David Crowder dives into his festive, spiritual, and funny first Christmas album, ‘Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas’ – a joyful, jolly soundtrack ready to get us into the holiday spirit!
Stream: ‘Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas’
If we’re ever going to make a Christmas album, no doubt, 2022 in the Marvel Universe is the time to make the Christmas album!
Christmas time always brings with it a finely balanced mix of sentimental feelings and pure joie de vivre,
but rarely do those two emotions intermingle or coalesce. You’re either merry, laughing, and having fun, or your rosy-cheeked with gratitude and misty-eyed with nostalgia and affection. What makes Crowder’s Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas so special is that it seamlessly marries these qualities into one festive, spiritual, funny record: Heartfelt and hilarious, Crowder’s first Christmas album is a joyful, jolly soundtrack ready to get us into the holiday spirit.
Every day is a grind
Them elves working six-day weeks
no raise in sight
Santa only pay ‘em cookies
when they working that overtime
Gotta make that quota, can’t do it in a 9 to 5
That ain’t right
Let’s talk about fairness
This is the elf song
Sitting on the shelf song
Working with them itty bitty
pointy toed shoes on
I blame Santa Claus
And his North Pole operation
Ain’t a good look paying candy cane wages
Give ‘em some
Put your hands up for the elves
This is the elf song
– “The Elf Song,” Crowder
Released October 21, 2022 via Capitol Christian Music Group, Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas is David Crowder’s fifth solo album and his very first Christmas album.
But this is no ordinary Christmas album: Following 2021’s Milk & Honey, the critically-acclaimed, four-time GRAMMY nominee set out to create a record that was fully immersed in the spirit of Christmas, because he himself had been fully immersed in the spirit of Christmas for months! Long story short, Crowder’s well-documented home in Atlanta, Georgia was used as Kevin Bacon’s house in Marvel’s The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which released late last month. This resulted in what felt like an extended holiday season for Crowder, who continued to live in his house during the time Marvel was filming.
“I don’t know if it was just that we were feeling really festive because of living in Christmas decor for several months there, but I wouldn’t have imagined that I would, if it weren’t December, just immerse myself in the spirit of Christmas,” Crowder tells Atwood Magazine. “And we were immersed, to say the least. I think a lot of that came across in the fun nature of these original songs. It just feels very festive and fun!”
Crowder’s songs themselves run the gamut from deeply spiritual (“Thanks Giver,” “Your Praise Goes On”) to downright funny – and of course, in true Crowder fashion, his tongue-in-cheek lyrics come off with the straightest, most serious face possible. “The Ballad of Mrs. C (she’s sick of the beard)” is an impassioned, roaring blues rocker seemingly dedicated to the plight of Mrs. Claus.
“I think what people might miss in this song and what I’m trying to bring to the table that’s a new thing to point out and highlight about the season is, Santa’s just a dude,” Crowder says. “It humanizes him. What has he got going on without the beard? Take the suit away, what is he? And I think it turns Santa into a real-life man that’s just trying to get by. He’s just a dude married to a wonderful woman and they’re trying to make it. She’s got some good points. It’s cold in the North Pole. She just wants some seasons. It’s cold up here, clothes are weird, elves are everywhere and you can’t get any alone time with the big man. It’s tough. So I think I’m bringing a lot of humanity to a couple that just gives all year. And the dude doesn’t even have a real job. That’s what’s sad about it.”
