Country music’s Caroline Jones brings a touch of Kentucky bluegrass, by way of New Zealand’s The Trenwiths, to a pair of holiday classics, and she talks to HL EXCLUSIVELY about these jumpin’, swingin’ tunes.
Sure, Bing Crosby’s voice of classic, and his versions of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Silver Bells” (and “Little Drummer Boy” with David Bowie) are Christmas staples. But, let’s be honest – Der Bingle’s versions could use a little pep. For those who prefer a little more cinnamon in their eggnog and a little more country in their Christmas, Caroline Jones has the perfect present for under your tree. The singer, dubbed one of Rolling Stones’ “10 Country Artists You Need to Know,” has just put out a pair of tunes – “Silver Bells” and “Winter Wonderland” — to make your holiday playlist the best one ever!
To make this Christmas magic happen, Caroline had to travel half-way ‘round the world. “I am living in New Zealand for the next few months,” she tells HollywoodLife, “and am really enjoying meeting and collaborating with the local artists and musicians here.” One such act was The Trenwiths, a father-songs bluegrass trio, who were instrumental in bringing these vibrant versions to life. While talking EXCLUSIVELY with HL (over email, since the North Pole post is a bit busy right now), Caroline shared what inspired these new versions, the one special gift she could give the world, and which Mariah Carey Christmas song is her fave (and no, it’s not the one you think.)
HollywoodLife: Your version of “Silver Bells” is much livelier than the Bing Crosby version that will soon be filling the airways. What inspired this more upbeat and energetic take on this Christmas classic?
Bluegrass! And collaborating with New Zealand-based bluegrass band The Trenwiths! We knew we wanted to record a couple of bluegrass-style Christmas songs, and “Silver Bells” and “Winter Wonderland” were two inspirations that popped up immediately. Both songs have a “swing” feel, so playing them very fast and rhythmically straight is very unique. The double speed required some arranging and tweaking in terms of vocal and chord phrasing, but once we locked in, we all felt such elation and joy singing the songs in that style.
Do you remember the first time you heard “Winter Wonderland?”
I do not – I’m sure I was very young. I cannot remember not knowing the Christmas classics — I loved them and learned them at such a young age. I have gone caroling with my family and friends every year since I can remember.
What was your favorite Christmas/holiday song growing up?
“The Christmas Song” — Nat King Cole — never gets old. Incredible chord progression.
You connected with The Trenwiths to help wrap up these musical gifts. How did you meet this band? And did the fact that they’re all related bring that extra bit of family charm to these renditions?
I am living in New Zealand for the next few months and am really enjoying meeting and collaborating with the local artists and musicians here. In addition to being a fantastic bluegrass band, The Trenwiths are some of the most genuine, funny, and down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. Paul Trenwith, founding member, and his sons, Sam and Tim, have been singing and playing together for 30 years, so of course, there is a very special and unique vibe there. I feel honored to take part in it and be able to put our joyful moments on tape.
What do you think is a Christmas song that is highly underrated? Everyone knows “Jingle Bells,” but is there a certain song out there (Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family” or The White Stripes “Candy Cane Children,” for example) that you think people should put on their playlists this year, along with your “Silver Bells” and “Winter Wonderland”?
“Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child” off Mariah Carey’s Christmas record. My Mom used to play it for us in the car every December on the way to school, and my sisters and I would sing at the top of our lungs. It is contagiously soulful and joyful.
If you could give any present – regardless of size, shape, or cost – to any person in the world, who would you pick, and what would you give them?
What a great question! I’ve pondered the answer for a while today. I honestly think the greatest gift a human being can give another is the gift of encouragement and validation — it is so easy to give and is so incredibly powerful in even the smallest compliment delivered genuinely. The desire to feel loved by others drives so many of our interactions, both good and bad. I want to be someone in whose presence people feel good about themselves.
Shortly after Christmas comes New Year’s Eve. Looking back on 2020, what do you think will be the biggest highlight of your year? And what will be a “resolution” or goal for 2021?
2020, in its unexpected nature, has actually yielded me some great blessings and perspective, in both my art and especially my personal life, as well as an abundance of time and space to be creative and experimental. My goal for 2021 is to be less serious. To be more lighthearted and more open-hearted, about everything.
Silver Bells is out now.