Reigning IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Rhonda Vincent admitted to CMChatLive.com that she had a bit of a creative spurt while coming up with new material for her Christmas Time disc.
“The title cut was inspired by the passing of my father in October of 2014. I started the album the next month with my guitar one day, and was just playing. I ended up writing this song about how sad our Christmas was going to be without him. I then began to realize that he’ll always be with us – in our hearts. That’s the message that it brought. It started to be very personal, but then I realized that for other people who were listening to it, it didn’t have to be someone who had passed away, maybe it could be someone who’s away from home, or in the military. I kind of broadened the perspective a little bit, and it can appeal to a lot of different people.”
That yearn to create only continued into the next couple of days.
“I wrote that on a Sunday, and then the next morning, I grabbed my mandolin, and started writing ‘Dreaming of Christmas.’ Then, on Tuesday, I went to the airport to fly to Nashville, and I started writing the kid’s song ‘Milk and Cookies.’”
She joked that the three days of writing for the project was quite unusual.
“It’s the only time I’ve ever written three songs in three days. I was very inspired to write some songs during that time. I haven’t written another song since. I guess I will have to start another project before I start writing again.”
Vincent said that the creative process behind the album started last fall, but stretched into the late spring and early summer – which required her to be a little bit creative to get into the holiday spirit.
“We put up a Christmas tree in the studio – it was one that was actually pre-decorated. We sat it up so the players and the special guests would be in the Christmas spirit.”
Christmas Time is not Vincent’s first Yuletide platter – she released Beautiful Star: A Christmas Collection in 2006 on Rounder. However, the new disc is issued on her own Upper Management label – something the performer takes a great deal of pride in.
“I think one of the biggest reasons is that I wanted to have a Christmas album on my own label. There are no rules. When you’re on a label, they have restrictions – whether they be artistic or budgetary, so it was fun to create one that I would have carte blanche to make.”
The disc is a mixture of new material, as well as many time-honored songs of the season, such as “Silent Night,” which has a little bit of a different wrinkle.
“I invited Flatt Lonesome to be on the track with me. They won Emerging Artist of the Year at the IBMA’s in 2014, and they sang with me on it. It was going to be your normal harmonies on the song, but Kelsi came in and said ‘Would you mind if we tried something?’ They had been singing it in church, so they ended up giving it a little bit of a different spin where it was a call and answer-type thing. It’s a bit unique, and that’s all thanks to them. It kind of changed things up a little bit.”
In preparing Christmas Time, Vincent said that she wanted to give fans a truly intimate listening experience.
“I was studying Christmas CD’s, and all of them seemed to be so produced. I didn’t feel a connection to them, it seemed like they were so far away and distant. I told the engineer that I wanted it to be like we were sitting in their living room as they were decorating their tree, and you felt like we were just singing for the listener.”
In a couple of the new songs, fans might hear a couple of references to a company that Vincent has enjoyed a long relationship with – Martha White.
“I managed to get their name in a couple of songs – ‘Dreaming Of Christmas’ and ‘Milk and Cookies.’ Our relationship has gone on for 15 years, and it’s made a difference in so many ways – such as touring, and having the tour bus. I pinch myself every day. We’ve been on the road in the tradition of Flatt and Scruggs. They are so much a part of what we do, and we couldn’t do it without them. They have also sent us to 34 military bases to perform for the service men and women, with my favorite being Pearl Harbor.”
Vincent is currently taking a break from the road, but will pick back up on December 31 with a New Years’ Eve date at Jekyll Island, Georgia, and then she’ll hit the highways with a vengeance in 2016. That, combined with a couple of new projects the singer is working on, makes for a busy 2016 – but she says she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I love what I do. I greet each day with so many things to do. I used to get flustered, and think to myself ‘I have to do this and I have to do this.’ Now, I embrace it, and think ‘What is it that we get to do today?’ I try to look at it like that instead of all the stress. I just love it.”
The centerpiece track of Christmas Time is a new version of “The Twelve Days Of Christmas,” which Vincent said was nothing short of a blast to record – especially with its’ all-star group of legendary guest stars.
“We started looking at who is tailored to each line – like Bill Anderson whispering ‘Nine Ladies Dancing,’ so I started making calls and talking to the artists, and asked if they would be interested. I emailed Willie Nelson, and he said he would, for me to get the file to Buddy Cannon, and we would make it happen. Dolly Parton was the first one to respond and to record. We ended up with so many greats, including Charlie Daniels, Ronnie Milsap, Gene Watson, Larry Gatlin, so many. It was so amazing. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Buy Christmas Time at iTunes.