Friday, March 19, 2010

The Great Christmas Album Dilemma

This week's events have sparked, or rather, reignited, the nagging internal debate that I have suffered through for years as a musical artist: Should I make a Christmas album? My wife thinks so. I was at Hoffman Guitars the other day, and, I was being encouraged to do so by the staff as well. I greatly respect all of these opinions.

As we all know, Christmas is BIG business. Some say it is evil business. And EVERYONE has made a Christmas album. To me, Christmas has always just been about a fun time filled with family, friends, warm memories, and...presents! A beacon of light in the the vast darkness of the Minnesota Winter season.

Many artists that I greatly admire have made Christmas albums. I remember when  Billy McLaughlin took the turn sometime in '96. His words: "Ben, I sold my soul and finally made a Christmas record." Now, he is doing VERY well with his 'Simple Gifts' ensemble and has managed to make the experience into quality musical art...and big business.

Leo Kottke actually contributed a tune to a Christmas compilation album. His only criteria: he had to write his own Christmas tune; the exquisite 'Accordion Bells'. Of course, this idea is the most appealing to me.

Pete Mayer released a holiday album called, 'Midwinter' - a collection of original songs on various themes of the holiday season, some more strongly related to it than others." Another attractive idea but, I am no Pete Mayer.

And then, there is Lorie Line...we'll let that one go.

I guess I have always thought of these projects as 'selling out', or a way to jump start a sagging career, or a way to jump start ANY semblance of a career. I have not been able to put a positive spin on my own possible participation in such an endeavor. I am still desperately holding on to the idea of being 'the artist', the guy who does not compromise his principles, and, blah blah blah. So, how does one balance the business vs. art in this debate? I think it is an unwinnable war. I feel as though there is devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other both whispering in my ears. Is that a scene from 'Animal House'?!

So, I am starting to make plans and have begun to outline the project. This does not mean it is going to get done, it just means I am thinking more about the possibility.There has to be a snappy title; something other than "Holiday Guitar", "Christmas Music for the Soul", "Guitar and Tinsel", and so on....

Tune selection will be very important. I gotta incorporate the 'hits' but be sure to include some creative twists as well...maybe an original composition or two. Maybe some Elvis? Oh! I have an idea!

Cover art is key as well. See title comments. Avoid any and all cheese.

No flutes, no strings, no harp.

Keep it simple. Intimate. Do what you do best.

Red and green with a little blue.
100 percent solo guitar.

A lot of joy and additional warmth can be brought to a lot people with music; especially friends and family. What a wonderful gift.

Hmm...this could be good.

Stay tuned my friends. 7 months and counting. Have you started your shopping yet? Get ready! Ben Woolman's Christmas album, coming to a Walmart near you!


  1. Sounds like a fun project Ben. If you get a management company soon, ask them to work with Target to get you an "Exclusive" release contract for the Christmas CD holiday season. Then you'll get an invite to play at one of their annual management meetings at Target Center. :-)

  2. Now you are speaking my language David!

  3. Hi Ben. I felt the same way about it. After having kids, though, that changed for me. It is a special time for family and friends. Also, I was getting tons of requests at gigs. It made folks happy to play those songs.

    I did not want to create some crappy arrangement on the fly. I looked at the project as a way to come up with original, contemporary, solo arrangements.

    I can hardly wait to hear what you come up with.

  4. Thanks Mark! Yes, absolutely, having kids has made the difference for sure..and getting older too. :-) Ditto re: not wanting to create "crappy arrangements on the fly".'ll be a tad bit surreal working on holiday tunes during the Summer.