She’s so sick of the beard
She’s missing her man
And that sweet face he hides under there
Hasn’t seen it in years
She’s so sick of the beard
She’s so sick of the cold
Sick of carols and sleighbells
And waking up to that reindeer’s nose
It’s getting kinda old
She’s so sick of the cold
Cause it’s always HO, HO, HO
Up here in the Northern Pole
Had enough Christmas cheer
It’s Christmas all year
Yeah she’s tired of his crazy career
And she’s sick of the beard
She’s sick of the beard
And then there’s “The Elf Song,” a charged southern rock song sung as a worker’s anthem from the perspective of the elves, whom Crowder describes as overworked and underpaid. “Them elves working six-day weeks no raise in sight, Santa only pay ‘em cookies when they working that overtime,” he croons over funky guitar riffs and deep, insatiable grooves. “Let’s talk about fairness: Elf awareness.“
“I just feels very festive and fun,” Crowder says of the album. “A lot of the original songs on this album are just hilarious to me. There’s some real heart in it as well, but music being such a part of what I think about, what brings all the feels to me is the music that was associated. It’s like there’s a soundtrack that goes along to the Christmas holidays for me, and it’s been there since I was a child in the crib, so to be able to get to do the same thing and write new stuff, that part really fired me up.”
“I hope more than anything that we’re bringing a bit of joy,” he adds. “I think, even in the title, you know that you’re getting not just sustenance, but also some fun. I know the holidays can be really heavy for a lot of people, so our intention was to bring a bit of light and joy and to point to some of the more festive parts of the season. I think we just need some light during this time culturally. It’s been a hard year and a hard couple of years on most all of us. Our hope was to bring something that feels fun and bring some lightness.”
Credit to Crowder for so effortlessly capturing on one album everything we love about this special time of year. Get into the Christmas spirit with this phenomenally festive, faithful, and genuinely funny album, and dive deep into the music via our interview with David Crowder below. From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Crowder Christmas – one filled with as many milk and cookies as it is with meaningful moments, love, laughs, and smiles.
Stream: “Thanks Giver” – Crowder
A CONVERSATION WITH CROWDER
Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season and what are some of your favorite holiday songs?
David Crowder: Well, I love the song thing as the follow up, because when I think back to childhood, my parents had this console record player. It was like a Sears silver tone console record player that was more furniture than music listening electronic device. We’d spend hours on the floor. I think my parents are maybe just more generous with the stereo time during the holidays, but it had the deal where you could stack multiple records on top and it would drop. And we thought it was equal parts magic and science. Me and my brother would just be cruising there in the shag rug listening to magical Christmas songs. It was pretty eclectic – Bing Crosby to Willie Nelson. And Rudolph and Charlie Brown thrown in for the kiddos. But man, those are my memories. When I think of childhood, I think of music and laying in the shag rug in front of the silver tone, which is great when you’re thinking nostalgically going into a Christmas album process.
Do you mind sharing a little about the story behind this record? What was your vision going into it? Did that change over the course of recording?
Crowder: Well, it’s been so fun to tell this story because especially like today is the first interview process where I’ve gotten to tell what actually happened with the movie stuff. So we get a knock on the door, and it’s people from Marvel Studios, and they’re like, “Hey, we’re from Marvel Studios. We make superheroes.” So we’re like, “Ah, we’re familiar.”
And they go, “Well, we’re doing a seasonal Christmas special with Guardians Of The Galaxy. And the plot line is the Guardians want to cheer Starlord up, and the best gift they can come up with is to go kidnap Kevin Bacon from Earth and take him to Starlord cause. This is the best long running joke, because in the earlier Guardians, Starlord always listened to his mix, and he’s baffled that they don’t know who Kevin Bacon is – the guy who saved an entire town through dance. He’s, like, this legend. So for the Guardians, Kevin Bacon is the best gift that can be given. And Marvel’s like, “We want to use your home to be Kevin Bacon’s home.”
I’m like, “Wait a second, rewind all that. So you want to kidnap Kevin Bacon from my house, which is, in the Marvel universe, Kevin Bacon’s house?”
And they’re like, “Yes.” We said, “Absolutely. Yes.”
So Marvel did Christmas like you would expect Marvel to do Christmas, which meant they purchased pretty much all of the inflatable lawn Christmas decor that could be purchased. So our whole lawn just looked like Christmas had thrown up on it. And then indoors, they of course, had done decorations over the top. But one thing we did not see coming. There’s a scene where a Christmas tree goes down. There’s an altercation, physical violence occurs to the tree and the tree goes down. Well, they have stunt trees ready to go to replace the tree that went down. They had all the stunt trees stored in our bedroom, which we were sleeping in still, and every morning I would wake up to – and this is an exact headcount – 16 fully decorated stunt trees. I would wake up at a Marvel magical Christmas forest.
