Atwood Magazine Presents Mistletones: 2021’s Best New Holiday Songs

Atwood Magazine's Mistletones: Best New Holiday Music 2021
Atwood Magazine's Mistletones: Best New Holiday Music 2021
To celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year,” Atwood Magazine’s Mistletones features fresh holiday/wintertime tracks and exciting covers of beloved classics. December has a knack for bringing out some of the most poignant, tender, and celebratory music, and we want to highlight that excitement by showcasing new and alternative holiday greats! Spice up your holiday season with songs you can listen to now and cherish in the years to come.

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Mistletones by Atwood Magazine

Last year was the hardest year of my life
Haven’t felt no cheer in a while
Feel it getting cold and I start to hope
That Santa Claus brings me some luck
Last year was the hardest year of my life
So hey, what you doing? Where you going? For the holidays
Whoever you are, wherever you are, this Christmas
Grab somebody you love, make a wish on a star
See the lights in the dark (this Christmas)
And when you go to sleep, hope whatever you need
Shows up under the tree (this Christmas)
It’s gonna be brighter (this Christmas)
– “This Christmas,” Wrabel

The most wonderful time of year has come around once again, and we’re ready to ring in the festivities with a fresh batch of holiday songs and winter wonders. As Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” makes yet another historic return to No. 1, for the second time in a row we find ourselves celebrating (or rather, trying to celebrate) the happiest of holidays amid a pandemic. Uncertainty and fear linger in the air as a new COVID-19 variant spreads, but even still, this isn’t December 2020: Many of us are vaccinated and even boosted, and the painful isolation we previously experienced is, slowly, becoming a distant memory.

That doesn’t mean our anxiety is quelled or our fears pacified, but it does amplify the meaning and importance of this time of year.

If last year’s holiday season was marked by isolation and distance, longing and heartache, then this year’s is marked by a resounding sense of gratitude, appreciation, and hope. Many of our 2021 Mistletones picks reflect on what it means to spend quality time together – refocusing our values on what matters most to us and recognizing that we can’t take our loved ones (or our happy moments) for granted.

Last year was the hardest year of my life; haven’t felt no cheer in a while,” Wrabel sings somberly in his tender song “This Christmas,” which opens his beautiful new holiday EP, merry christmas, merry christmas to you. Pianos groove and drums steadily bustle as the artist’s voice slowly grows stronger, and his music brighter. “Grab somebody you love, make a wish on a star, see the lights in the dark this Christmas,” he sings with spirited passion, a rousing beacon of hope and love. “And when you go to sleep, hope whatever you need Shows up under the tree this Christmas. It’s gonna be brighter this Christmas.”

Many of this year’s Mistletones are informed by similar experiences from the past two years; some offer uplifting messages of warmth and cheer (be it from coming together, or appreciating each other while far apart), while others dwell in a poignant space of sorrow, melancholy, loneliness or heartache. In Aquilo’s new holiday(ish) song, they remind us, “Don’t worry, it’s just a day” – recognizing the pressure we experience to “get in the holiday spirit” and feel happy this time of year, when many of us simply can’t turn it on like that. Alternatively, Lyn Lapid’s “Messed Up on Christmas” opts for blurry reverie rather than revelry: “I’ll make my last memory, one I won’t remember – get messed up on Christmas ’til the end of December,” the rising 18-year-old force of nature (signed to pop star juggernaut Republic Records) laments.

Other songs are simply great holiday ballads, anthems, jingles, and jams: From Cory Henry’s radiant “Christmas With You” and Fickle Friends’ heartwarming “My Favourite Day,” to Laufey and dodie’s stirringly sweet duet “Love to Keep Me Warm,” Tim Atlas’ mesmerizing “Christmas Coffee,” and Neon Trees’ unapologetically dynamic and fun-loving “Holiday Rock,” Mistletones 2021 has something for everyone.

We hope these songs help inspire a sense of community and connection, love and togetherness for all who listen. See below as 50 artists from around the world share what the holiday season (and holiday music) means to them, and listen to our Mistletones Holiday Songs playlist on Spotify. From our family to yours, happy holidays and happy new year!

Love,

Mitch Mosk, Editor-in-Chief

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Atwood Magazine's Mistletones listen to MISTLETONES on Spotify Atwood Magazine's Mistletones

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Featured this year are Aquilo, BEGINNERS, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Birdhead, Bitch & John Cameron Mitchell, Caleb Nichols, Cory Henry, Debbie Gibson, Erez Zobary, Everett Bradley, Fickle Friends, Fotoform, Geographer, Gina Naomi Baez, James Arthur, John Mark Nelson, Johnny Orlando, José James, JR JR, L.A. Exes, Laufey, Logan Lynn, LØLØ, Lyn Lapid, Maggie Szabo, Mike Mentz, Miki Ratsula, Neon Trees, Olivia O’Brien, OSKA, Peach PRC, Shannen James, Side Saddle, Sigrid, Sofia Talvik, SYML, Tall Heights, TANDM, The Imaginaries, The National Parks, Tim Atlas, Tom Speight, Tom Walker, Train, Wallis, Will Joseph Cook, and Wrabel!

Dive into these songs and our holiday interviews!

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:: Aquilo ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Aquilo: We both love Christmas. Going home for Christmas is like a ritual for us. Holiday songs? We both just love The Pogues’ Christmas song. Coolest of the bunch.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Aquilo: We were writing with our friends Jon and Biff and we all just spoke about how we’d spent Christmas without family or had experienced loss last winter. Then by the end of the day Just A Day was written!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Aquilo: You could argue it’s not really a Christmas song but certainly hints at the drama of this time of year.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Aquilo: It’s more of an anti-Christmas song. It’s a gentle reminder that Christmas is “Just a Day” and to know you’re not alone at Christmas even when you may feel that way.



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:: BEGINNERS ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

BEGINNERS (Sam Barbera): While it’s definitely fun to hate the holidays, I gotta say, I’m a huge fan. The cheesy decorations, sweaters, all of it. I rarely get to see my family so it’s also a set time to focus on that, which I really like. One weird fact. I’ve literally had “Deck The Halls” in my head every day for 20 years. I whistle it constantly and it makes everyone crazy, including me. But my all time FAVE holiday song is Alvin and The Chipmunks “Christmas Don’t Be Late” or as I like to call it the Hula Hoop song. It’s the perfect song.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

BEGINNERS: We actually started writing Holiday songs for a movie that commissioned them from us originally. During that process we became obsessed with writing original Xmas songs and just could not stop. It’s a funny thing because we’ve written almost all of our Christmas songs during the summer!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

BEGINNERS: I think our BEGINNERS Guide to Christmas EP captures all the moods of the holidays. Some are joyful and optimistic and some feel a little more nostalgic. Our cover of jingle bells is almost teetering on sad at points; in a way that the holidays can sometimes feel. Whether you’re missing your family or reflecting on the past.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

BEGINNERS: I think our songs give you that holiday nostalgia while still feeling current and sorta cool I guess. We tried to give it some of that Xmas camp while also writing songs that we’d want to hear and felt true to us as artists. We hope people enjoy it as much as we do.



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:: Benjamin Francis Leftwich ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Benjamin Francis Leftwich: I actually really love the holidays. I was asleep for so long that i never used to appreciate them, and I would almost go out of my way to use them as an opportunity for self pity and isolation, but since waking up I really love them as a chance to lean into family and God and remember what’s important. I’d say Joni Mitchel – River is definitely a classic Christmas song that I love, I also love the Amy Grant song, ‘To Be Together’. I love the lyric, ‘She’s sleeping in the terminal as the whole worlds headed home.’ I’m also into old school Frank Sinatra Christmas records too, they warm my heart.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Benjamin Francis Leftwich: Honestly it was kind of an accident. Me and my sweet friend Josh Finn were zooming just before Christmas last year whilst the UK was in lockdown… We’d kind of planned to jam and maybe write but nothing was really on top emotionally so we thought: oh let’s just write a silly Christmas song, but then it suddenly got really serious and sad and we kind of fell in love with it. I recorded a voice memo of it that day and sent it to Jamie Oborne and Mark at Dirty Hit and I really wanted to rush it out, but it was too close to Christmas then, so we decided to wait until this year. I think I made it my own by just writing from the heart and letting the writing be the only thing that references Christmas, as opposed to the harmony or music.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Benjamin Francis Leftwich: I think the holiday season can be a really intense time for people and also a really easy time to get lonely or sad… Also, I think often people hit rock bottom around this time of year and are brought face to face with their own powerlessness, so I think this song kind of nods to that darker or lonelier side of the holiday season.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Benjamin Francis Leftwich: You know what, there are different kind of Christmas songs that will all hit people differently and that’s ok. It’s up to the listener what they take from a song you know but like I said, I am really proud of us for not leaning into anything Christmassy in the production or sound. Jimmy Hogarth produced this track and really did a great job of keeping it very surrendered and true, I think.



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:: Birdhead ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Colby Pines: The holidays have always felt special. As a kid, it was the allure of the lights and being out of school and the anticipation of Christmas morning. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more about being with family and friends, and reflecting on the year. I think holiday music perfectly encapsulates the many spirits of the season. It’s joyful, hopeful, and full of sorrow all at the same time. If you dig deep enough, there’s a holiday tune for everyone. Some favorites for us are: “O Holy Night,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Can’t beat the classics, especially with so many versions to love.

Miller Wright: My relationship to the holiday season is rooted in my faith. I am a Christian, so the holiday season means waiting and marking time during the weeks leading up to Christmas to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ coming on Christmas morning. The holidays have historically held some of the most memorable and joyful times with my extended family and friends, so “marking time” often means being bolstered and encouraged by memories of the holiday seasons past. One of the things I love most about Christmas music is the expanse of genres that it covers. I love everything from the pop-remakes of old Christmas classics to traditional and instrumental takes on ancient Christmas hymns. But I will say that my favorite Holiday song this season has been “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Gustav Holst. That song captures the tone of the Advent season perfectly to me; the “bright sadness” of waiting for a savior to come and man’s response to His coming.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

CP: Miller and I first wrote and recorded a different holiday song for our moms called “Christmas In My Heart.” We filmed a silly little video where we dressed as elves, then gave the song to our moms. We had so much fun working on it, we decided to make a Holiday project of our very own. We combined originals and covers with mixed music styles. “Holiday Honey” was the last song we wrote and recorded, and the entire process was done in a couple hours. Part of that had to do with the simplicity of the song and how we wanted it to sound. Andy added a third harmony that gives it a 50s-60s sound we really love. And we chose to record it really rough and add FX to make it sound like a scratchy old radio or record you found in your grandparents’ basement.

