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Shelby Lynne unwraps her first Christmas album

Shelby Lynne_by Victory Tischler.jpg

With her 2008 album, Just a Little Lovin’, Shelby Lynne showed she has the courage and the chops to take some familiar material and put her stamp on it.
Lynne has done it again with Merry Christmas, her recently released album of yuletide songs. In addition to renditions of such seasonal classics as “Silver Bells,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to

Town” and “White Christmas,” among others, Lynne recorded two original holiday tunes for the album, which was issued on her own Everso Records label.

The Grammy Award-winning Lynne recently checked in to discuss Merry Christmas and her plans for Dec. 25. What was the bigger challenge for you — putting a different spin on familiar Christmas songs or writing your own tunes about the holiday?
Shelby Lynne: “It was a challenge making the standards ‘original.’ But I decided to keep it simple and let the songs do the work. I love Christmas songs, so choosing them was the hardest part. I chose some of my faves. Writing new songs wasn’t too hard because I really had something to say.”

Did writing the originals “Ain’t Nothin’ Like Christmas” and “Xmas” mark the start of your Merry Christmas project, or did you write them after you had already picked out a few holiday favorites to record?
Lynne: “I had written ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Like Christmas’ a couple years ago, just fooling around during the holidays, so I had it ready to go. It was easy to write off the cuff because it’s just fun. And ‘Xmas’ I wrote in the hotel room having coffee before I went to the studio one morning while recording the record. It just hit me and came together pretty fast. I’m lucky when that happens.”

“Ain’t Nothin’ Like Christmas” sounds like something Brenda Lee would have recorded back in the day. Did you have her — or even another era of music — in mind during the writing and recording of this song? What was the stylistic approach you and your band took in the studio with this tune?
Lynne: “Well, I am such a sucker for fun, swing, rockabilly tunes. They just make a record move and put you in the mood for having a good time. So when we cut it, we just ran it a couple times, then counted it off and cut it live. Those are the most fun and you can feel it on the track.”

Compared to “Ain’t Nothin’ Like Christmas,” “Xmas” is much more somber and serious. Talk about some of the personal and/or world experiences you drew from in order to write this song.
Lynne: “If you listen to the lyric of the tune, you can feel and hear the truth. I wrote this song because sometimes Christmas sucks. It’s not all buttons and bows and happy times. Sometimes it’s just plain sad. I wrote that for people who don’t have a problem feeling what they really feel around the holidays.”

What are your Christmas plans for this year?
Lynne: “My plans are to be at home with my dogs and the peace and quiet. I have a busy year planned, and I am getting ready to hit the ground running in the new year, so I’ll be relaxing, enjoying the time to think and plan.”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Shelby Lynne appearances and tour dates (schedule subject to change):

* Dec. 8: The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (performing “Ain’t Nothin’ Like Christmas”)
* Jan. 21: MSU Riley Center — Meridian, Miss.
* Feb. 1: Evanston Space — Evanston, Ill.
* Feb. 3: Beachland Ballroom — Cleveland
* Feb. 4: The Crofoot Ballroom — Pontiac, Mich.
* Feb. 5: Little River Casino Resort — Manistee, Mich.

Photo by Victory Tischler