You know when you have that good sleep where you’re like, “I don’t know who I am or where I am, or what’s going on?” It was that every morning for a solid month, and am I ever going to have that opportunity again? No, I don’t think so. This doesn’t happen every day, and so I’m like, “If we’re ever going to make a Christmas album, no doubt, 2022 in the Marvel Universe is the time to make the Christmas album. And am I ever going to have the opportunity to follow up an album titled ‘Milk & Honey’ with ‘Milk & Cookies?’
So I had intentions that were known by the universe from the dawn of time, I suspect. So not only did I win the Kevin Bacon game, I also had the perfect festive inspiration that I woke to every morning while making this album. So it was the year of the Crowder Christmas album, no doubt. It’s so fun to tell because it doesn’t make any sense. You’re like, “That’s not a real story.”
What inspired you to record your own holiday album and how did you go about making it your own?
Crowder: A lot of the original songs on this album are just hilarious to me. There’s some real heart in it as well, but as I said, music being such a part of what I think about what brings all the feels to me is the music that was associated. It’s like there’s a soundtrack that goes along to the Christmas holidays for me, and it’s been there since I was a child in the crib, so to be able to get to do the same thing and write new stuff, that part really fired me up.
I’d always thought about making a Christmas album. You just go cover a bunch of songs and hope for one or two new ones to present themselves. But half of the album is brand new material that I think turned out in a really hysterical way. So that part, I got wound up and didn’t see it coming. And I don’t know if it was just that we were feeling really festive because of living in Christmas decor for several months there, but I wouldn’t have imagined that I would, if it weren’t December, just immerse myself in the spirit of Christmas. And we were immersed, to say the least. I think a lot of that came across in the fun nature of these original songs. It just feels very festive and fun. Then getting to pick some of my favorite songs over the years, that was a blast as well.
I noticed you didn't employ a lot of the literal bells and whistles that one usually finds on Christmas records, and I just want to applaud you for that. How does the album capture the holiday spirit or season for you?
Crowder: That’s funny because no lie, we would get to a tune, and a lot of times you construct and produce the music before you cut the main vocal because you want to be super into the vibe and the territory that the song is created. So we would just have the music sitting in front of us.
I think most of what happens with Christmas, without the bells and the whistles, is the lyrical content is what tells you what you’re singing about, you know? You don’t know if reindeers are in the air or not until you name them. We would be listening to the music and we’d be like, “Man, it just needs to feel more Christmas,” so you just break out a bell and you’re like, “It’s Christmas!”
So it turned into a joke for us, and most of what we spent the time doing was trying to mute all of the bells to see if we could keep the music as least identifiable and let the lyric content carry it. I love that that’s pointed out because it turned into a really, funny inside joke for us. It’s like, just add a bell, which is just sad. Sleigh bells are what makes a Christmas song a Christmas song, and then you know, “Oh, this is a Christmas song. There are sleigh bells.” So that part was really funny. We did intentionally shy away from the tropes that we typically encounter while listening to the songs and really depended on the lyrics. We spent probably more time examining the lyrics and making sure that they were compelling instead of just depending on the sleigh bell.
With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel “The Ballad of Mrs. C” brings to the table?
Crowder: I love that song getting called out. I mean, what Santa does, can we even call it a job? The guy works like one day, 24 hours, that’s it. He’s just in and out, and Mrs. Claus is holding down the household the whole time. Imagine all of the duties that are entailed there. I had that line that opens that song, “She’s so sick of the beard,” for years because I’ve been wanting to write a song about Mrs. C. And it just so happens that my wife’s first initial of her last name, now that she’s married to me, is a C.