MW: Colby Pines and I shared a love for the Christmas season and loved to create and record our own music. We were relatively poor and bored during one particular holiday break in college and decided we would write a silly and overly dramatic holiday song (with an equally silly music video to accompany) that we could “give” to our families as a Christmas gift that year. The video and song were embraced fully by our friends and family, so we had no choice but to record a full Christmas EP the next year which included the original song – “Christmas in My Heart” – along with a few other covers and originals. It was great to loop our man Andy into the process for the second go around. We were just tickled pink by the whole process even though we were working with less than ideal recording equipment.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

CP: It’s kind of a love song dressed up for the holiday party. Most of all, we wanted it to be catchy, like our favorite holiday songs. It’s got an old-timey sound that’s fun and nostalgic. Plus, I mean, if nothing else, it’s got killer alliteration… “winter woman?” “holiday honey?”

MW: Recording your own holiday song captures the communal aspect of the holiday season for me. There is something cool about contributing to a vast pool of musical content that is all pointed (generally) in the same direction: to the joys and sadness experienced by humanity during the holiday season.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

CP: Hopefully it’s a pleasant change of pace without losing the plot. Maybe a reminder of a lost lover or a season past. It’s a simple, sweet, and short song. So grab your lover’s hand, share a dance, and enjoy the holidays while you can! They always end too fast.

MW: “Holiday Honey,” was a bit of a Hallmark Christmas card of a song for Colby, Andy and I. We wanted to capture the cheesy Christmas card love side of the Holidays to bookend the Christmas “album.” I don’t know that our song brings anything particularly unique or poignant to the table, but I do think it adds one more link in the chain of songs that capture the simplicity of the season. Falling in love is an elusive and complex beast of a proposition, but maybe it can be experienced in a more simple and childlike manner around the holidays!



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:: Bitch & John Cameron Mitchell ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Bitch: I always think I’m one of those bah-humbug types, and then all i have to do is hear some Christmas music in an elevator, and I’m loud-singing it for the rest of the day. I love the classics. Silent Night. Silver Bells.

John Cameron Mitchell: I had horrible holidays as a kid so i’m always a bit melancholy about them. but I love Xmas songs. Love more recent ones like Christmas is Coming Soon by Blitzen Trapper, 3000 Miles by The Pretenders, Father Christmas by the Kinks, Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade, Someday at Christmas by Stevie Wonder and the bizarrely beautiful song Christmas Eve Can Kill You by the Everly Bros.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Bitch: KRS asked me to contribute a track, and John and I had been talking about doing something together for a while, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a duet!

John Cameron Mitchell: Bitch suggested and brought on her wonderful producer Liz Kelly so it was a lockdown, record-at-home-and-email!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Bitch: I love the wholesomeness of this song. I love that it admits to this bah-humbug thing, but then your heart gets into it once ‘all the pieces’ are in the right place..

John Cameron Mitchell: We chose a great song by Guster who were label mates for our Hedwig film soundtrack. it has the appropriate sing-along hooks that make me happy.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Bitch: Some gay tinsel!!!

John Cameron Mitchell: Just more jam for the bread!



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:: Caleb Nichols ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Caleb Nichols: My favorite time of year is November and December. I’m really like the gloomier weather and I live in California so I get really happy when the temperature dips below 70, which where I’m from doesn’t happen a ton, at least these days. It was a lot colder and foggier on the California coast when I was growing up and I think that has something to do with why I like that sort of weather and why I love this season… but maybe it’s also because I’m a Saggitarius sun and Saggitarius rising?

I do really love Christmas music and have definite opinions about the best of the Christmas canon. Number One of All Time is The Nutcracker suite and tied in first place with that is Duke Ellington’s rendition. It’s just the greatest. Our town has a ballet company called the San Luis Obispo Civic Ballet that puts on the Nutcracker every year and I pretty much always try and go. It’s the most Christmassy thing I do each year.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Caleb Nichols: I’m very attracted to the melancholic feelings Christmas music evokes. It’s a season of loss and Christmas, Midwinter Night, Solstice– all of these winter celebrations are about togetherness and light in the dark in this very sad and beautiful way. So I wanted to write a song that felt like that. I’m pleased I was able to get a Charles Dickens reference in there, and at least had a moment of sleigh bells.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Caleb Nichols: Well, I think it’s sad in the right way, and I think the vibraphone and the very washed-out backup vocals add that special boozy gloss that seems to be on a lot of 20th Century Christmas music. Ian Pellicci recorded and mixed this one and he added this really great wash of reverb to the guitars that sound like a synth, which helps to that effect, too.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Caleb Nichols: I tried really hard to capture a certain “classic” Christmas song feeling and, I dunno, I think maybe I got close? I’m proud to have contributed an original melody and lyric to the Christmas song tradition and I hope people connect with it. It’s also really a song for people who don’t love this season — people who have difficult family situations, who’ve experienced loss recently– it’s really for people who are having a rough time with the season. And it’s an invitation to try and love somebody, anybody, really, to help get them through.



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:: Cory Henry ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Cory Henry: I enjoy the Holidays! I enjoy watching basketball on Christmas the most, because there are like 7 games on. I’m normally chilling during the holidays. I never really dreamed of a white Christmas, so I enjoy spending it on the west coast because it’s warm. Holidays used to be super special when I was younger. It used to include all sorts of concerts, hanging with my family, and eating good food. Some of my favorite holiday songs are “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas.”

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Cory Henry: I wrote “Christmas With You” years ago for a Macy’s promotional ad. When it didn’t get picked up, we switched it up a bit and I made it more of my own by adding a jazzy sound. Christmas was close and I felt like spreading some holiday cheer.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Cory Henry: The sounds of “Christmas With You” are festive, it sounds Christmassy to me. The sounds that were chosen, like jazz, definitely have all the elements of Christmas that I like. When I listen to the song, it makes me feel like watching one of my favorite Christmas movies. It definitely has that classic Christmas vibe to it.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Cory Henry: I don’t really worry about other people’s holiday songs. I just wanna write good holiday music. I think as long as I think it’s a good song, that’s all I care about. I’m not worried about having the best holiday song out there. I just hope when they hear my song people say “Hey that’s a good song.”



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:: Debbie Gibson ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Debbie Gibson: I am a holiday season girl! Coming from big Italian family holidays were always full of joy for me. I love the classic Andy Williams specials and the classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and I also love Sia’s originals especially Candy Cane Lane, and of course Queen Mariah and “All I Want for Christmas is You”!

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Debbie Gibson: I’m always trying to bring new ways of capturing universal ways in a mix of traditional and modern. Hearing my version of “Sleigh Ride” year after year in heavy rotation made me realize it was time to step it up as a songwriter and contribute something new! It’s easy to make an original song my own… I just really wrote what I would want to hear as a holiday music fan!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Debbie Gibson: It’s got the sleigh bells and all of the stuff we expect from an upbeat holiday song but the lyrics are really directly related to the state of the world right now. I feel like so many of us are in need of an energy shift towards the hopeful and positive right now and I hope this song does that for people and, as the song says, “forgive the past and just move on”. Holiday season to me is a chance for a fresh start!

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Debbie Gibson: I feel like “Christmas Star” has a message you can keep with you all year round which is to be the change you want to see in the world by walking the walk. It’s quite a modern message set to a very traditional message and beat. I love working with younger people and, this song was co-produced by 20 year old Sean Thomas which keeps it super connected to what’s current production wise as well. I hope this song can make people simply dance and feel good but, if they choose to dig a little bit deeper, I also hope they find year round inspiration in the message.



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:: Erez Zobary ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Erez Zobary: Growing up, I always loved the holidays (mostly because of the time off school) but I often didn’t feel represented in Christmas movies, decorations, or songs because I celebrate Hanukkah. Hanukkah was always such a fun time of the year where I got to connect with family and eat the best deep fried food (latkes, jelly donuts). Something I really appreciate is that my family never put too much emphasis on material gifts- some of my favourite gifts were socks, erasers and a bunch of chocolate coins. One year my parents got me a karaoke microphone and you can imagine that I used that a lot. I am lucky and privileged to have a supportive community of family and friends- so the holidays for me are all about connecting with people. It is always fun to experience Hanukkah with my non-Jewish friends and enjoy the traditions together. In all honesty, my favourite time of the year was just after christmas when all of the chocolate went on sale and we stocked up for the winter!!

As an adult my favourite holiday songs are: 8 Days of Hanukkah by Sharon Jones, All I Want for Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey, Home Alone, Too by the Staves, What Christmas Means to Me by Stevie Wonder, This Christmas by Donny Hathaway

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Erez Zobary: “Winter Lover” only became a holiday song later in its journey, and we chose to go this route as a nod to the specific vibe/energy of the winter and cuffing season. This time of year, particularly in Canada, has such a distinct feeling as an adult living in Toronto. We have always wanted to write and record a holiday song, and this felt like the perfect song from the next project. I made it my own by writing about my personal experiences of struggling to find romance during the winter months.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Erez Zobary: This song captures the holiday spirit and season for me both in terms of sound and topic. The sound of the song is inspired by classic winter and holiday songs and features those sounds that some of us look forward to during this time- jingle bells, glockenspiel, etc. The holiday season for me is all about coziness, comfort and having fun with people you love. I think it can be a difficult time for someone who is longing for love and thus entrenched in cuffing season. The holidays and new year are always a time of reflection for me- I’m sure to take time and space to re-evaluate if the people and things in my life are still serving me.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Erez Zobary: “Winter Lover” is a progressive take on more outdated holiday classics from the past (won’t name any names…), featuring the essential elements of any holiday banger; jingle bells, big band energy, but best of all, consent! My goal with this song was to capture an experience that is very relatable for a lot of younger adults living in the city and looking for love in a crazy and cold time.



