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Days 1 & 2: Arranging 5 Classic Christmas Songs with Michael Head & Micah Tawlks!

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December 9th & 10th:

Well today was my first day in the studio and what a day it was! I got to see my long-time friend, engineer/producer Michael Head for the first time since 2006! And I also got to meet Michael’s long-time friend and incredibly talented Nashville songwriter Micah Tawlks. For the next 2 days, our mission was to go through the Christmas songs I had selected and come up with unique arrangements for them and chart out the chords, so that we’d be ready for the session musicians, who would be arriving later that week…

Now of course I had some ideas about the direction of the songs already, but one of the most exciting things about recording, is that you never know where a song might take you… And these songs really “took” all three of us on a “Christmas Song Adventure” that I don’t think any of us expected…

On “Winter Wonderland”, I figured that song would end up being the most straight forward song on the record. I had been practicing it at home, and I knew I wanted it to be upbeat… I had fallen in love with most of the lyrics, especially the line “To face unafraid, the plans that we made”… which seemed really progressive for a song written in 1934, and Michael and Micah thought so too… so I knew I wanted to emphasize that lyric somehow… I think we are ALL so used to hearing these songs over and over that we kind of tune out the actual lyrics… But over the next 2 days, we dove deeply into them… At one point, Michael pointed out that the sections about the snowman, “Parson Brown”, and the “Eskimo way” were setting off the proverbial “dork meter”, so we all took a step back and before you knew it, Micah was writing these cool new chords, and I came up with some lyrics and a melody, and we wrote a whole new part for the song! So yes, it’s true, we re-wrote a section of Winter Wonderland! I still can’t believe it myself, but I’m super excited about it and so are the guys!

Micah proceeded to work his chordal magic for all of the songs, adding chords that gave each song a more sophisticated musical foundation. For “Blue Christmas”, we wrote this cool instrumental/vocal section after the verses, and did the same for “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. There was an interesting moment when Micah pointed out that the lyrics for “Blue Christmas” mentioned so many colors… of course BLUE, but also: “Decorations of RED, on a GREEN Christmas Tree” and “You’ll be doing alright, with your Christmas of WHITE”…  none of us ever realized that before!

On our folk/goth rendition of Greensleeves, we also re-wrote lyrics. I had already re-written some of the lyrics, but Michael pointed out that perhaps some of the lyrics were still a bit too “16th Century” (the original version of the song is a traditional English folk song about unrequited love, written around 1580, with possible contributions from King Henry VIII. It wasn’t until 1865 that the song was re-written to become the more widely known “What Child Is This”), so we re-wrote some of the original love song lyrics to be more “current”.

With “Silver Bells” I already had a strong idea of how I wanted to pursue it, so we pretty much stuck to that, which was to keep the song very short, sweet and rhythmic, and sing it almost like a little “Christmas Rap”. But somehow the song still came out sounding pretty laid back and not much like a rap at all, lol : ) But it sure felt that way when I was practicing the tongue-twisting lyrics “Strings of street lights, even stop lights, blink a bright red and green…” Try saying that 10 times in a row! lol! : ) ~EB



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