Two artists talk about making Christmas music, and one last Christmas music round-up for the season.

Roy Wood photo
Roy Wood of Wizzard and friend

What are some of the things you have to think about when making Christmas music? During the year, I interviewed Kishi Bashi and hip-hop singer Suave for other purposes, but we got around to Christmas music and a little insight.

Kishi Bashi: “It’s Christmas but It’s Not White Here in Our Town”

“That was for one of my Kickstarter backers. He lives in Florida and it never snows at Christmas. It’s a weird, melancholy twist on a traditional view of Christmas. 

I love Christmas music and the feeling of Christmas. I grew up with it - Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and the like. I like that time of the year, so it’s really easy for me. That track is interesting because I used this technique where I record it and slow down the mix until my voice sounds a little like a hermaphrodite. I pitched the whole track down, and it opens up a lot of space and you can hear the vocals more clearly.” 

Nate “Suave” Cameron: “Santa Knows I’ve Been Bad (And That Ain’t No Good)”

Nate “Suave” Cameron splits time between New Orleans and Cincinnati, and he recorded this song for a benefit album for Childhood Hunger Solutions, an organization that helps feed homeless children in Cincinnati. 

“We wanted to make a fun holiday tune that was kid-appropriate. I wanted it to be something kids could sing. The next word that comes to mind when I think of holidays is “family,” and I have some music that my family can listen to. To be completely transparent, we also did this with the hope of licensing it.”

In Other Christmas Music News

- There are no shortage of reasons to take issues with Arizona’s Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County. Everything about this story is wrong:

Christmas music played in Phoenix jails for 8,500 inmates has been cut from around-the-clock to a couple of hours twice a day.

In December 2005, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio wanted to lighten the mood in the jails for both the inmates and the detention staff, so he ordered Christmas music to be played 24 hours a day. But instead of lightening the mood, he only irritated inmates.

Arpaio said he has heard the complaints from inmates and will now only play Christmas music for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

Christmas music played in the jails includes artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Elvis, Julio Iglesias and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

The selection also includes music from various faiths, such as Mormon to Agnostic and Christian to Jewish.

- NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson is notorious for his affection for low-key, melancholy downers, so it’s no surprise that this year he prepared a piece titled “Have a Sullen Little Christmas”:

Less than a week before Christmas, holly-jolly holiday music abounds — and if you're not feeling holly or jolly, it can be a little hard to take. For NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and Morning Edition producer Travis Larchuk, the holidays often mean searching for alternatives: In Thompson's case, it means diversions into melancholy, while Larchuk often seeks something cutting or sarcastic or hyperrealistic to cut through the treacle.

The two recently sat down with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep to share some of their favorites, adopting the personas of "Sad Santa" and "Bad Santa" along the way. For the occasion, each chose three songs.

For more of the story online including the audio, visit NPR.org

- Recently, Entertainment Weekly interviewed Taylor Swift about Christmas music among other things. (Her version of Wham!’s “This Christmas” is good and emotionally far more age-appropriate than the original):

The first song you want to listen to when you start playing Christmas music each year?

So many! Colbie Caillat has a great Christmas album I’m obsessed with. I love the She & Him Christmas stuff. Bing Crosby, of course. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey. Beach Boys have great Christmas music. Train has this song called “Shake Up Christmas.” I have so many favorite Christmas songs right now.

What’s the hidden-gem Christmas song you wish more people knew about?

Huh … Can I get out my phone?

Absolutely. That’s not cheating.

Okay. I’m on it! … There’s one called “It’s Christmas Time” by Jules Larson, that I find to be just delightful. Oh, and Fountains of Wayne has a song called “Valley Winter Song.” I’m obsessed with it and I’ve turned it in my mind into a Christmas song.

And what is the one Christmas song that you cannot stand?

I don’t have one really. I only download the ones I like.

- On his Quality Street album, Nick Lowe covered Roy Wood and Wizzard’s “I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day,” one of those songs that’s an inescapable part of Christmas in England that has barely creased the American consciousness. The Telegraph’s Jeff Evans wrote the stories behind the songs and their Christmas battle:

Slade and Wizzard are as much a part of the British festive season as mince pies and crackers, their Christmas songs — anthems of good times as well as goodwill — heard more widely than traditional carols. Like it or not, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without Noddy Holder and Roy Wood. Their songs ­ Merry Xmas Everybody and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, have become so intrinsic to festivities that they have transcended the era in which they were made – exactly 40 years ago when they battled it out for chart supremacy. In doing so, they revived the then dying tradition of the Christmas single but their success would also mark the end of a golden period for both Midlands bands.

For the rest of the story, visit The Telegraph.

- Videogame maker Square Enix (Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger) has remixed music from its games for the holiday. You can hear the tracks as YouTube clips or download them at SquarePortal.net.

- Ukelele whiz Jake Shimabukuro has made his name with his remarkable cover versions of classic songs. This week, he turns his talents to “We Three Kings”:

Finally, here’s the My Spilt Milk’s  Christmas mix, which you can also download if you like.