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:: Everett Bradley ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Everett Bradley: I grew up with a mother that LOVED Christmas and everything about it. It’s never left me and I’m sort of a geek…in a non-traditional way. The element of joy that dances through the air is the thing that attracts me and what I think is a human visceral common denominator.

When I’m listening at home it’s Nat King Cole, James Brown, Vince Lombardi’s Charlie Brown, and anything Motown. O Christmas Tree, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Christmas Song (Chestnuts), Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Everett Bradley: Once I found out that the Lucille Lortel Theatre was calling the month-long celebration “TINSEL,” it seemed like the perfect title to write something new. I like how it looks, how it reflects, and how it symbolizes the holiday. I framed it as a metaphor for the joy that everyone has and its power and availability. It’s the visceral thing I spoke of earlier.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Everett Bradley: Celebration of the magic that we were born with and that we carry with us wherever we go. In a pandemic where it’s difficult and sometimes dangerous to be close to each other, people need to be reminded that we have this joy inside whenever we need it.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Everett Bradley: Self-love, and confidence in inner joy and peace. We cannot control material things, or places, and cannot always be with family or loved ones. The next best thing is ourselves.



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:: Fickle Friends ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Fickle Friends: I am a proper traditionalist when it comes to Christmas. I think because life in a band is so unpredictable…the predictability of the holidays makes me feel grounded. I love going home to see all of my old friends, watching the Mr Bean Christmas special (on VHS) with my cousin, going ice skating at Cribbs Causeway on Boxing Day. It’s just such a magical time. I’m one of those people who will never tire of Christmas song playlists so all the hits are on heavy rotation form the middle of November. (I am who I am).

Wham – Last Christmas, Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney, A Space Man Came Travelling – Chris de Burg, and the entire Kacy Musgraves Christmas album. I could go on and on…

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Fickle Friends: We have wanted to write a Christmas song for years. I’m not sure why this year was different, because previously we have failed to get in the spirit (in July) and follow through. But something about this year felt different. When we sat down to write the song, we talked about what the greatest holiday songs had in common – the conclusion we came to was that they all told some kind of story.

I asked Jack if he had any memorable stories from his childhood family Christmases, and he told me about the time he and his sisters were so excited they were jumping on the bed and he got bounced off; he hit his head and had to go and get stitches. I wrote this down followed by a few of my own festive anecdotes; my aunt playing the Elvis Christmas album in the kitchen, Ice Skating at Cribbs, my dad’s tacky decorations. I then posted a message online asking our fans for their own stories. As the responses came in I continued to scribble things down, and eventually I had an entire songs worth of ideas.

Once we had pieced all the stories together in a song structure (along with a wholesome sounding backing track of piano, bells and tubey guitar), what we had was something that felt super nostalgic, subtle, and just the right amount of Christmassy.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Fickle Friends: It’s just a feeling. The sentimentality of the lyrics and the story they tell is just so warm, you can’t help but have a smile on your face when listening. I think that’s exactly what we wanted to do…we wanted to write a song with the spirit of Christmas without explicitly using the word “Christmas” ha! Also…. it’s the bells. HA….add sleigh bells to anything and it instantly becomes a Christmas song!

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Fickle Friends: I think it’s just super relatable. We just wanted people to listen and think “omg we do that at Christmas too!”. I mean who hasn’t cried at that bit in Love Actually where Emma Thompson’s character finds the necklace, and that desperately sad Joni Mitchell song plays in the background? Who hasn’t had funny little spats with family members over where to hang the decorations? Who doesn’t know the punchline of every cracker joke? There are bazillions of Christmas songs out there, many GREAT many terrible (I would know) but I like to think ours brings a bit of magic and wholesomeness to the table. *will spend 2022 patiently awaiting a call from the John Lewis advert people*



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:: Fotoform ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Fotoform: (Kim) The holiday season has always been full of nostalgia and a bittersweet longing. I have really happy memories of Christmas with family growing up and with both of my parents and one brother gone (I lost my dad in 2019, so this is just the second year without him) the holidays have been especially tinged with a deeper yearning. Every year the holidays are a sort of balance of sweet memories and a deepened / renewed realization of loss.

Some of our favorite traditional songs include: “I’ll be home for Christmas”, “Blue Christmas,” “Sleigh ride”, as well as some non-traditional ones, like The Cocteau Twins “Frosty the Snowman”, Paul McCartney “Wonderful Christmastime”, Waitresses “Christmas Wrapping”, Wham “Last Christmas” (of course), and The Pretenders “2000 miles”.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Geoff Cox: It all happened in a bit of a rush and flurry of inspiration. We’d talked about writing something for the holidays for a few years now, but inspiration struck when Kim came across a sound on old Waldorf synth that sparked the song, which came tumbling out. Things snowballed from there…

Kim House: That sound just sort of encapsulated the mood of the holidays for me and the song came pouring out in one sitting. I added some layers and Geoff layered in guitar, but it really was a stream of consciousness written very much in the moment of embracing the emotion of the season. We rushed to put it out – December is pretty late for releasing a holiday song, but we felt so compelled to share it in the hopes that it would comfort and soothe others experiencing similar sentiments.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Kim: We wrote “They Say it’s Always Lonely” at a time when we are all experiencing loss of some kind, and as we all continue to adjust and adapt to our ever shifting “new normal”, especially as we may not be able to be with loved ones. The holidays bring with them reflection and memories of years past, which in itself is a beautiful kind of wistfulness. Even if you aren’t going through trauma or loss, there’s always that longing and nostalgia for the wonder and magic of youth. The cyclical nature of holidays provokes us to reflect on more innocent times and highlights how our relationship to the holidays changes as years go by.

Geoff: This is more of a pop song than what we normally do, but like our favorite pop songs, it is sweet and uplifting on the surface with melancholy undertones.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Kim: “They Say it’s Always Lonely” shimmers and swoons with snow globe vibes and embraces the layered emotions the holidays bring, hopefully enveloping the listener in a dreamy soundscape that brings comfort – along with an acknowledgement of the tenuous emotional dance we all do during the holiday season. On a more practical level, we are using it an opportunity for us give back to the community, with all proceeds going to benefit local food banks here in Seattle to help combat food insecurity in our community.



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:: Geographer ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Geographer: I have a mixed relationship with it. I recognize how silly it is to spread what has popularly come to be known as “good cheer,” and to refuse entry to all other emotions, especially those that are neither “good” or “cheery.” But at the same time, I love the feeling when I step out of the airport in Philadelphia and the cold air hits my face, and my best friend picks me up, and the smell of pine needles, the familiar din of voices I’ve heard since I was a baby, all yapping about nonsense and skirting around real issues with the grace and discretion of a brown bear. But the one thing that brings everyone together, at least at my house on Christmas, is music. Every year I force my tone deaf relatives (and some very talented ones and neighbors) to sing Christmas Karaoke with me playing the role of the virtuoso piano player. The thing is that I’m not terribly good at the piano, and I only play complicated jazz chords at Christmas, so once a year for 3 hours. They jeer and heckle, and beg me to play the guitar instead, but I don’t listen. Because by this time, I’m also extremely drunk on whatever bizarre European liquors I can find in my step father’s basement. My favorite song is O Holy Night, it just has the best melody, such moving changes! And you get to scream “Christ!” at the apex of the song, which is always a moment of childish glee. But Sweet Caroline has become a family favorite since the Christmas Karaoke usually and quickly devolves into my requests for peoples’ favorite songs from the 60s and 70s, and then I really have fun watching my relatives become scrappy teens in cuffed jeans and chuck taylors, and I get to stumble through my favorite musical decades.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Geographer: Given the above, adding a song to the lexicon of Christmas has always been a goal. And by always I mean maybe for five to ten years. I’m used to the Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin set, and one day I heard Donny Hathaway’s ‘This Christmas,” and I thought, whoa, you can make an extremely good modern Christmas song. My own song, “Lonely On Christmas Eve,” definitely scratches that itch to do the impossible (make a modern Christmas song that isn’t the aural equivalent of chugging a gallon of egg nog), but I did cheap considerably because it’s sad. But I’m sad. And life is sad, even on Christmas, so I hope it offers an avuncular hand on the shoulder to anyone who needs it.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Geographer: My favorite lines are in the bridge, where you can tell the narrator is used to being snarky and unsentimental about things. And he even acknowledges, through and because of his loneliness, that maybe he’s not that edgy and cool after all, and he’s basically Jimmy Stuart at the end of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” But his conversion didn’t happen because of any lesson. I think it was his life outside of Christmas that makes him see that the things it purports to mean, even if they have to be contrived and dredged up like so many tangled lights every year, are important.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Geographer: I think it will help you alienate your family, stratify the room. But it will get you a nod of admiration and acceptance from your cool niece or nephew. I think it has a place on every Christmas playlist as the song you play when most people have gone to sleep, but the diehards are there, arms draped on each other’s shoulders, staring bleary eyed into the fire, knowing that even though it’s already tomorrow, as long as they don’t go to bed, Christmas will keep on going.



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:: Gina Naomi Baez ::

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blurb by Joe Beer

In the spirit of Christmas traditions, Gina Naomi Baez returns with another original Christmas song. Glistening with crisp, icy vocals and twinkling strings, the track reflects on the more melancholy moments of the holiday season. With influences such as Sara Bareilles shining through and subtle sprigs of festivity, the track recounts past Christmas heartbreak, though is uplifted with classic Christmassy jingle bells. While this time of year can bring warmth and wonder to many, for others, it can resurface past heartbreak or elevate emotions of grief, loss and longing. Whether it be from losing someone close to you, long distance love or broken relationships, the song speaks to the more somber subjects that surround this time of year.

Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Gina Naomi Baez: The holiday season is an array of feelings for me. Yes, there is the warm, magical, exciting, joyous relationship with the holidays. But then there is also the stress, the cold, the sadness, the grief, the longing, and the loneliness. Some of my favorite holiday songs are “River” by Joni Mitchell, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand’s “Jingle Bells?” and the Glee version of “Oh Holy Night”!!!

