The singer-songwriter talks about her new Christmas album, My Christmas Collection, available now.
With so many Christmas-themed albums, it can be hard to find one that really stands out and will stand the test of time. This holiday season, singer-songwriter Ana Cristina Cash’s My Christmas Collection goes down like a mug of warm mulled wine drunk by a crackling fire with a bedecked tree twinkling in the corner and fresh snow falling outside.
Raised in Miami, Cash was born in 1985 to Cuban parents who moved to the United States in the early 1960s. Her music represents both her historical and American roots.
With a beautifully broad range, nuanced control, and mellow vibrato, Cash delivers memorable renditions of classics like “Santa Baby,” “White Christmas,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (a duet with husband John Carter Cash, whom she married in 2016); and a bilingual version of “Silent Night.” There’s also an original tune, “Santa Claus Is Real,” written with her husband.
We recently talked with Cash about her Christmas collection, holiday traditions, and collaborating with John Carter.
Cowboys & Indians: My Christmas Collection came out on October 26. What do you hope your fans will get out of the album?
Ana Cristina Cash: I hope that people will sing along with their favorite holiday songs and add this album to their family Christmas music collection. With the exception of the new original song on the album, “Santa Claus Is Real,” the album is made up of the timeless classics. The holidays are a time of reflection with family and loved ones. I hope that people will feel the warmth, peace, and joy that My Christmas Collection has to offer.
C&I: What made you want to do a Christmas album?
Cash: I have had the idea of recording a Christmas album for as long as I can remember. I sang a lot of the religious-centered songs that are on this album like “O Holy Night,” “Breath of Heaven,” and “Silent Night” in church from the time that I was a little girl. Fun favorites like “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and “Sleigh Ride” get me in the Christmas mood! I really enjoy singing classic Christmas songs.
C&I: What was the writing process for your original Christmas song?
Cash: My husband, John Carter Cash, and I wrote the original song “Santa Claus Is Real” together. I started off playing the melody on the guitar, and we both worked on the lyrics together. We thought that it would be fun to detail Santa Claus’ Christmas Eve arrival into a home and how he loves his milk and cookies and the events that take place as well as keeping his magical spirit alive.
C&I: What inspired you for the track?
Cash: We wanted to vividly imagine would it would be like to have an encounter with Santa Claus in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve. It was really fun to work through the events of what would take place that night!
C&I: How did you go about picking the classics?
Cash: I honestly just cherry-picked a lot of my personal favorites. It was so hard, because there are more Christmas songs to choose from that I absolutely love. “White Christmas” was the very first song I ever performed in front of a large audience. I was in kindergarten and was asked to sing it at the school assembly, so that one was an absolute must for me.
C&I: How did you go about making these standards your own?
Cash: When I recorded my vocals for the album, I wanted to approach each song like it was my first time hearing them. I focused on the meaning, message, and emotion of each song and what it meant to me. I wanted the recording process to be organic and come from a place of sincerity. The arrangements of the album are different and original. Half of the album features orchestral strings and the other half features a full horn section. My goal was for the record to have unique arrangements while maintaining a warm feeling of holiday timelessness.
C&I: Is there a track you’re most proud of?
Cash: Although I am proud of all of the tracks on My Christmas Collection as a whole, the track that I am most proud of is “Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” I recorded all of the 200 vocal tracks of doubles, harmonies, and responses myself, ultimately acting as a one-woman choral group. That recording is the most detailed and intricate work of my entire career as an artist thus far. The process of recording the 200 vocals myself was time-consuming, but it was something that I really wanted to do. I came up with the vocal arrangements by ear and drew inspiration from large choral groups. There is a portion of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” at the end of the song that ties in nicely with the melody and key of “Carol of the Bells.”
C&I: You are of Cuban descent and do some singing in Spanish on the record. What was is like to represent that part of yourself?
Cash: I felt that it was important to do a bilingual recording of “Silent Night” (“Noche de Paz”) because I am very proud of my Hispanic heritage and grew up singing the song in both English and Spanish.
C&I: Speaking of family, your husband, John Carter Cash, produced the album. What was it like working with him?
Cash: John and I really have a mutual respect for each other as professionals and work very well together. We collaborate with each other on many things. I appreciate his judgment, his knowledge of music, and his opinions. He really let me hold on to my own creative freedom and did not interfere with my vision for the ideal Christmas album that I wanted to create. He helped facilitate my artistic vision, and this is a genuine sign of a great producer. His production ideas were very tasteful and he handpicked each of the wonderful Nashville musicians that worked on My Christmas Collection. We both worked very closely with engineer Chuck Turner on this project. We also recorded the song “Baby, I’s Cold Outside” for the album, which was really fun because we sang most of it with each other in the booth and he would poke me in the ribs to make me laugh and get really close to my face! It was a blast.
C&I: Can we expect more collaborations in the future?
Cash: Most definitely! I have an album of my original music that John produced and of which he co-wrote some of the songs that I will release in the near future after the Christmas album. Just like My Christmas Collection, my album of original music was recorded at the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Christmas Speed-Round With Ana Cristina Cash
Favorite Christmas tradition: “Every year, I cut off a small branch of the Christmas tree and keep it in a drawer. When I am feeling nostalgic about the holidays, I take the branch out of the drawer and smell it so that I can be reminded of Christmas any time of the year. I don’t know if anyone else does this, but I’ve been doing it since I was 6. Something else that I do with my family is eat pieces of turrón during Christmas Eve, which is an almond, honey, nougat, and egg-white confection that originates from Spain. The tradition of eating turrón during the holidays was something common that I saw among my Cuban-American relatives.
Favorite Christmas-themed drink: “Eggnog is my all-time favorite, though wassail is a close second.”
Favorite Christmas movie: The Year Without a Santa Claus
Favorite Christmas song: “The Christmas Song”
Favorite Christmas gift: “I remember being so impressed with a toy I got as a kid called Secret Sender 6000. It was released in 1994 by Casio and it used to be able to function as a remote with any television brand in any household or public place! It also would let you send electronic messages to your friend if they had another Secret Sender 6000 up to 25 feet away! This was definitely revolutionary before the concept of text messaging existed. It had several other cool features like the ‘Fortune Teller’ and ‘Matchmaker.’ I was hooked.”
Favorite place to spend Christmas: “It’s a toss-up between my hometown of Miami, and Tennessee. It depends on whether or not we would like to have a tropical Christmas or a wintry Christmas!”