Peter Hollens is known for his impressive a cappella renditions of popular songs, as well as his takes on songs from various fandoms. But with his first-ever Christmas album, A Hollens Family Christmas, the independent YouTube star adds something of his own to the conversation, in the form of an original tune.
"December Song"--which appears on the album in both a cappella and instrumented (gasp!) form--serves as the anchor for the project, the focal point and overriding message Hollens wants to get across.
Was there a moment or a memory that illuminated in your mind to create this song? Some personal story from your past or present that found its way to the page in the form of this song?
I remember coming down the stairs Christmas morning in my family home, and how special that time was. I would give anything to go back and experience that one more time. We have so few special moments in our life like that, so connected with our family, and in that moment you don't know how special it is. On a larger scale, if I could write every song about world peace, I would. My aim was to write a song with meaning, that hopefully sticks in people's minds and helps them to change the way they treat each other.
You have two versions of "December Song" ... one is with instruments (a rarity for you), and the other is a cappella. Talk about the two different versions and why you chose to present both styles. But really, why instruments when you've built a career off of mouth sounds and claps?
I want to really start exploring more ways to be creative, and exploring other instruments is an obvious choice for me. After touring and working with The Piano Guys, I was incredibly moved by the powerful emotion that strings (specifically cello) and piano allow. This is why when I first wrote "December Song" I imagined it for cello and piano--and of course an a cappella version because I want to always continue making a cappella songs for my supporters. But I believe every original I write for now on will have both an instrumental version and an a cappella version! I mean, how cool is it to provide two pieces of content to my supporters for each original? I think that's a ton of fun!
Are you the kind of guy who is ready for Christmas to end on Dec. 26 (or Jan. 1), or are you someone who hangs onto the season for as long as possible?
This is an easy one! As you can imagine, given the context for "December Song," my entire push for this album is to hopefully instill in people the idea that the "holiday season" doesn't need to be just one time of year. We can take those themes and moments, and use them to transform the way we see the world. To focus on love and community and passion and peace.
You sing the phrase: "It lights up my memories / the magic of love / we made time." Talk about the power of "making time." What are your thoughts about intentionality as it comes to loved ones?
Intentionality can be hard for me to grasp. One of the things I remember most from my childhood is how special Christmas and holiday time was, and what an important experience my mom always created for us. She turned the occasion into this magical experience, and specifically the second verse about the radiance, again reminds me of rushing down the stairs and seeing the lights on the tree and reflecting off the walls, the warmth, the entire ambiance. It still really does light up my memories, that magic.
My mom always made it a huge point to make time for us. One of my biggest difficulties in life is not making the time that I need for my family, not balancing that work/family relationship. I hope that I'll one day be able to find that balance. So the verse is a plea to myself, and to mankind, to make time for each other, our family, and friends--to be conscientious of that all year.
What are some ways that you feel challenged to live this out all year long? Why do you think we lose sight of this so quickly?
I think we lose sight of this because we are so driven by capitalism and the media and just getting through the day. We get a little bit of time off at the holidays, but we need to make that time for our family and friends all year. It takes us out of this mundane, almost zombie-like approach to life, and allows us to be much more thoughtful of the way we treat one another, and treat ourselves.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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