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Gina Naomi Baez: I wrote and released my first Christmas song a few years ago and have now made it a tradition to write at least one original Christmas song every year. This year I wrote a sad Christmas song. I try to draw from my life experiences that year and just see what I come up with.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Gina Naomi Baez: I think “Tinsel and Tears” captures that feeling of the holidays that not many talk about. Dealing with grief and loss is one thing, but dealing with that during the holidays is a completely different situation. That chair at the Christmas dinner table that was full for as long as you could remember is now empty. I tried to focus on my raw emotions and see what I came up with.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Gina Naomi Baez: I believe “Tinsel and Tears” brings beautiful haunting qualities and raw relatable lyrics that everyone can relate to one way or another. It might be a story song but each section is a mini story in itself, that lends itself to the listener to interpret for themselves.



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:: James Arthur ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

James Arthur: I love the Christmas season, it’s the time when I can spend the most time with my friends and family. You can’t not love a good Christmas song, but my favourites are always the more miserable ones to be honest – a sad Christmas song. My ultimate favourite is probably Driving Home For Christmas by Chris Rea. I always do the long drive back north and it just narrates it perfectly.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

James Arthur: My friends Red Triangle (production duo) asked me if I’d ever thought about writing a Christmas song, and I hadn’t really but it felt like a great opportunity. We wrote it around April/May though, so that felt a bit weird!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

James Arthur: I mean, it’s pretty sad, but the reality is that for some people the Christmas season can be a hard time. It’s about loss, and how that loss can hit hardest at this time of year.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

James Arthur: Christmas Bells is for anyone who has ever lost someone, and dealing with that loss at Christmas time. Reflecting on memories of Christmases when they were still around. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who can relate to that.



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:: John Mark Nelson ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

John Mark Nelson:It’s a very nostalgic time for me. My dad is a musician, so this time of year calls to mind dozens of songs that he would sit and play at the piano. I also grew up in Minnesota which has the potential to be kind of a wintery playground. The snow wears on you pretty bad after a while, but during the Holidays it’s still new and novel.

I have a bunch of Holiday records that I keep on rotation but I think if I had to narrow it down to just a couple it would be:

Vince Guaraldi – A Charlie Brown Christmas
Joel Paterson – Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

John Mark Nelson: Holiday music is actually some of my favorite to listen to. But, I can never get into the spirit of it until after Thanksgiving. I always drag my feet until it’s too late to make and release something. But working collaboratively with Jenny and Jess, we kept each other in the Holiday spirit in late summer and got it done. I think because these songs have the creative voices of all three of us, they feel like they offer something unique that none of us could do on their own.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

John Mark Nelson: I think you can turn any song into an egg nog infused Holiday classic just by adding sleigh bells. Just shake those things over any song on earth and you’ve got yourself a Holiday Hit! Also, since I live in LA now, the vivid, snowy imagery of these two songs reminds me of being a kid in MN. Icy branches, snow crunching – that’s not really going to happen in LA, but I can still call those things to mind when I remember growing up in the Midwest.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

John Mark Nelson: One more thing you should feel obligated to do during the Holidays.



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:: Johnny Orlando ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Johnny Orlando: I’ve always loved the holidays since I was a little kid. For me it has always been a time where I have been able to detach from my busy schedule and spend time with family. I don’t get to see my extended family very much, so the holidays have always been the time for us to get together. My favourite holiday songs would have to be All I Want For Christmas Is You, and the whole Bieber Christmas album. That album is legendary.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Johnny Orlando: The last few years I’ve released covers of holiday songs, so this year I wanted to do something that was original. My friend Cal Shapiro who I wrote Adelaide with, sent me “How Can It Be Christmas” and I knew it was the one. We spent a ton of time on vocal production to make sure my delivery really matched the lyrics, and that it felt special.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Johnny Orlando: The whole premise of the song is how can it be Christmas time if i’m not with you. For me this could be about a relationship, a friend, or even family. I think what makes the holidays so special is being with the ones you love, so without that it never really feels right.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Johnny Orlando: I think “How Can It Be Christmas” is a really fresh and current feeling Holiday song. A lot of the classic songs that we all listen to every year are amazing, but most of them are pretty old. Other than the word “Christmas” being in the title, this song doesn’t necessarily feel like a holiday song, which I think is cool because you could listen to it at any time of year.



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:: José James ::

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blurb by Josh Weiner

When we think of “Christmas in New York,” we usually think of the giant Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree or the jam-packed Macy’s department store. But (as nearly every Xmas movie ever made stresses clearly) there has to be more than just that commercial angle, doesn’t there? Here to further explore what “Christmas in New York” may consist of is NYC’s own José James, a jazz singer I first came across when I covered the Miami orchestra Nu Deco Ensemble for Atwood last year (James was the guest artist of the group’s first show of the challenging 2020-21 season, and his presence got the year off to a promising beginning for them).

In James’ perspective, “Christmas in New York” can be further appreciated as a setting full of “trees and lights and presents meant to share,” with “the smile on faces everywhere” really elevating the feeling of joy. Winking at fellow NYC caroler Mariah Carey, he confides to his lover that “All I want for Christmas is your heart” and details how they can spend the holiday season merrily together: “Let’s light up the windows after dark, build a funny snowman in the park, and hear the children caroling making magic as they sing.”

It’s a heartwarming number, and the accompanying one-take music video contributes to that effect by showing us a Christmas-light-filled jazz studio where an all-smiles James and his talented crew are performing. For those seeking a passionate holiday season slow-burner, “Christmas in New York”  is sure to be the equivalent of a shiny new gift with a bright red ribbon.

Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

José James: Of course the holiday season makes me think of my family, especially my grandmother Nancy who’s no longer with us. She introduced me to the music of Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole and Louis Armstrong so of course I have to play classics by them like “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas.”

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

José James: Now that I’m a father I get to see the holiday spirit through my daughters eyes. She loves the wonder and the joy of the holiday season. I tried to capture the magic of my own childhood in Minneapolis combined with the majesty of a New York Christmas.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

José James: My mother always taught me that the true spirit of Christmas is one of giving. My favorite line in the song, written by Grammy nominated songwriter Talia Billig is “all I want for Christmas is your heart.” That to me sums up what so many of us few at this time of year, that our family and friends are the most important gifts that we could ever ask for.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

José James: For me jazz is the true sound of Christmas – elegant, joyful and timeless. We did our best to honor that tradition and to bring a new song for our generation to enjoy with their friends and families. Happy holidays everyone!



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:: JR JR ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

JR JR: Being a kid who didn’t enjoy school that much – having the holidays to just hang with friends and family with no homework was always the best time of the year. It was and still is a reminder to slow down and get back to the stuff that really matters. My favorite songs are certain versions of songs if that makes sense. There’s a bad version of every single Holiday song, but then Boyz II Men does it and I like it. It’s all in the interpretation to me.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

JR JR: Sometimes you just have a song that already feels like a Holiday song. This time we finally got around to finishing one of those before it was too late.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

JR JR: The rejection of consumerism while embracing the things that truly matter.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

JR JR: Not being cheesy AF! Hah. I’m not sure why everyone makes holiday songs and feels like they need to sound old and classic. Trying to change that with a song that’s more us.



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:: L.A. Exes ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

L.A. Exes (Jenny Owen Youngs): I love the holidays! I love snow, string lights, and the smell of pine trees – and I’m a huge fan of Christmas music. I grew up listening to my mom’s LP of Bing Crosby’s Christmas album every year, which helped me fall in love with one of my favorite seminal sad holiday songs, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” I also love “Blue Christmas” on the sad end of the spectrum, and “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree” and “Sleigh Ride” on the more joyful side of things.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

L.A. Exes: I usually write at least a few holiday songs every year, and thought it would be fun to write something with Sam in the L.A. Exes vibe. I tend to write more somber holiday songs, but it was really nice to do something in Exes style which is a little rowdier, and more irreverent – a fun treeside bop to go with your mulled cider!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

L.A. Exes: Sam and I really wanted to focus on feelings of togetherness and celebration for this song, which feels in line with the best parts of the holiday season. You can hear us talking to each other in the background of the track, goofing around while we were cutting the vocals, having an absolute blast. We really wanted to capture the warmth of being with loved ones at this time of year – be it friends, family of origin, or chosen family. The band feels like chosen family to me, so it was really special to make a song like this together.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

L.A. Exes: The holidays spring eternal, and I’m always happy to discover a new fun song that lights up my heart; I hope this song will do that for the people who hear it.



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:: Laufey & Dodie ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Laufey: I love the holidays so much! I have family members spread all over the world and the holidays have always been a time where we all gathered together in one place and connected through good music and food! My favorite holiday recordings are from the jazz era – Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald’s are the sound of the holidays to me!

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Laufey: My favorite genre of music is jazz, and the holidays are the time of year that jazz music gets to shine so I was always sure that I wanted to record a holiday song! I’ve been a huge fan of dodie’s for years so I’m so honored to have her join me on this track. We added our own twist by arranging piano, vocals and clarinet as well as writing a little bridge!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Laufey: The lyrics of “Love To Keep Me Warm” are all about keeping loved ones near during this cold season which is the essence of the holidays to me!

I love the winter weather
So the two of us can get together
There’s nothing sweeter, finer
When it’s nice and cold
I can hold my baby closer to me
And collect the kisses that are due me
I love the winter weather
‘Cause I got my love to keep me warm
Winter’s upon us, so won’t you stay?
With me from Christmas to New Year’s Day
Don’t leave me alone (I won’t)
Let’s light a fire and let it snow

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Laufey: With “Love To Keep Me Warm”, dodie and I bring our own modern twist to a classic Christmas standard. We mix the old and new world to create that nostalgic holiday feeling that we all love.



