Many a Christmas record has been dreamed up while staring out the window at a winter wonderland, but Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat got the idea for her new holiday set, Christmas In The Sand (out 23 October), as the title more than implies, in the unlikeliest of settings.
"When I was in Hawaii last year for Thanksgiving, my family and friends were all on the beach, and we were saying how fun it was to spend the holiday there," she says. "We'd be saying things like, ‘Can’t we spend Christmas here? We can all open presents on the beach and be in our bathing suits’ – the kinds of things everybody else does in Hawaii."
It didn't take long for Caillat to realize that she had a novel concept for a fresh spin on the Christmas album. "I knew I wanted to make something that wasn’t just relatable to people who have the snow," she says. "I wanted it to be for people in tropical places like California, where I’m from, or Hawaii or Australia – anywhere that people spend Christmas on the beach and in the sun."
Back home in California, Caillat talked about her idea with writing partners Jason Reeves and Kara DioGuardi, and in one day the team wrote the title track and Every Day Is Christmas. "It was really fun to get into that mindset with them," says Caillat. "Jason and Kara have been to Hawaii with me, so we were all able to picture ourselves in that kind of setting for the holidays."
On Christmas In The Sand, four Caillat originals sit alongside classics such as The Christmas Song and Baby It's Cold Outside. The singer-songwriter says she wanted to avoid making the songs, as she puts it, "cheesy or poppy. Over the years, I’ve heard pop artists do some Christmas songs, and I haven’t fully cared for them. They weren’t the traditional Christmas music that I was raised on and love. Thinking of that, I wanted to make my songs mimic the classic Christmas songs."
A bulk of Caillat's demos were recorded with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and an iPad. "I sometimes use an iPhone - anything that's handy," she says. But when the time came to hit the studio, she turned to her father, Ken, producer of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and Tusk, among other hits. While Caillat says that her father is "an amazing producer," she does admit that the line between artist and producer vs daughter and father is sometimes a fine one.
“A side of me does come out sometimes," she says. "I’ll be like, ‘Dad! Come on, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m in the music business.’ [Laughs] And then I’ll remember, ‘Oh, wait… He’s in the music business, too. In fact, he’s been in it way longer."
Caillat recorded Christmas In The Sand (which features guest vocals by Brad Paisley and Gavin DeGraw) between April and August of this year, and she says that maintaining the record's sunny spirit wasn't difficult. "I did a lot of the singing in my bathing suit," she says with a laugh. "On a lot of the days when I was doing vocals, I started out singing in my bathing suit, then I’d take a swim with my mom. After that, she’d make us lunch in 90 or 100-degree weather, and then I’d go back and sing again."
On the following pages, Colbie Caillat walks us through the four originals and a selection of the holiday classics on Christmas In The Sand.