things are winter decorations– the pine trees, the tinsel, snow on the tree. So in Australia, we still do all that. We still put up a Christmas tree and decorate it, hang stockings from the fireplace. So the traditions are actually the same in Australia, it’s just the weather isn’t [laughs]. So instead of drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace and playing in the snow, generally we’re drinking white wine by the pool and having a swim.”
And, just like the rest of us, singing their favorite Christmas songs.
Interested in hearing the album? Bring Christmas closer to you with Human Nature’s spectacular and original interpretations of beloved standards!