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:: Logan Lynn ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Logan Lynn: My relationship with this particular holiday season — and with holidays and birthdays, in general — has changed a lot over the years. I love pretty things and getting presents, so that part has always been good with me, but the forced joy and celebration used to feel really gnarly, back when I was experiencing isolation or had some sort of mental or behavioral health crisis going on. I’m a person in longterm recovery now, about to celebrate 14 years off the sauce and blow, so the open wound this time of year used to poke at has actually healed a bunch. I’ve still got some residual trauma from my conservative evangelical upbringing that makes an appearance periodically during December, and I really hate hearing old church songs dressed up as yuletide cheer, but otherwise I am very down to have an excuse to get together with the people I love, shower them with gifts, play with the baby doggos, and eat until we burst. I think my favorite holiday songs are always tracks that are maybe Christmas or holiday-adjacent, but never a carol. Like…Die Hard is for sure my favorite Christmas movie, but is that shit even really about Christmas? I say yes, and that ambiguity is what makes it palatable. Same goes for Xmas songs. F*** it up and I’ll listen.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Logan Lynn: “It’s Christmas, Motherfuckers!” was written over the 2020 winter holiday season when it really did seem like everyone I know and love was going to die. A bunch of my friends and loved ones did. The pandemic loss and suffering felt very similar to what an entire generation of LGBTQ+ people — myself included — already lived through in the 80s and 90s with the AIDS crisis; a pandemic that took most of our elders away from us, made us afraid to be around one another at the time, and ultimately traumatized everyone who managed to survive to tell the tale. Many of us have already built a skillset around this sort of thing — not that any of that made things easier. In many ways, it was so deeply familiar and triggering, that very familiarity may have made things feel worse. At any rate, my experience of all of this turned into this song. I think people like us deserve a Christmas tune we can relate to. Our experiences are valid this time of year, too.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Logan Lynn: The song is about sex and drugs and death and all the things we lost in the fire. It’s an acknowledgement that throwing Christmas lights and paper snowflakes on top of carnage doesn’t do much but highlight the carnage in new ways. Just because it’s December doesn’t mean we get to forget about everyone and everything that is no longer here. If anything, it’s more pronounced. I’m screaming about all of this stuff myself because it has felt for years that there have not been enough people screaming. Now is the time to break stuff and dance. I don’t make the rules.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Logan Lynn: Profanity and softcore gay pornographic imagery on the surface, layered over deep inter-generational community trauma. Enjoy!



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:: LØLØ ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

LØLØ: I really love the magic of the holiday season, but I HATE THE COLD. So it’s a love-hate for sure. The love definitely outweighs the hate, though. I love Christmas movies, Christmas sweaters, and especially Pillsbury Christmas cookies. My favorite holiday songs are probably all the classics— Jingle Bell Rock, Rockin Around the Christmas Tree and All I want for Christmas is You, of course.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

LØLØ: I truly never thought I would EVER write a Christmas song. When my label suggested I write one, I think I literally said “that will never happen, I’m sorry”. I guess it was just really out of my comfort zone in terms of writing, so I didn’t think I could do it or that I wanted to do it. Less than a month ago, I woke up and just felt really inspired. I had the idea to write a song called “christmas vacation”, that wasn’t really structured like a traditional Christmas song at all. The song at its core is more of a sad-girl/singer-songwriter-y song. I think it’s cool because I stayed true to my own style, but infused Christmas into the lyrics. Once I started writing it, the Song came pouring out in 20 minutes. It was a Sunday and my studio I’d normally go to was closed, so I ubered over to my producers AirBnB and recorded it in the kitchen! Mixed & mastered it the next day, so we had enough time to submit it to come out before Christmas. It was a crazy fast process (doesn’t usually happen that fast!)

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

LØLØ: For me growing up, Christmas vacation was always a time for me and my family to get away and escape from reality— 2 weeks of fun and excitement before heading back to school, work, and real life. In terms of my love life, I also happened to experience a different kind of escape around this holiday time. So I guess this time of year, whenever it gets cold or starts to snow, always gets me in my feels and reminds me of that person.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

LØLØ: I think my holiday song is unique in the sense that it isn’t that “holiday-y”. It’s an acoustic singer-songwriter song, but it uses Christmas time as a metaphor. I tried to take that exciting feeling of escaping from reality and compare it to the same feeling a person can give you.



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:: Lyn Lapid ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Lyn Lapid: I love the holiday season, it’s a time I can just relax and stay home surrounded by pretty Christmas decorations. My favorite Christmas songs of all time would probably have to be “Last Christmas” by Wham! and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Nat King Cole. I always have them on when I’m setting up the Christmas decorations.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Lyn Lapid: I love listening to holiday music, even throughout the year when it’s not even near Christmas time. I thought it’d be so fun to put out my own holiday songs this year. I’m really big on adding as many background vocals that I can to a song I’m working on, so I made these holiday songs my own by adding as many as I could.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Lyn Lapid: “Messed Up on Christmas” was more of a sad song, but I feel like it captured the holiday spirit with all the string tracks in it. I even made sure to add strings in “Candy Cane Kisses” as well. I feel like strings in holiday songs gives me that old timey Christmas song feel, and I wanted to have that in my own holiday songs.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

Lyn Lapid: I feel like they bring a fresh sound to Christmas songs for sure. I’ve only heard a handful of sad Christmas songs, and I’d say “Messed Up on Christmas” is the perfect new sad Christmas song. “Candy Cane Kisses” definitely gives me some lo-fi vibes with the ukulele as the main instrument, which I haven’t seen in any Christmas songs yet.



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:: Maggie Szabo ::

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blurb by Josh Weiner

Maggie Szabo may hail from Ontario, Canada, but it’s in two of the most prominent music capitals of the United States — first Nashville, and currently Los Angeles — where she’s elected to test her fortunes as an indie pop singer. For one of her latest singles, she’s joined in the studio by fellow L.A. transplant Dylan Chambers, a genre-fluid Texan who can rock both the vocals and the guitar. Together, Szabo and Chambers have pulled together a moving holiday-season-ready number called “Christmas Without You.” The melody, at times evocative of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” is gentle and delicate, with a 30-second electric guitar stretch to spice things up. Meanwhile, the lyrics evoke the intimacy and coming-together-ness that “the season of love, the time of year for giving” is so well known for. Together, Szabo and Chambers have produced a Christmastime collaboration that’s worth checking out.

Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Maggie Szabo: For me, the holidays are for family time! Since I live in LA and my family lives in Canada, I don’t get to see them as often as I would like to. This time always means so much to me because as the world slows down, it allows me to be able to just spend time with them without as many distractions. My favourite holiday song is Silent Night because that was my grandma’s favourite, so it always reminds me of her!

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Maggie Szabo: Dylan Chambers and I were inspired to write ‘Christmas Without You’ because there is always so much love tied around this time of year so it’s really effortless to write about! I always love writing holiday songs because they get me in the festive spirit, and it’s a different style of pop music than I usually gravitate towards, which is fun. To make it our own, we added a bit of pop-soul to it, while still keeping it traditional.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Maggie Szabo: ‘Christmas Without You’ captures the holiday spirit for me because the song is about spending the holidays without that one person you miss the most, and with the last couple of years we’ve had, a lot of people can relate to that. Most people relate the holidays to spending quality time with the people they love, so when that one special person is missing, it doesn’t feel quite the same.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Maggie Szabo: ‘Christmas Without You’ brings a sense of realness to the table that a lot of us have had to experience the last couple years. I think it’s really relatable right now.



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:: Mike Mentz ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Mike Mentz: The holiday season was always a big warm blanket when I was growing up. My family celebrated Christmas at my grandma’s house every year — big ol tree, eggnog, Chipmunks Christmas song in the background…the whole nine yards. A warm crackling fire and Nat King Cole’s soft dream of a voice is pretty close to perfection for me come December. An eclectic few of my favorite holiday tunes: I Want An Alien For Christmas (Fountains Of Wayne), All That I Want (The Weepies), Fairytale Of New York (Bob Schneider), Last Christmas (Jimmy Eat World), What Are You Doing New Years Eve? (Ella Fitzgerald), It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (Bing Crosby).

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Mike Mentz: I wrote and recorded this song a year ago in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house. It was the eighth month of the pandemic, and while I was experiencing a sort of stagnant depression from having all of my hoped-for plans scrapped and from spending so much time inside, I was also feeling impossibly grateful that my little pandemic-pod of immediate family would be able to be together for the holidays. I imagined what the season would feel like for the Covid-affected folks sequestered in a room without anyone, experiencing the spectrum of holiday emotions in yuletide solitary confinement. This song is my way of including them at the bedecked table.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Mike Mentz: Even though this song paints a more somber scene of solitude, I hope the holiday spirit still shines through strongly when you listen. Reaching out to family and friends, regardless of your circumstances, in whatever way you can. Gratitude for what you have. Hope that next year will be better than the last. The warmest and most magical holiday emotions are all there, even at a distance.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Mike Mentz: There’s no shortage of incredible holiday songs about spending time with family and friends. I think what I most love about this song that came out of me during a pandemic is the embrace that it offers to someone who finds themself exiled during a season that celebrates the opposite. It’s a weird, hollow feeling fueled by a very particular emotional cocktail of memories, traditions, and heightened self-reflection. I hope this tune is a seat on the warm family room couch to anybody feeling left out in the cold. Cheers to us all.



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:: Miki Ratsula ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Miki Ratsula: I’m Finnish, so the holidays are a really special time (Santa Claus lives in Finland). We celebrate the holidays in a very traditionally Finnish way. I’m actually going to Finland for Christmas this year for the first time ever! I can’t wait to spend it with my extended family and in the snow. My favorite holiday songs are Mistletoe by Justin Bieber (such a classic), Last Christmas by Wham!, and Voiko Pukki tulla? by Super Janne and Mariska.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Miki Ratsula: I was actually planning on just recording a holiday cover. I made a joke about making my own song instead, so I played around with my ukulele and improvised over voice memo and my song, ‘Love in the Winter’ was born. That same night I finished writing it and producing it. Now it’s one of my favorite things I’ve made.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Miki Ratsula: Production wise, I made sure to include some classic holiday themes like the sleigh bells and chimes. The music video, for me, is what really captures the feeling though, as it’s footage from me and my fiancée’s first ever trip to NYC in the winter. We played in the snow, ice skated, drank hot chocolate, all those timeless holiday memories. I love watching that video around the holidays, it gets me right into the spirit.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Miki Ratsula: The holidays are a rough time for a lot of queer people. With it being so heavily tied to religion and family, I wanted to create a song that was made by a queer artist for a queer audience. This song is made purely for the people who need it most right now. To really hit home the queerness of the song, I even have my fiancée singing the last chorus with me. Just added that special little touch.



