Interview with Ingrid Michaelson: Bringing Joy to the World with the Holiday Hop

Ingrid Michaelson © Shervin Lainez
Ingrid Michaelson © Shervin Lainez
Following the recent release of her own Christmas song “Christmas Valentine,” Ingrid Michaelson is doing her 14th Annual Holiday Hop virtually this year.
Stream: “Christmas Valentine” – Ingrid Michaelson




The show must go on; it won’t take away my Christmas spirit.

It’s December, the streets are getting coated in glittery snow, it’s getting cold outside, the fireplace is get hotter, and the lights are being put up.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which means it’s time for Ingrid Michaelson’s iconic Holiday Hop event. Due to current circumstances, the artist’s 14th Annual Holiday Hop will be held virtually. On the 10th of December, Michaelson will perform her holiday show from the comfort of home, with her band, including fan favourite parody band Edith, Edna, and Ethel, as well as special guest Jason Mraz, who served as her duet partner in her latest single, “Christmas Valentine.”

Christmas Valentine - Ingrid Michaelson and Jason Mraz
Christmas Valentine – Ingrid Michaelson and Jason Mraz

Ingrid Michaelson’s Holiday Hop is an annual holiday event which normally takes place as a live show in her hometown of New York City. Due to the hop being virtual this year, everyone can watch it, no matter where they are. Following the live event, ticket holders will be able to watch the Holiday Hop for 24 hours, to max out the festive spirit.

Atwood Magazine spoke to Ingrid Michaelson about her deep love for the holiday season, her special bond to New York City, and inspiration in times of quarantine.

I feel like the Holiday Hop has become a very important tradition. I can’t believe we have been doing it for 14 years already – it feels so ridiculous to say that out loud. It’s crazy. It has become a part of our lives now, and I hope that we will do it forever.

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:: purchase Holiday Hop tickets here ::



A CONVERSATION WITH INGRID MICHAELSON

Christmas Valentine - Ingrid Michaelson and Jason Mraz

Atwood Magazine: This year has been undoubtedly unique and strange, especially for the music industry. When did you know that you HAD to make this year’s holiday hop happen?
 

Ingrid Michaelson: There was no doubt in my mind that it was going to happen either live or virtual. When COVID first hit, we were saying, this will last for three months and we would be up and running again by the summer, which obviously did not happen. I don’t remember the exact timing, but I knew it as soon as we knew that we would not be able to do a live show. I was like well, then we will have to do something virtual. We have been planning and filming it for two months now. It is the 14th Holiday Hop since we started, so it felt like that there is no way that we couldn’t do it. I had to figure out something, but I never doubted it.

Since this year’s holiday hop is virtual instead of on stage, how does it feel to perform such a special event from your own four walls?

Ingrid Michaelson: I kind of like it, even though performing live in front of an audience is obviously like nothing else. Right now, is just not the right time to be in front of a crowd in so many ways. So, I think, psychically and mentally I am not wanting to be in front of a crowd, so the desire for that is not even really there. I think that’s because it is ingrained in all of us that we have to hunker down and get through this together. Finding a creative solution for this year’s Holiday Hop has been fun. Lately, my boyfriend has been really into videography and film, so he had all this great camera equipment and lighting. So, we had a lot of fun whilst making it look really beautiful. Some of the songs I did with the band, so each one of us had to record the tracks separately, and then Chris, my musical director, put all of them together. Then we had to do our vocals live and filmed ourselves doing that. So, we were building the track, like in front of people, because I wanted the live element to be there. At the same time, there is no way to play with six other people virtually, you just can’t really sync up. That’s why there are a handful of songs that are pre-recorded, and then there are a couple of songs that I just perform live by myself in front of my Christmas tree. We are definitely having a little bit of a live feel. Then we are also having people’s favourites and some classic holiday favourites. We have a great editor who put them all together in a really creative way, so everyone has its own little feeling. So, it won’t be just people in boxes singing. He really did an amazing job of being really visually creative with all of the songs. It’s pretty great, I am really excited about it. I think people are gonna love it.

Ingrid Michaelson © Shervin Lainez
Ingrid Michaelson © Shervin Lainez



With this year’s holiday hop being at your doorstep, how does it feel to just be a few days away from this event?

