With Jack Frost nipping at our noses, the holiday season is at full-tilt.
And with that has come the barrage of retail store holiday music pumping out the same old same old, delighting some and irritating others.
But there’s always some fresh holiday music that comes fluttering in, whether it’s originals or new takes on the classics.
Enter SoCal singer-songwriter Leah James, daughter of Eagles founder Don Felder, who is set to release her first holiday EP, December, tomorrow, December 23rd. The four-track album features both holiday and cinema classics.
The EP’s lead single, “Blue Christmas,” dropped this past Monday, and like the rest of the tracks on the EP, offers a beautifully atmospheric and ethereal feel, eliciting the magical feeling the holiday season brings.
December is also inspired by the golden age of cinema, and the holiday classics featured are hushed one minute and as lush as a Hollywood film score the next. Layering cinematic flourishes and ethereal production over James’ signature vocals, the EP offers a provocative twist on some of the most beloved hits from the Great American Songbook. “I learned a profound message from my dad,” she reflects. “The only thing that really matters… is how the actual music makes you feel.”
The follow up to her 2018 solo debut, While She Sleeps, James’ musical output is deeply inspired by her role as a single mother to 7-year-old Eva, who she shares with ex-husband Brandon Jenner. “She’s watching me to see what I’m gonna do with my life,” James told Billboard. And while parenting may seem like it would make pursuing a music career near impossible, James finds that it motivates her to be at her most productive and creative.
We got the chance to chat with James about the new EP, what these songs mean to her, and much more.
So how has 2022 treated you? Any notable highlights?
2022 has been a good year – I feel like it’s a lot lighter. 2022 was a time when the world opened up and my daughter and I got to enjoy life and reemerge.
You’ve got your new and first holiday-oriented EP, December, dropping this Friday. What made you choose these select songs to cover for your album?
These songs are so classically ingrained in our culture, and most of them have been sung by men with these iconic beautiful male vocals, so I wanted to reintroduce them into the world with my own female version, and I was inspired in that way.
Where was it recorded and who helped your vision come to life?
We recorded in Venice, California, and I worked with a producer named Jake Falby, who is exceptionally talented. He’s a really wonderful string player as well as an exceptional producer. We worked together at his studio, as well as another studio in North Hollywood.
I found it interesting you chose what’s essentially the Disney anthem in “When You Wish Upon A Star.” What made you want to meld Christmas/holiday songs with this song? (and “Toyland” for that matter) What makes these songs so special to you?
Well, I think “Toyland” is a Christmas song! And “When You Wish Upon A star” is such a beautifully magical song, and Christmas is such a magical time, it just sort of fit. I wanted to record a rendition that my daughter could listen to every year. She loves the song very much.
The songs are all very airy, atmospheric, and ethereal. Was this your intention going into the studio, and what made you choose to go this route?
Yes, I think that’s kind of my thing – atmospheric, ambient, and a little spooky. I wanted the songs to feel very ethereal and dreamlike.
What other holiday/classic songs do you hold dear that maybe were in contention for you to cover?
I really love The Classic Christmas Album by Willie Nelson, and was very tempted to record “Pretty Paper.” What an unbelievable lyric.
Do you have any specific family Christmas traditions you look forward to other than the usual?
We usually walk the Venice canals and look at the lights, and being in Southern California, we also do a Christmas Day beach walk.
What are some of your goals or plans – whether musically or otherwise – for 2023?
I am very excited because I have a couple of projects in the works that are really beginning to take shape. I can’t tell a lot about them right now, but there’s a lot to come in 2023.