Cheers, It’s Christmas
Why Blake Shelton swears this is the only yuletide album he’ll ever make.
Photography: Kristin Barlow/Courtesy Warner Music
Blake Shelton made a list — and checked it twice — before settling on the final song list for his first Christmas album, Cheers, It’s Christmas. The lineup includes several classic yuletide tunes that have touched Shelton over the years and a few new compositions. Many of the tracks were recorded at the storied Capitol Studios in Hollywood with full orchestral accompaniment.
“I’m probably the biggest Christmas-music fan that you’ve ever had on the other end of the line,” Shelton said during a recent telephone interview. “You can ask Miranda and she’ll tell you: I listen to Christmas music in April. And loud. I don’t care if it’s Larry the Cable Guy’s Christmas album or Anne Murray’s Christmas album, or George Strait or Alan Jackson or Michael Bublé. There’s something about the stories in those songs and the melodies in those songs — they just take me away from everything. More so than what I hear on country radio or just on the radio in general. It takes me to another time, back to being a kid. It really does.”
Ever since he decided he wanted to be a singer, Shelton said, “I always had it slated that at some point in my life, I wanted to make a Christmas album.” But only one Christmas album. “I wanted to do one, do it once, and do it right. Because it should matter that much. And that’s how much thought I’ve put into it.
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That goes for all the artists he sings with on the just-released CD. “That’s how I chose them — they’re important people in my life. For one reason or another, they’ve had an impact on me as a person. That’s why there are so many duets on the record.”
On one track, Shelton joins forces with Michael Bublé — a longtime friend and his new advisor on The Voice — for a holiday-centric version of a familiar song. “I had hit with a song that he’d had a hit with a few years back, a song called ‘Home,’” Shelton said. “So I got in touch with Michael and I said, ‘Hey, man, I know you’re busy — we all are — but is there any chance you could rewrite “Home” and make it a song about going home for Christmas?’ And he immediately answered back: ‘I’m on it.’”
About a week later, Shelton got an e-mail from Bublé with brand-new lyrics for “Home,” the Christmas version. “He came in and sang on the record for that song. It was amazing to me how that all fell into place.”
Shelton’s run of good luck continued when he was able to find just the right song — “Oklahoma Christmas” — to perform with fellow Oklahoman Reba McEntire. “It was the perfect lyric, it was the perfect melody,” he said. “And it was kind of Western swing, which is what Reba cut her teeth on in music.”
What’s his absolute favorite track on the album? That’s easy: “Time for Me to Come Home,” a song Shelton sang and co-wrote with one of the most special women in his life: Dorothy Shackleford, his mother. “It’s basically a song about a guy who’s in the city, and it’s Christmas time,” Shelton said, “but it doesn’t feel like it until he gets that call from his momma asking him when he’s coming home for Christmas. That’s when that Christmas feeling starts for him. And that’s when it all of a sudden becomes Christmas for him. He hears his mom’s voice, and he goes home to be with his family.
For Shelton, that’s what the celebration of Christmas is all about. “It’s about being around the people that you love. So we wrote the song together, and [my mom] actually sings on the record with me. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to be a part of as a recording artist.”
But don’t expect a sequel. Shelton insists Cheers, It’s Christmas will be a one-time-only thing. “Really, I can’t imagine ever doing another one,” he said. “Of course, I’ve said dumber things before, and have had to eat my words. But I just want this one to sound timeless, because I want it to be timeless.”