Contemporary Christian crooner/pianist Caleb Collins has released a holiday album simply entitled "Christmas" (Caleb Collins Music) on October 2nd. The thirteen-track project is a warm collection of well-known yuletide melodies with a couple of originals thrown in for good measure. "I have always loved Christmas," Collins says. "I love everything about it: the snow, presents, food, candles, family and friends and just the nostalgia that the season brings." He loves the holiday so much that he leaves a tree up all year long and redecorates it with the seasons.
Hallels: Caleb, thanks so much for doing this interview with us. Why don't you start by telling our readers little about yourself.
Caleb: Well, first, thank you for the interview! I'm originally from Idaho where I began a musical journey that has taken me to Nashville studios, cruise ships, stages in New York City and even an army base in South Korea. I've been fortunate enough to be nominated for multiple national songwriting awards as well as recording 5 solo albums with many of my songs having been recorded by gospel and country acts. I'm currently a student at Juilliard, studying Advanced Orchestration, and preparing to release a jazz standards project in at the beginning of 2016.
Hallels: Congratulations on the release of "Christmas." Why make a Christmas album?
Caleb: I've always loved Christmas music, and especially heavily orchestrated albums like The Carpenters, Celine Dion, Josh Groban and Frank Sinatra. I wanted to create a collection of timeless songs and arrange them with my own twist; something that would sound classic, yet creative, and still sound relevant 20 years down the road.
Hallels: I believe one of the special songs on the record is when your mentor Morris Chapman joined you for "Bethlehem Morning." Tell us more about your connection with Morris and why you chose to do this song?
Caleb: I used to listen to Morris' music growing up, and was so surprised to receive a call from him after I released my hymns project, telling me how much he enjoyed the album and how it struck a chord with him. I mentioned collaborating with him, and he was open to it, so I sent him the track and he recorded his vocals remotely in Las Vegas. "Bethlehem Morning" is one of Morris' most popular songs and adding his rich vocals to the recording is something I will treasure forever. It is rewarding to be affirmed and respected by an artist who influenced me so deeply as a child.
Hallels: I believe there are two originals on the record. Tell our readers a little about them. Did you write them and what were the inspirations behind both songs?
Caleb: I wanted to include a few new songs to spice up the mix. One original was a song I wrote called "Sweet Time of the Year", that talks about the sense of nostalgia and warmth that the season brings. I wanted to capture the feeling of a Christmas singalong around the piano, so I asked several of my Nashville friends to sing with me. It made for a campy rendition that sounds like my Holiday gatherings with my friends.
The other original "The Story of Us" was written by my friend, Matt Moran, to his mother, who recently passed away from cancer. She was an avid supporter of mine and encouraged me on many levels. This song reminds me of her, and the legacy of love that continues to live on.
Hallels: With the seasonal carols that we all love and know, how did you approach them to make them sound fresh and vital again?
Caleb: I love tinkering with familiar songs and giving them new tempos, chords and instrumentation. I tried to stretch the songs as far as I could, taking them to a new places, so they almost sounded like completely different songs. At that point, you hear to the lyrics in a new way and experience the message with new emotions.
Hallels: I believe you are also cutting your new album now which is a collection of standards. Tell us more about it. When will it be released?
Caleb: Yes! I'm so excited to be releasing something completely new for myself. I took the same arrangement concepts that I used on my hymns and Christmas albums, and applied them to the American standards. Old songs with new arrangements. This is a new genre that I'm exploring, but have always loved and respected. Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra have been a part of my playlist since my early teens.
Hallels: Speaking about Christmas, what does Christmas mean to you?
Caleb: Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. A celebration of the Jesus' birth, new life and hope. Then, of course, festive music, food, the sense of family, love and giving. It's a time of reunions, giving and opening of the hearts to others. It also means great orchestral holiday albums playing on repeat throughout the season and lots of egg nog! I hope my Christmas album becomes a seasonal classic that people listen to for many years to come!