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:: Neon Trees ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Neon Trees: I love the holidays, due mostly impart to my mother, who always made it a winter wonderland even though we grew up in Southern California. I feel like my sense of Christmas came from her sense, which was the classic Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis kitchy 40s, 50s 60s thing which morphed into a very ’90s “Home Alone,” Mariah Carey and all of those Christmas compilations that our family would collect that had Elton John or No Doubt or even Weezer doing Christmas songs. I know a lot of that informed my own bands original holiday songs as well.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Neon Trees: Partly that instilled appreciation for these yearly reoccurring “classics.” There’s something about a holiday song that gives you way more room to get away with tropes or tradition even though holiday songs are quite confining in what makes a holiday song a holiday song. I wanted to lean in to the “classic” aspects… the jangly guitar, the bells, the Melody even.. all feel very instantly familiar to an American holiday song.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Neon Trees: Besides the production and tone, which sounds like Neon Trees but also sounds like the kitchy Christmas music I was brought up on, it places you in an immediate setting: a holiday party, the sort of reluctance but submission to the “Christmas spirit”. The visuals of decorating the house, the cards from friends, family and “former lovers”, the boozy egg nog, the will they won’t they of the mistletoe. I wasn’t reinventing the wheel, which again in the case for Christmas music, embracing the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality is what helped make “Holiday Rock” feel more effortless. I also thought about it in terms of repetition: can this be played for seasons to come and not sound dated. I feel like it accomplishes that, although I suppose get back to me In a few years.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Neon Trees: “Holiday Rock” is really slang for cocaine. It gets everyone shakin’. It starts the party. I’m completely kidding of course. No really, I am.

I suppose it’s the idea that it it’s true to my sensibilities, it’s not religious or an earnest or saccharine commentary on the holidays. It’s simply a get the party started and spike the egg nog bop. I think for me these days, my favorite part of the holidays is the excuse to get together, get dressed up, take yourself less serious than usual. I’m not sure that’s revolutionary, but to me it doesn’t have to be. It’s a holiday song. It’s winter break. It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. It’s fun.



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:: Olivia O’Brien ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Olivia O’Brien: I don’t really like the holidays, it gets harder as you get older. The magic disappears and it just feels like any other day. It’s kind of depressing sometimes but I am trying to work on bringing that feeling back. Lately I’ve been going to Ohio to visit my grandparents for Christmas and it has been making me feel like a kid again. My favorite Christmas songs are pretty obvious ones… All I Want For Christmas is You and anything by Michael Bublé. I also love the songs that Tyler the Creator made for the Grinch soundtrack a few years ago. They are very underrated.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Olivia O’Brien: I wanted to try to rekindle my relationship with the holidays and bring back that magic feeling. I thought that maybe if I made my own song it would help ignite that. I also just loved how fun it was to create.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Olivia O’Brien: I think it pretty perfectly describes how I have felt about the holidays and how I want to feel. It’s almost like I am manifesting some holiday spirit for myself this year.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Olivia O’Brien: I think my song provides the perspective of someone who is growing up and starting to dread the holidays. A lot of young adults can probably relate to that feeling.



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:: OSKA ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

OSKA: I‘m always at home during the holidays which makes it one of my favorite times of the year. I love being with my family. Around Christmas we’re singing a lot together, going for walks, eating really good food. We usually listen to a lot of Irish music during this time, or very traditional holiday songs.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

OSKA: I loved when Phoebe Bridgers started covering Christmas songs and I think that that made the idea very appealing to me. Haha. Of course she picked out the very best and most beautiful songs. So I tried to find a song that isn‘t well known and to also find an instrument that compliments it well but isn‘t your typical choice. So we decided to record a harmonium, which really helped me to shape the song and make it my own.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

OSKA: Traditionally the song was performed as a Christmas carol. I love the idea of people going from house to house and doing something nice for others by singing for them. So this song in particularly captures joy and also something truly festive.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

OSKA: I love how intimate the song is. It doesn‘t need much for it to work or to translate the essence of a Christmas/holiday song.



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:: Peach PRC ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Peach PRC: I hate Christmas, and have a horrible relationship to the holidays, but I vibe with that Ariana Grande song “Santa Tell Me.”

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Peach PRC: I was dating a guy at the time who loved Christmas with a passion, but I couldn’t stand all the cheery Christmas songs when Christmas is such a miserable time for me. So I wrote “Christmas Kinda Sucks” for all the people who don’t enjoy the holidays either.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Peach PRC: Christmas in Australia is always hot, but we still decorate and celebrate as if it’s snowing for some reason. So I mentioned the styrofoam white in my song because that’s how it all feels to me, very fake and commercial.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Peach PRC: I haven’t heard many “anti-Christmas” songs and not everyone loves Christmas or has family to celebrate with, so this one is for them!



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:: Shannen James (w/ Paul Dempsey) ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Shannen James: Christmas and the overall holiday season have always been one of my favourite times of year for so many reasons. Probably the most important though would be getting to spend lots of time with family and friends (plus all the pretty decorations and plethora of corny Christmas movies hahah). I remember having a Christmas CD that got soooo worn out after just a couple of years we replaced it multiple times. It was a compilation of all the classics from Wham, Jackson 5, Nat King Cole, Elvis and plenty more, and would be played most days leading up to Christmas in our household. But let’s be honest.. all you need to hear is that opening line of ‘I I Iiiiiiii’.. Mariah is Christmas queen and I love it.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Shannen James: I have always been a sucker for a holiday song and have very fond memories of singing along to them with my grandparents. So for me, it was only a matter of time before I did one myself! I had a song sitting in my SoundCloud demo playlist for about 2 years and when I had mentioned the possibility of a holidays song for this year, this one just seemed like an obvious choice. It already had such a sense of self and its own world that there wasn’t really a whole lot to do other than finish off writing it and then see if maybe we could get someone to duet with me. I was lucky enough to have had supported and sung with Paul Dempsey at one of his shows so when we thought about who would be a good fit, he immediately came to mind. Now it was just a matter of seeing if he would be at all interested! Turns out he was and we got to finish the song off together over zoom along with Dylan Nash producing and it came together really seamlessly and effortlessly if I may say so myself! 🙂

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Shannen James: For me, it captures a real honest and I guess quite the sober holiday spirit rather than an over joyous one which would maybe be more typical. There is so much hype and excitement that surrounds the holidays that sometimes it can be such a letdown if it doesn’t all go according to plan, ie. the person you’ve been crushing on doesn’t show up to the New Years Eve party that you’ve been dreaming about and planning out in your head for as long as you can remember. It’s nostalgic and 80’s tinged which I feel like naturally makes me want to slow dance under a disco ball too.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Shannen James: As mentioned before, I feel like this is maybe a less typical holiday song. It’s melancholy and dreamy but still with a sense of hopefulness and anticipation which I think shows a full range of emotions that we can all sometimes feel around the holidays. There’s a little something for everyone in this song and its heartbreaking beautiful message that sometimes our New Years Eve wishes don’t always come true, or do they?? Choose your own ending!



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:: Side Saddle ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Side Saddle: I love the holidays and have since I was a kid. The movies, the music, the food… what’s not to like!? I’m also really lucky to be part of a large family who genuinely enjoys spending time with each other. We cook, we watch sports, we play games, it’s wonderful. The soundtrack is always very important to me. Every year I make a Holiday Playlist, and this year I’ve got some gems like Low’s “Just Like Christmas”, Jimmy Eat World’s “Last Christmas”, Fountains of Wayne’s “Valley Winter Song”, and then some classics like Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad”, “ The Beach Boys “Little Saint Nick” and of course Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas”. I know, I know… but it’s not Christmas without hearing that song a few too many times.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Side Saddle: I wrote the song last winter and the lyrics were inspired by my Dad and I’s favorite family tradition of cutting down our Christmas Tree. Then this summer I had started building out a home studio and I used this song as the vehicle to learn how to use the new gear. Also, most Holiday songs are really repetitive, whereas “Evergreen” only has one part that repeats. I almost left it without the outro but felt like something needed to repeat in order to leave an impact and really drive home the sentiment of of it all.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Side Saddle: For me, Christmas starts with the cutting down of the Christmas Tree. My sister and I would wait for that day patiently, and as soon as it came, the music started, we’d watch Home Alone, Dad would start wearing his Santa hat… it was the best. It all started with the tree! And next year I’ll get to carry out that tradition when my wife and I start our own family (Baby is due in March!).

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Side Saddle: “Evergreen Magic” lets people in on a really intimate and very sweet family tradition that’s hopefully relatable in some way, and if not relatable maybe aspirational. The shallow pool of Holiday Songs are either sad, really poppy, or classic choral and they all live in that five-week window between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think “Evergreen Magic” can transcend that window. It’s a holiday song, sure, but you can enjoy it the same way you can enjoy Fountains of Wayne’s “Valley Winter Song” all year round. At the end of the day it’s about tradition, and the impact that that has on a kid.



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:: Sigrid ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Sigrid: I love the holidays cause it’s probably the only time a year I get to hang out with my sister, my brother and my parents all at the same time 🙂 we usually play the same records every year haha, so it varies between The Real Group – Julen Er Her, Bugge Wesseltoft – It’s Snowing On My Piano and Michael Bublé’s Christmas record, obviously.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Sigrid: Well we just thought it’d be a nice thing to do, it’s the first time I’m releasing a Christmas song.. “Home to You” has always had that Christmas vibe over it, so it felt natural to do it!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Sigrid: It’s a song we wrote about my hometown, and specifically about the living room in my childhood home with green tapestry. whenever I’ve felt homesick, I’ve pictured that living room with my parents and siblings chilling and me just playing the piano. it’s a song about home, but it could be anyone: home can be a close friend or somewhere you feel at ease!

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Sigrid: Haha, there’s so many good ones – I think “Home to You” is maybe one of the more quiet ones – and it’s a bit bittersweet I suppose, as it’s about exploring the world and doing things on your own and being homesick.. I love it and I hope it brings cozy vibes now!