So it’s an analogy, and I think what people might miss in this song and what I’m trying to bring to the table that’s a new thing to point out and highlight about the season is, Santa’s just a dude. It humanizes him. What has he got going on without the beard? Take the suit away, what is he? And I think it turns Santa into a real-life man that’s just trying to get by. He’s just a dude married to a wonderful woman and they’re trying to make it. She’s got some good points. It’s cold in the North Pole. She just wants some seasons. It’s cold up here, clothes are weird, elves are everywhere and you can’t get any alone time with the big man. It’s tough. So I think I’m bringing a lot of humanity to a couple that just gives all year. And the dude doesn’t even have a real job. That’s what’s sad about it.
Of these songs, do you have any definitive favorites or personal highlights off the record?
Crowder: “The Elf Song” is my favorite. I think it’s hilarious. I will say, one of the most enjoyable ones to have recorded was ” Go Tell It On The Mountain” with Ricky Skaggs. So I think “The Elf Song” is hysterical. It makes me laugh. I can’t think about that song without smiling, but when I think about Ricky’s playing and singing on “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” I have equal joy. That dude is just a beast of a player, a gem of a human. His meticulousness is unusual. When you have someone featured on a song, usually they’ll pop in, do their deal and be out the door, and you’re just grateful that they were in your proximity and you captured it. Then it’s up to you to put it together. Man, Ricky was the last person giving mix notes when everybody else was like, “Sounds great. We’re done.” And Ricky’s like, “You know, I want to tweak a little thing here.” Just stuff no one would ever even notice. He was picking apart his mandolin stuff and telling us, “Now, there was a take I did where I did this or that.” That guy was, he was amazing. And you know why he is great when you see him just working. I mean, it’s not even his record. The guy cares so much about making great music and that it comes across well put-together. I loved it. That that was a dream right there.
Of the holiday classics on this record, which should you have the most fun recording and which should you find the most challenging?
Crowder: The most fun was “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” but the most challenging, hands down, was “Carol of the Bells.” One, it is such an epic song and it’s been done so well, so many times. As far as musicianship and creating the grandness of Christmas, that song is just unbeatable in my mind. We wrote some new lyrics to it, and so that, and anytime I’ve ever done it live, it’s always just been the music side of things. I’ve never really sung any of the lyrics that are already in existence or the poetry that goes along with it. And I could not be happier with how it turned out, but we worked on it probably the entire time that we were doing the album. I’m like, ” Towards the end, we’ve got to have ‘Carol Of The Bells,’ and it’s got to be the most amazing thing we’ve ever put together.” And we tried hard. We worked on it for the entirety of the album. I couldn’t be happier with how it put so many elements together. I still get chills when the vocal jumps up the octave. It turned out amazing, but it took a lot of work. It was a lot of moving pieces. There were like four or five of us working on it all the time. And it was a lot of work, but love how it turned out. And then Tommee Profitt being a part of that… if you want epic, that dude knows what he’s doing. Everything he puts together feels so cinematic. As soon as I named that song, I’m like, ” Tommy’s got to be a part of this thing.” He killed it.
What do you hope listeners will take away from Milk & Cookies, and what have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?
Crowder: I hope more than anything that we’re bringing a bit of joy. I think, even in the title, you know that you’re getting not just sustenance, but also some fun. I know the holidays can be really heavy for a lot of people, so our intention was to bring a bit of light and joy and to point to some of the more festive parts of the season. I think we just need some light during this time culturally. It’s been a hard year and a hard couple of years on most all of us. Our hope was to bring something that feels fun and bring some lightness.
What I got out of it is having the opportunity to wake up in the middle of a magical Christmas wonderland day after day, thinking about these songs and working on these songs. But what I was also near was the work ethic. We talked about it with Ricky, but the amount of energy, time, care and concern to craft something as magical as a movie special or whatever, that’s what I got out of making this album. There’s joy in hard work and there’s joy in caring about what you’re making, knowing that it might do what you’re hoping for, which would be bring a little bit of lightness and a little bit of joy in a time where it could be tough, and then remind people of why it’s such a magical time of the year to begin with. That was our hope, and I feel like I got as out as much as what I was putting into it.
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? © Mary Caroline Russell
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