It’s time to mash the potatoes and stuff the turkey. Singer-songwriter Ben Rector wants to get you in the mood for Thanksgiving, and he shares with HL the personal inspiration behind this new holiday song.
Ironically, it’s pretty “slim pickings” when it comes to songs about Thanksgiving. There are plenty of Halloween songs and Christmas carols, but Thanksgiving? Most might remember Adam Sandler’s “Thanksgiving Song,” while others may bring up Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” Ray Davies’ “Thanksgiving Day,” and Nicole Westbrook’s “It’s Thanksgiving.” However, Ben Rector hopes that his song inspires a new family tradition. “The Thanksgiving Song,” released on Oct. 28, sees the 33-year-old singer-songwriter take a moment to appreciate just what the holiday means to him.
“Watching football / watching families grow / the old kids’ table / all have kids of their own / starting to see my grandfather in my nephew’s eyes / Mom still can’t talk about him and not almost cry,” he sings. “The Thanksgiving Song” focuses on the core tenements of the holiday: food and family. It doesn’t so much tug on the heartstrings but tunes them to make them sing with love and joy over the real important things in life.
“The Thanksgiving Song” comes off of A Ben Rector Christmas, out on Nov. 13. Ben’s upcoming Christmas album sees him cover the classics, like Andy Williams’ “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song,” and the vastly underrated “This Christmas,” by Donny Hathaway. Sure, it’s still technically October, and Halloween is three days away, but for those ready for turkey, football, and family, Ben has the song for you. He tells HollywoodLife all about the song, plus the one item he needs to complete his Thanksgiving meal.
HollywoodLife: What was the inspiration behind writing a Thanksgiving song (besides the obvious in that there are…maybe two or three well-known Thanksgiving songs?)
Ben: Really, at first, it was that I couldn’t think of a single Thanksgiving song, and that struck me as really odd, with there being so much shared experience and nostalgia around Thanksgiving and no music to celebrate that or connect to those feelings. When I sat down to write it, I realized there was a lot to tap into personally, watching phases of life change, watching my family grow, and watching my extended family grow and change, losing grandparents and seeing kids grow into adults.
Do you have any non-traditional “Thanksgiving” songs? Like, do you listen to Waylon & Willie, or is the holiday’s soundtrack more snoring in between NFL games?
My honest answer is I’ve never really had music be a part of celebrating Thanksgiving, which is weird. And not to harp on it, but really I was just like ‘someone needs to do this! There should be something that feels like Thanksgiving that you can listen to!’
What’s the one dish that needs to be at the dinner table for it to be Thanksgiving? For many, it’s cranberry sauce (specifically, that in the shape of a can.)
Roughly 75% of the food that I consume at Thanksgiving is mashed potatoes. If you told me there were no mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, I would be crestfallen.
Thanksgiving 2020 is going to look a little different this year for many, due to the pandemic. Will you be able to celebrate how you normally do, or are you going to try slicing the turkey on a Zoom call?
My wife and I just had twins, so I’m not sure what our celebration would look like, even if there wasn’t a pandemic. We usually head back to Oklahoma for the holidays, but for the first time this year, we’ll be staying in Nashville and starting traditions of our own, which we are excited about!