Ingrid Michaelson: Well, it’s pretty exciting, because we have been talking about it for so long now. And now, it’s actually going to happen in my living room. I am going to be the host throughout, so I will have to do all the live parts and introductions, which is pretty exciting. Now, we have tape marks on the floor where the cameras are going to be and we had one test rehearsal yesterday. Later we have another one with our producer, so it feels like reality for a while now. It’s happening so soon, so it’s beginning to feel very real. I’m kind of sad that it’s just gonna be out there in the world, and then it will be up for 24 hours, but after that, it will be gone. But that’s just like a show, it’s just a moment and then that moment is gone. I am just really curious about how people are going to react to it. That is going to be the hard part since you’re not getting that immediate reaction of people like in a live show. I wonder what this is gonna feel like. I’m sure people will come to my social media and will comment on my Instagram, but it is going to be different. Some of the Holiday Hop’s audience are people who have been coming every year for years and years. Some people are in different parts of the world like Europe for example, who never had the chance to come to a Holiday Hop in person, and now since it is all virtual, they can come. So, there are some really great aspects, especially this year, when everyone is just longing for a connection and the need to feel joy. The virtual element opens up the event to the whole world, no matter where you are located. Since it will be up for 24 hours, you can watch it at your leisure time, no matter what time zone you are in.

This year’s Holiday Hop is the 14th Annual event and the first of its kind at the same time, so when you initially started the holiday hop all those years back, what was your vision behind it?

Ingrid Michaelson: Well, I love Christmas. I have always loved Christmas ever since I was little, and I live in New York City. So, I thought it would be fun to always have a holiday show in New York. No matter if I was on a touring cycle, we will always have this end of the year holiday show. It started off pretty small and kept growing over the years. We had years when we were not touring at all, or just having a one-off here and there, but we have always had the Holiday Hop. So, my bandmates and I know that we always have this event where we can come together at the end of the year. I feel like the Holiday Hop has become a very important tradition. I can’t believe we have been doing it for 14 years already, it feels so ridiculous to say that out loud. It’s crazy. It has become a part of our lives now, and I hope that we will do it forever. Now we know that we can do it no matter what. If we would not be able to gather people if something like this happens again, we know that there will always be a way.

Ingrid Michaelson & Jason Mraz © Shervin Lainez
Ingrid Michaelson & Jason Mraz © Shervin Lainez



Is the holiday season something that has always meant a lot to you?

Ingrid Michaelson: Yeah, it’s funny because my brother makes fun of me since we were brought up in the same house and he’s wondering what happened that made me so Christmas obsessed. I mean, he loves Christmas, but not like I do. In September, I start watching Christmas movies and listen to Christmas music. I have a Christmas gift app and I am done with my Christmas shopping by like the middle of the year. Growing up, Christmas was always a very joyous time in the house. We always had a big tree and Christmas morning was always just so much fun. On Christmas eve, my family always hosted a big party, my father would play the piano, and everyone would sing carols whilst eating and drinking. It was probably the most stereotypical holiday party you could think of, except that it was filled with Jewish people because all of our Jewish friends would come over since our friends who celebrate Christmas had to go to the Mass or so. So, it was funny because there were more Jewish people than Christians. In our circle of friends, everybody was very musically talented. My father was a musician, and my mother was a sculptor, so we had a very eclectic group of people. Growing up as a child in that environment was always so fun. There is something about it when you are little, and you see this tradition unfolding in front of you every year. It is never exactly the same every year, but you can rely on certain aspects being the same, for example,  every year I would help my mom getting the food ready or cleaning the house. And the day after was Christmas Day, so we had all those presents to open up. It was just such a really fun, happy time for me growing up. As I got older, I just held onto it and never let it go. It is a conscious effort to do so, especially since this year has been so tricky. This year has been draining the joy out of a lot of us.

I think a lot of amazing things have come out of this year, for example, the conversation about race and equality, which is really, really important. I think, maybe this year was some sort of sacrifice we had to put ourselves through in order to really see a lot of ugly truths and move forward on a lot of things, especially involving race equality.

But at the same time, it is a really draining time for everybody, since it is really difficult to not be able to physically touch people. I have a three-year-old niece and it kills me that I can’t see her. It is heartbreaking to not be able to see and hold on to your loved ones. So that’s why it felt really hart to keep the Christmassy spirit alive during such fatigue times.

So, the day after Halloween, my boyfriend and I were putting up the tree and we decorated the whole apartment. I wrapped presents and we watched Christmas movies, but it almost felt like it’s not coming easy this year. But I won’t let it slip away. I know, next year, we’ll be back in some form, but has been honestly challenging. I think I am relying on how deep my love is for this time of the year. I know it’s down there and I won’t let the world crush it. So, it’s been like a kind of practice. The Holiday Hop is definitely an extension of my love for the holidays and the fact that we’re still doing this is an obvious extension of my battle against the world trying to beat us down. The show must go on; it won’t take away my Christmas spirit.

