I had the opportunity to spend some time in Whitehorse over the last several years where I fell in love with the city and its beautiful natural surroundings. I’ve been there in every season of the year and had an opportunity to view the northern lights, as well as listen to the stories of Elders about how the lights represent the spirits of our ancestors.
There are so many stories about the Northern lights. They dance in the night sky, they sing to us, they remind us who we are, and they connect us to the Creator and our dreams. When we look up at the northern lights, we are forever changed. We are infused with wonder and, in some ways, become more open.
I wrote the lyrics to this song while on an airplane, feeling closer to the Aurora Borealis than when my feet are planted firmly on the ground. Chris added some key elements to the lyrics about the open sky and Vince added the line, the dance of the northern lights. This was truly a collaborative effort that brought together a song inspired by the Aurora Borealis.
This song had its start many years ago when Rob and I were spending a bit of time co-writing and playing in our cover band, This Side Up. He had started writing a song about his young daughter, Katrina, following the breakup of his marriage that separated him from his daughter. It was a difficult time for everyone.
Over the next decade, life got busy for both of us and the song was set aside. We approached the song again briefly last year, but it didn’t make the cut along with other songs that didn’t evolve in time for Christmas.
Finally, I decided to show Chris what we had and he jumped on it. In the studio last summer, I realized this song really needs a male/female in the vocals, since that’s how every child is created, setting aside medical intervention.
This song is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It’s meant to remind people who are isolated from their family – separated by circumstance, distance of death – that we are always there with them. We simply have to close our eyes and reach out for our loved ones in our hearts and in our minds.
I love the way this song evolved! A few years ago, I met a young man from Cold Lake First Nation in an Indigenous community-industry relations course that I was taking at the University of Alberta. He was 19 or 20 and his father and I were friends already, having met through the Circle for Aboriginal Relations.
Deion’s father, James, told me his son was a very talented beat boxer. I actually had no idea what he was talking about then, since I’ve never been involved with hip hop music. Last winter, Deion and his dad were campaigning together for Deion’s bid for a seat on the Cold Lake First Nation council.
Deion (who was successful in his bid later that year) and I ended up sitting with James and a few other friends and family in a hotel restaurant where Deion demonstrated his talent as a beat boxer. We were the only ones there. I sang a slow ballad and Deion beat boxed along to it, adjusting to the tempo and mood on the fly. It was incredible!
Fast forward to this summer when I was trying to explain to Chris and Vince my vision was for including Deion in O Holy Night. Chris suggested we switch to Winter Wonderland and the rest is history. We are all very pleased with Deion’s contribution to this piece, and he has expanded his musical circle through Brendan Lyons, our Edmonton studio and engineer.
Winter can be so magical. In the frozen quiet, it’s easy to settle into yourself and feel at one with nature. Hoar frost, frozen water on tree limbs… The trees in a forest are connected both above and below ground.
I think of evergreens protecting us, watching over us as we traverse the land and, to many, they symbolize Christmas.
The mist you sometimes see hanging over moving water on cold winter mornings is magical, particularly when hoar frost clings to the trees. Seeing that kind of beauty in nature, walking on a crisp quiet winter day, is heavenly and sometimes even hypnotizing.
Those are the images and feelings that inspired this song.
Little Drummer Boy
Although many people can’t afford to buy expensive gifts, we all have precious gifts and talents to offer, and they are so much more meaningful when shared with love and generosity of spirit.
I love the message of the Little Drummer Boy, one of my favourite traditional Christmas songs. I imagine recreating that nativity scene in Canada, where animals – such as the fox and bear – are more prevalent than camels.
The song was easily adapted to some of the imagery of Canada and it’s easy to envision the same little drummer boy, dressed in a parka and toque, singing and drumming during as his family and friends celebrate the arrival of a new, blessed child into a northern community.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Simply, this song is expresses my deepest wish for a happy festive season for you, your family and friends, with my sincere hope that somewhere down the road we will be able to celebrate safely together again.
This is another song that was written on a plane, with Chris supplying the music afterwards. Fun and a bit swingy/jazzy, it’s a piece meant to create a vision in your mind’s eye of a time when we could gather to celebrate Christmas.
This song also touches on the importance of storytelling and a trust in innocence, which is part of the Christmas story!
It’s a dreamy little ditty.
O Holy Night
Another classic and one of my all-time favorites.
Whether or not you are a Christian, the Christmas story brings hope to many. We can all be inspired to believe that hope is real and that we are supported in this life by nature, love and faith in God and the Creator.
We can humbly celebrate coming together, despite our differences. We are all connected, and we intrinsically and joyously recognize that.
After every night falls, the sun always rises to light the way. So it is with despair and joy. Resting in the darkness and anticipating the coming day is a wonderful respite from the busyness of today’s strange world.
This song started as a walk along the trapline in my mind. Standing people – the trees – are a big part of life in North America. Without the standing people, we would not survive.
Like the song Hypnotized, Standing People recognizes the connection of trees in forests, both above and below the ground.
I feel especially connected when I am walking in the forest. The trees are the first to tell us when we are contributing to the health or harm of our environment. Standing People are eternal. Lightning strikes Mother Earth and heals her, adding energy to areas where healing is needed.
This is a dream song, with the trees singing with us as they watch the antics of the human race on this planet. Earth, air, fire and water – all key to the health of the trees, as well as ourselves.
There Was A Child
Released in December 2019, this song reflects one of the founding themes of this album. Love creates life and sustains it. Sometimes we don’t recognize the gift of love, even when it’s right in front of us. It’s not about presents, it’s all about presence.
Burn In Me
Christmas is a time to reflect on relationships, to forgive and unite in our families and communities. Love and acceptance can warm our hearts to the point where we release the coldness that causes separation. Togetherness, like a rock quarry made of individual stones, is a natural result of letting go of things that do not serve us in our relationships.
How does a baby or toddler experience the Christmas season and all of its trappings?
First Christmas came from the thought of how a tiny infant could contribute to humanity. Every child, every person has a similar story. Children are such a blessing. What a beautiful gift, to everyone who gets to be with a child and experience the world through their eyes.
I believe the dreams and hopes we hold for our children also help us to renew dreams and hope in ourselves.