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:: Sofia Talvik ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Sofia Talvik:

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with Christmas. Maybe that’s why most of my Christmas songs are on the darker side of the holidays. For many years me and my hubby would go traveling over Christmas to avoid the whole family and traditions part of it. But now we usually celebrate Christmas in Berlin with a mix of friends and family and it’s more relaxed and fun. My favorite Christmas tunes are Calexico – Green Grows the Holly, and Corb Lund – Me and these ponies. But I have gathered all my faves in a Spotify playlist that you are welcome to follow. You can find it here:

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Sofia Talvik: I’ve been keeping it a tradition for some 15 years to write and record a Christmas song every year. In the beginning it was like a fun side project and I would do everything from disco to electronica as I just wanted to explore different things. Now the Christmas songs I write are usually in my own genre of Folk/Americana. In 2017 I released a full album with all my precious Christmas songs and in December I usually tour with my Winter Concerts, which basically means I play my own Christmas songs and maybe one or two covers. I haven’t really covered a lot of Christmas songs by other artists, I tend to stick to my own.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Sofia Talvik: It’s kind of weird as an artist to write and record the Christmas song, because you really have to do it in the summer or early fall to get it done for a release in November/December. So I’m usually not really in a Christmas kinda mood when I write them. Maybe that adds to them not being overly christmassy and cheery. This year’s single actually doesn’t even have the word Christmas in it even if it’s set in Copenhagen in the winter time. It’s called “A Memory of Snow.” I have another Christmas song called ”Cold Cold Feet” that is actually so not christmassy that I kept playing it on my regular concerts all through the year too. So I think when it comes to my Christmas singles, people like them because they come as a break from all the other overly cheery classics.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

Sofia Talvik: When I started my tradition of releasing a Christmas song every year I don’t feel like it was a very common thing to do, and now all artists do it. But I don’t really care. For me this tradition is about giving a gift to my fans. My Christmas singles are always a free download. I don’t feel like I am competing with other songs or artists, I view my Christmas singles as a gift for fans and friends and hopefully they will like it!



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:: SYML ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

SYML: I have some very warm and tender holiday memories from growing up. As the magic inevitably fades as I age, it’s nice to replace it with new memories now that I have kids. My favorite holiday song is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Mostly because of its prominent placement in the movie Gremlins.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

SYML: I did a benefit show last year where I “sad-i-fied” some classic holiday songs. “Jingle Bells” was one of them that stuck with me since I have never heard a “sad” version before. I think the final product turned out somewhere between drunk and jazz. The background vocals remind me a bit of White Lotus, which I was watching at the time.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

SYML: Going back to the drunk jazz, one of my favorite parts of this time of year where I live in the northwest is cozying up to a fire with a good drink while listening to records. This song, in this form, is that vibe to me.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

SYML: I like how older holiday songs often have lyrics and arrangements that feel foreign today. The vernacular obviously changes over the years, but a lot of holiday traditions and sentiments stay the same, which is interesting. Flipping a classic song is nothing new, but this one feels relaxing, which is unusual for “Jingle Bells.”



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:: Tall Heights ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Tall Heights: My relationship with the Holiday Season is a pretty healthy one. I’m a romantic and a hedonist, so all the sentimentality and hallmark Christmas bullshit paired with a general feeling of happy cozy is a pretty nice cocktail for me. I’ve personally gone through a lot over the last 2 years that’s tried to complicate or sully that healthy relationship, the tumultuous times through which we wrote and recorded our new album, “Juniors,” but honestly at this point the joy outweighs the complications. My fav holiday songs are the ones sung by The Carpenters, Bing Crosby and, here’s the guilty pleasure one, Amy Grant. Amy Grant’s ’92 Christmas Album “Home For Christmas” was like the soundtrack of my childhood holidays, so yah…

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Tall Heights: Well, I think we’ve been toying with the idea of singing “In The Bleak” for years now. We legitimately really love the song. It’s so descriptive and aching… It’s a lot of things that we aspire to do to make Tall Heights songs. So I think we decided to do it because we were just about finished making our new album, but we were still kinda in that “go mode” make-a-record headspace. So we remotely tracked it out at our houses, and had our producer and friend Mike Mogis add some production of his own too. Then he mixed it. It was a pretty quick process, actually, I bet collectively we spent 2 days on it. To make it our own, we just tried to turn up the “bleak,” and turn up the mystery of the thing. That’s what it’s all about for us.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Tall Heights: To be honest, I’m almost sorry to say I’m currently not really devoutly into a specific religion. But I am, and have been for a long time, really into religion and religious people. I find myself legitimately fascinated by and envious of folks who speak with that glow of certainty and trust in something that’s that huge and unbelievable. I love to imagine traveling back in time to Rome to talk to the devoted followers of Zeus and Aphrodite and company, just to bask in their devoutness too as they tell me their stories of gods and their gods’ children… I think I’d be just as inspired as I feel today. I really do love it. It’s wonderful mythology and I really find it inspiring. So, yah, as I said, our version of “In The Bleak Midwinter” was recorded at home with an emphasis on “Bleak,” with an emphasis on the breathtaking beauty of mythology. It’s those ancient and enduring stories that make the holidays feel so intense, cozy and meaningful.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Tall Heights: I don’t really care how our song stacks up against the others. As I said, I really dig the song we chose in the same way that we really dig ANY song that we choose to cover… It’s a good song, and we felt there was something novel or nuanced for us to explore within it. If we did an acoustic cover of “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” I bet two unfortunate things would be happening right now : first, I’d be having a harder time getting great sleep at night, and second, I probably would have spent this whole interview lying to you about how much I care about that song, when in reality we just did the damn cover because it might play better on streaming platforms or something.



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:: TANDM ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

TANDM: Neither one of us is particularly religious, but we have always enjoyed the feelings of warmth and joy that come from the holidays. Since the start of elementary school and through university, we have always looked forward to Christmas break. Now that we have graduated, we celebrate those great feelings as we await the return of family and friends who have moved away for studies or work.

Thomas’ favourite holiday songs include “Merry Christmas Baby” by Elvis Presley and “Christmas Blues” by Canned Heat; some blue-sy Christmas classics that he loves to drum along to. My favourite holiday songs are “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby (one of my dad’s favourites), “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon, and “Silent Night” by Chilly Gonzales (definitely no bias…).

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

TANDM: We were inspired to write “Warm Me Up” by our SYNC Representative Graham Stairs. He reached out to us back in May of this year suggesting we write an original Christmas track, with the intention of placing our track in an upcoming film/TV show. However, when we started recording “Warm Me Up” with Timothy Abraham, it really stood out to us in a new way. We began to incorporate new instruments, sound samples, and jingle bells (for the first time!) as well as sing in a brighter/happier way. I think Thomas and I discovered a new way to develop our sound within this latest track; and because of that, we decided to release “Warm Me Up” as a personal single release for the holiday season.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

TANDM: Going back to what we mentioned in terms of religion, Thomas and I want everyone to connect with “Warm Me Up”. We don’t want this track to be a song specific to Christmas (although we do include references to “Christmas Day” within the lyrics), but a song that relates to the holiday season in general. When we were writing the lyrics, the most important message we wished to convey was that of warmth amidst the cold winter season. And we figured, what better way to warm up than with the love of friends and family. Oh and there’s jingle bells… those definitely help with capturing the holiday spirit.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

TANDM: The holidays are consistent in sparking joy amongst people. I think that there are many holiday songs out there that bring that joy to people, and many songs that also present the lonelier, and/or more difficult sides to the holidays. We like that our track encapsulates both of these themes, as (consistent to our band’s signature style of songwriting) the music itself is happy and bright; however, the lyrics themselves are longing for warmth and love amidst a dark cold winter. We recommend reading the lyrics without the music, so you may see for yourself!



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:: The Imaginaries ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

The Imaginaries: We have always loved the holiday season and writing/recording Christmas music. We love the classic Christmas carols like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” for example and enjoy putting our own spin on some of them as well as classic holiday hits like Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” and Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” to name a few.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

The Imaginaries: Our love for the holiday season inspires us to record our own holiday songs. We wrote our first holiday song together back in 2012 and have been doing it almost every year since. We always work on making the songs unique from one another and incorporating different chord progressions, lyrical ideas, and instrumentation.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

The Imaginaries: We feel our new original holiday single and video “Christmas Town” embodies the spirit of the holidays with the warm chord choices to the welcoming lyrics and sing a long-able tempo and feel. The new video shows what Christmas is all about – faith, love, hope, community, giving back, and having fun with friends and family.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

The Imaginaries: We strive for our Christmas songs to have a timeless sound so that year after year they will still sound relatable and refreshing. We feel that “Christmas Town” is a feel-good holiday song that people of all ages can relate to and enjoy.



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:: The National Parks ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

The National Parks: I love the holidays! Christmas has always been a magical time of year for me and now that I’ve been married to Meg for 5 years and have a baby on the way it has become even more magical. We just put up the tree and lights on the house a couple of weeks ago and have our own traditions that we have started. It’s the best. I think some of my fave Christmas songs are “Christmas Lights” by Coldplay, the She & Him Christmas album, and of course the classics as well. I really love finding new Christmas songs every year and we actually have a playlist on Spotify of all our faves called “A Very TNP Christmas” and it’s worth checking out imho.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

The National Parks: It’s kind of become a tradition for us at this point to write, record and release a Christmas song each year. It’s something we love doing and we hope that we can add to the magic of the season for our fans. Our Christmas song this year is called “New Tradition” and it’s about being alone during the holidays but wanting to work up the courage to tell the person you love how you feel.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

The National Parks: I think it captures the holiday spirit because for a lot of people it can be a weird time. And it was for me for a long time until I met Meg. I remember feeling that longing to be with someone and to experience the magic of the season with my person. It can be really hard to be surrounded by all of the Hallmark movies and the commercials and romantic Christmas songs on the radio. When you’re in that mindset it can really feel like the world is rubbing it in during this time of year. So this song is about taking fate into your own hands, having courage and going for it. Sometimes you gotta take risks to see the magic in life.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

The National Parks: We feel that our song brings our own flavor of Christmas to the world. Every year we try something new and hope the stories we tell in our songs can help people feel loved and happy and not alone during this time of year.



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:: Tim Atlas ::

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blurb by Joe Beer

Mixing things up this Christmas, Tim Atlas adds a funky flare to typical Christmas tunes in his festive new single “Christmas Coffee”. Reminiscent of the satiny vocals of Bruno Mars and new music from Silk Sonic, this song is brimming with retro riffs, wah-wah guitars and soulful serenades. Like the first sip of coffee in the morning, the track emits comforting, feel-good festive cheer and flickers with warm, yet wistful sentiment. Contrasting with the catchy up-beat chorus, the lyrics lean into love and longing of those who you wish to spend the holidays with, but aren’t around.

Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Tim Atlas: I think the holidays give me a mixed bag of emotions. I love being with family & showing our gratitude for each other with gifts and quality time. But on the other hand, I do feel like the holidays come with expectation & pressure to feel jolly.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Tim Atlas: I always wanted to make a Christmas classic! I like holiday songs that use juxtaposing sad lyrics with kind of a cheerful tone. We started there & just wrote with that foundation.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Tim Atlas: I think the holidays can be romantic, and this song has that sentiment. Also sleigh bells on any song can make anyone feel the holiday spirit.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Tim Atlas: I didn’t think about this very much if I’m being honest. I just wanted to make a holiday song that felt classic & genuine.



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:: Tom Speight ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Tom Speight: I have a strange relationship with Christmas in some ways.., I was hospitalized 3 out 5 times in a row due to Crohn’s disease during the Christmas period… so, around this time of year it always reminds me health is the most important thing rather than presents, etc. My favourite holiday jams are Sir Paul McCartney, David Bowie & Wham.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Tom Speight: A lot of my favourite artists have done Xmas songs so, it always seemed like a fun thing to do. I loved producing it & doing something a little different/light-hearted. I recorded it at RAK Studios… I’m pretty a fair few legendary Xmas songs have been recorded there.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Tom Speight: I feel like if you like my music & you wanted me to do a Xmas song. I deliver on that 🙂 It always baffles me that people seem to listen to ‘Christmas Morning’ even in the summer months on Spotify which I think is a good sign.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

Tom Speight: I think my music always tries to deliver a warm hug & I think people especially need this around the winter period. I really hope my cover of ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ & ‘Christmas Morning’ soundtrack as many homes as possible.



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:: Tom Walker ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Tom Walker: Christmas is the best holiday ever. I get to go home, see my family, take a well deserved break and a rest as Christmas is the only time that the music industry closes down. I can’t wait to drink far too much wine, eat loads of great food and fall asleep by a roaring fire with the scent of Christmas in the air!

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Tom Walker: I never really intended on writing a Christmas song, Steve Mac who I was working with asked me if I’d be up for doing one as part of a Christmas compilation involving other artists. That ended up not happening, but we did write a Christmas song together. My Grandad had sadly passed away at the start of the pandemic and I was really concerned about how my Mum was going to be at Christmas without him there. My Gran always raises a glass to anyone who can’t be there at Christmas and these events and not being able to say goodbye to my Grandad due to the pandemic led to the creation of this song. It felt like something that a lot of people could relate to, as a lot of others also lost loved ones over the pandemic so I felt like many people would connect to this song around Christmas time.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Tom Walker: Every line in that song is pretty much true to my family traditions over the holidays, apart from ‘He loved those Christmas bells’ as my Mum pointed out when she heard it that my Grandad wasn’t actually too fond of Christmas Bells, although he did love Bell’s whisky! But most of the lyrics including the one about Home Alone are literal, as it’s the only film my family can all agree on and watch every year. I tried to keep it very true to how me and my family spend Christmas

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Tom Walker: I think a lot of Christmas songs are quite happy and generic, whereas Christmas can actually be quite a tough time for a lot of people. I think this song is very honest and a bit depressing in parts. My music is often depressing with an undertone of hope and this is the same. It’s about struggling to deal with the first Christmas without a loved one who is usually there. All the great elements of Christmas are still there, but there is something missing and I feel like this is a reality that a lot of people have to deal with around the holiday period. I’ve tried to make this song as honest and realistic as I could for me and my family and our situation and I believe that will also relate to other people.



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:: Train ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Train: I think my relationship is pretty healthy with the holidays. Even though at my age there’s been plenty of loss in this human existence, there is also a great deal of new babies and fun, awesome Christmas times with family and my own children, and food, which is just kind of the excuse to do whatever you want – holiday food that is, like cookies and all that business – so I love it.

When we made Christmas in Tahoe, many of those songs that are on there, that are not written by me or Train, are my favorites like “This Christmas” and “What Christmas Means To Me.” One of the songs that does mean something to me because of my father is “The Christmas Song,” which is written by Mel Tormé, and we have not recorded that yet but maybe we will.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Train: I think it all started with “Shake Up Christmas.” That was a song that I wrote with my friend Butch Walker, who is producing our new album currently. It was so much fun that we decided maybe recording an entire album is the way to go about it, so we created a few more originals and then recorded some classics. This year, we released a brand-new, original holiday song, “Mittens,” that was featured in our Hallmark movie, Christmas in Tahoe, inspired by our Christmas album of the same name.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Train: I think writing Christmas songs is not so easy, especially when it’s probably after the holidays that you start writing and then in the summer that you’re start recording. “Mittens” is more of a love song than a Christmas song, but it just kind of fit because of the title, and I thought it would be perfect for the film and help capture the love and warmth of the holiday season.

With so many holiday song out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

Train: I think “Shake Up Christmas” brings nothing but joy. It is a little story about two kids that come from different places that want to make the world a better place through that feeling of the holidays. We made an album named Christmas in Tahoe and then made a Hallmark Christmas movie called Christmas in Tahoe, which “Shake Up Christmas” is in there, and as the lead actor says to the lead actress, “Sometimes you just gotta shake it up” and that’s what “Shake Up Christmas” is about.



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:: WALLIS ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

WALLIS: The holiday season is such a hectic time of year for me. I love the infectious holiday energy that appears the first time you see houses decorated or people singing. I’ve always felt very drawn to the atmosphere that lights and music can create as well, so I get very excited when I see holiday lights. It can also be a bit overwhelming because there is always so much to do and so many expectations, but being reminded that the holiday season is meant to be a time for giving and togetherness helps me to feel more inspired to pursue what I’m passionate about, and take a step back to appreciate everything. Man, I do love so many Christmas songs…Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses, Underneath the Tree by Kelly Clarkson I have loved since I was a kid, and of course you can’t go wrong with the classic Christmas songs everyone has known and loved forever.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

WALLIS: My dad and I worked on the song a lot together, and it was the first song I ever released. There was no strategy behind making my first single a Christmas song, it’s just what the circumstances gave to us. My dad had written a lot of the structure of “Lonely Christmas” already, and when he first played a part of it for me, we knew that it would be a Christmas song. We decided that it was a perfect time to execute it. So we spent a lot of time together for two weeks and we just worked on writing it together. Then we recorded it and brought my sisters Maren and Soleil in to sing some harmonies. We also had some amazing friends/session musicians record and email us tracks that we then imported into the song.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

WALLIS: “Lonely Christmas” captures the holiday season for me because the holidays are so fun, but the most important part for me is definitely connection. I feel that “Lonely Christmas” shows that during times like the holidays, it can be difficult to enjoy them when you feel isolated or lonesome but you can be hopeful, and feel a sense of comfort knowing you’re not alone in feeling this way. In the end of the song I have a more positive outlook on the situation but throughout most of the song, I am going through a little bit of a mental battle while trying to remain optimistic. I feel that this is accurate for me during the holiday season because it can be overwhelming, and being accepting and trusting that things will work out is the key to enjoying the holidays.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

WALLIS: I think “Lonely Christmas” is a little bit different from other holiday songs because it was written from the perspective of a teenager in a pandemic, even though it is discussing a feeling that I think many people have every year. The song doesn’t exactly open like a jolly old Christmas song, but by the end it really turns into a party, We wanted it to feel like the end of a Saturday Night Live episode. We wanted the song to be a journey from dark to light, and we hoped that people would feel connected to it. I just got an email that “Lonely Christmas” debuted at #30 on the A/C Billboard charts, so I hope that that means that it’s resonating with a few people out there! AAH! So crazy. So grateful to be able to share this music with so many people. Music is truly my language. Merry Christmas!



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:: Will Joseph Cook ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Will Joseph Cook: I don’t go too crazy on the festivities, but I do love how everything chills out and everyone has the time to be together. I like the more old school ones, stuff like ‘white Christmas’ and ‘rocking around the Christmas tree’ just because they remind of being kid. They were the ones my grandparents would be playing when we would go and stay for the holidays.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Will Joseph Cook: I really didn’t want to write something disingenuous. I think that’s what put me off writing a holiday song in the past, I didn’t want it to just be some cliche filled thing. Last year in England we weren’t allowed to get together with different households (I’m sure a lot of the world was similar) so it left a lot of us on our own. The fact that this year I actually get to see people has me so excited, that’s what inspired the lyrics.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Will Joseph Cook: For me it’s the chords, those jazz inspired progressions always make me feel really cozy and sentimental.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brins to the table?

Will Joseph Cook: I feel like it’s just really earnest and relatable, it’s as much a love song as it is a Christmas. I feel like the holiday season always has you longing to be close to the person you love, so I wanted to capture that feeling of taking the step to invite someone to yours for Christmas.



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:: Wrabel ::

Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Wrabel: My favorites are really just anything Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett sing – something about the crooners makes me feel so warm and nostalgic. I used to listen to it a lot with my grandpa and it brings back so many beautiful memories of our whole family together. I quite like the holidays… cozy, lots of love and gifts and laughs and smiles.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Wrabel: I love the holidays and wanted to put something together to share with whoever is listening that may offer some joy or hope or comfort during the holiday season. With the cover, I wanted to do something that felt authentic to me and really try and make it my own with the production and vibe. I worked closely with mona; she is absolutely brilliant!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Wrabel: I tried to capture both the highs and lows of the holidays. I know what it’s like to feel out of place in my hometown, so I wanted to talk about that, and I also wanted to celebrate the joys of the season.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your EP bring to the table?

Wrabel: I think it offers a different take on the holidays, and something for everyone. If the holidays make you happy or sad or something in between, I think there’s a song for you.



 

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2020’s Best New Holiday Songs

:: MISTLETONES ::

2019’s Best New Holiday Songs

:: MISTLETONES ::

Atwood Magazine Presents: Mistletones, Pt. I

:: FEATURE ::

Atwood Magazine Presents: Mistletones, Pt. II

:: FEATURE ::


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