Ingrid Michaelson © Shervin Lainez
Ingrid Michaelson © Shervin Lainez

I think a lot of amazing things have come out of this year, for example, the conversation about race and equality, which is really, really important. I think, maybe this year was some sort of sacrifice we had to put ourselves through in order to really see a lot of ugly truths and move forward on a lot of things, especially involving race equality.

Growing up and living in New York City, how has that shaped your bond and excitement to the holiday season?

Ingrid Michaelson: Christmas in New York is like nothing else. For me, there are these Christmas markets, based on the ones in Germany around the city. There’s Macy’s, there is a big tree, there is ice skating in Central Park and there are just all those little stores around my block. I get a Christmassy spirit because people are decorating their windows, and you can see their Christmas trees through them. There is something magical about New York City in the holiday season. It’s very Christmassy, and you’re like jammed on top of everybody. I also have a place in LA, but I have never been there around the holidays, I imagine it to be beautiful but isolating since you are in your own house so far away from your neighbours. Here, in New York, I can look across the courtyard and see someone else’s Christmas tree through the window. You don’t get that everywhere. Christmas in New York is so special, it has a very joyous spirit. Generally, New York has a pretty strong spirit, but it just gets intense around the holidays. The other day I went to Bryant Park and there are people ice skating, so it gave me a feeling that we are gonna get through this.

Christmas in New York is so special, it has a very joyous spirit. Generally, New York has a pretty strong spirit, but it just gets intense around the holidays

What inspired you to record your own holiday song?

Ingrid Michaelson: I just wanted to write a Christmas love song. I have always wanted to write a Christmas song, but I am very picky about how it will sound like since there are so many Christmas songs out there. That is amazing already, and I was very inspired by the traditional ones, like Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole. I love the old school songs. I am not really into the newer poppy Christmas songs, so I wanted to create something that sounds a bit nostalgic. I am always kind of on the hunt for inspiration. When I am working on stuff, if something feels right, then it could be a really good idea for a holiday song, but it takes me a long time to get the right feeling. So, I am always trying to find the right song, and as soon as I feel like I hit one, I’ll release it. That’s why I don’t have an album of original Christmas songs. I am very particular, but I am always inspired. That’s why there aren’t more of them.



Holiday songs are a timeless classic in the music world. Did you feel a lot of pressure on your shoulders whilst writing your own holiday song?

Ingrid Michaelson: Yeah, that’s the thing. I don’t want to write a song just because I think it will be popular around the holidays. I want to write something that is going to be timeless, that people will always want to put on when they’re decorating their tree or when they are having friends over. It does not need to be a song exclusively for the Christmas time. It’s not just for people who celebrate Christmas, it’s for everybody. I just wanted to create something timeless. I think that’s my biggest thing, and I do feel pressure on that front. But to be honest, the pressure is coming from myself just because I hold this season in such high regard that I don’t want to do it wrong.

We are working on a deluxe edition for next year. I am working with my writing partner I wrote Christmas Valentine with, so I am really excited about this. There will be more coming, it just takes me time.

If you could only include five songs in a holiday playlist, what would those be?

Ingrid Michaelson: Oh, man, that’s put me on the spot. I am gonna have to say “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” by Judy Garland. “All I want for Christmas is you” by Mariah Carey because we have to. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” by Nat King Cole. I love anything from the Charlie Brown Christmas record, it is all piano jazz. So, one of the Charlie Brown Christmas songs. And lastly, “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby.

Great choice. This year has been way less stimulating than the years before, how did you manage to stay creative?

Ingrid Michaelson: To me, being creative is a discipline, you have to not force yourself. If you feel the slightest bit creative, just kind of get up and work with that. I’ve found that I don’t want to push myself necessarily. If I don’t feel creative at all, then I’m just not going to force myself right now. If I have a tiny little bit of something, it’s really easy for me to go like I’ll just work on that later. Or I say no, get up, go to the piano, get the idea out, record it and see what comes out of it. That’s kind of in my mind. Push and pull. When I am not feeling it, I don’t push myself. But if I feel a tiny twinkle, I have pushed myself during this time. It has been such a strange time for everybody. I am too much of an empath, I am soaking up too much of the world. But if I feel a little bit of something, then I can work with that. That’s my kind of philosophy and what I have been doing over the whole year in terms of creating things. It’s been really fruitful because of the things that I have created, I am really excited about, but there is not a crazy amount of them. It’s the quality over quantity this year, for sure.

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:: purchase Holiday Hop tickets here ::
Ingrid Michaelson's 14th Annual Holiday Hop
Ingrid Michaelson’s 14th Annual Holiday Hop



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Christmas Valentine - Ingrid Michaelson and Jason Mraz

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📸 © Shervin Lainez

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