The holidays are here, and Danny Gokey has given a ‘gift’ to all his fans: a brand new Christmas album. The ‘American Idol’ alum talks with us about ‘The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Collection,’ which songs are his family’s favorite, and more.
“Joyful and triumphant” are perhaps the best words to describe the newest slice of Christmas magic from Danny Gokey. The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Collection, out now, has Danny usher in the holiday season. Not only does Danny offer his own take on classics like “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “Joy To The World,” but The Greatest Gift includes original songs that are destined to become seasonal favorites. The new album also includes Danny teaming with friend and tourmate, Natalie Grant, to perform a powerful version of Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer.”
Yet, as Danny said while speaking with HollywoodLife, The Greatest Gift makes sure to not lose sight about the real reason of the season. The Milwaukee native — who has come a long way since his appearance on Season 8 of American Idol – talks to us about the difficulties that come with writing a Christmas song, the importance of including “Noche De Paz” on the album, and how his song “Until You” was initially meant for someone else!
HollywoodLife: You do put your own take on a bunch of classics on this new album, which is your second Christmas record. What motivated you to make The Greatest Gift?
Christmas is a big part of my touring each year. It just kind of started happening, Me and Natalie Grant to go on tour together. This is our fourth year of doing a Christmas tour, and we just absolutely love it. It’s been such a treat that every year we get to go out and do a Christmas tour.
Now, with that in scope every year, now I have more and more reason to do new Christmas music and new Christmas album, so it’s been extremely exciting. I love that I released another album, and I hope there are many, many more to come.
“Holidays Are Here” is a pretty rocking number.
Yeah, man! My kids love that one. My daughter always wants me to play it because I do the mouth trumpet on one of the parts. “Do it again, daddy.”
Is it harder to write a Christmas song, or since it’s your favorite time of year, is it more fun to write a yule tune?
It’s hard, and it’s not. I really do want to write a ‘big Christmas holiday classic,’ and you got to chase those down. They’re not easy to accomplish. For a song to turn into a Christmas classic, it’s just really got to reverberate and dig into the hearts of many people. That’s the goal. Holidays are Here, it’s just a big song. We got a song called “Until You,” which is really special. A lot of people are really jiving for that one, and another one called “Christmas Night that,” I didn’t write on it. I just loved it the moment I heard it. I think it was originally written for a big country artist. It ended up not making her record a couple of years ago. A friend of mine who wrote it like, “Dude, you need to hear this song.” I heard it, I said, “Bro, I’m cutting that one.” It’s really nice.
Did you have a favorite Christmas song to sing, maybe growing up or even like right now, including your own? Is there one that really holds a place in your heart?
I will mention two of them because they become classics for me over the years when I sang them. On my first Christmas album, “Mary, Did You Know,” and that is the classic everywhere I go. I very much put my own spin on that one. I know it’s not this record, but it’s still a classic for me. Everyone wants to hear it when I’m singing Christmas music.
Secondly, me and Natalie, since we’ve been doing our tour together, we’ve created a tradition of doing “The Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. That is a nod from us, and we do it at the encore every night of our Christmas show. It’s our fourth year this year doing a Christmas tour. That one’s just become, and people love it. It is just a big song.
There is a lot of power and reverence in The Greatest Gift. While a lot of new pop Christmas music apes Mariah Carey or Phil Spector’s Christmas album, The Greatest Gift stands out by offering a more traditional arrangement of these songs.
Music, right now, is changing so fast, and we’re trying to keep up with these trends. We’re trying to figure out ‘what’s the next hot thing,’ and when you put Christmas through that, it sometimes loses something. I think, for me, maintaining a classic traditional spirit — but also fitting into the newer sound — is one of the goals.
We just took some of the songs, like “Noche De Paz” with David Archuleta, and “Silent Night” with Kari Jobe — the English version, I put my son at the end of the song. I just wanted to feature my son’s voice — but, just doing the more reverential worshipful, the David Archuleta style in Spanish, there’s something just special about it. It kind of makes you pause and ponder as you’re listening to the songs because they’re not upbeat but not too broad in tempo. They’re very relaxed, worshipful, and reverential.
Was including “Noche de Paz” a way to honor your wife and kids?
Yeah, man. I sing a lot in Spanish. I speak Spanish. I’m a white boy who speaks Spanish because I’ve been around Spanish culture my whole life. I’ve learned the language along the way. Its been a big deal, and I was very intentional wanting to cover that song and do it in Spanish and have David Archuleta because he’s a friend of mine and such a good guy.
Finally, you recently performed a show with your feet bandaged up after a mishap with a hotel steamer? Are you going to be 100% for the holidays?
Man, I’m on tour right now. The accident happened on [Nov. 11], and I had to do the show shitting down. I got third-degree burns on my left foot and second degree on my right. Last night was the first night that I put shoes on and did a show. It was quite… It went really well. There’s a lot of discomfort in my feet because my right shoe is digging up against where the bones are. Even though I have it wrapped, I have prescription creams on them. Yeah, they still hurt, but I’m doing much better, really good, though. They’re healing much faster, and I’m really glad I didn’t have to cancel the tour. Thank God
That’s good. It would be sad if you had a blue Christmas…especially since it’s not one of the songs on The Greatest Gift.
That’s because Leann Rimes’ version I heard. It was really good. Can’t touch that classic.