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BWW Interview: John Riesen Talks Upcoming Christmas Album CHRISTMAS AT HOME!

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John and his wife Gillian recorded the album together, and it is set to be released on November 27.

BWW Interview: John Riesen Talks Upcoming Christmas Album CHRISTMAS AT HOME!

John Riesen made headlines earlier this year when in the early days of the ongoing health crisis, he helped bring income to artists hit hard by the pandemic by creating the COVID-19 Artist Support - Pure Voice Spotify playlist, which featured the talents of incredible performers, and could be streamed for royalties. Now, the opera singer and musical theater crossover performer is back, continuing to bring beautiful music into the world, this time through the release of his upcoming Christmas album, Christmas at Home!

The album, which Riesen recorded with his wife Gillian, is set to be released on November 27th!

You can pre-order the album here:

We spoke with Riesen about what it means to him to be releasing an album with his wife, what it feels like to be able to create art during this moment in time, and more.

Tell me how this upcoming Christmas album came about!

With COVID-19 closing down theater in the US, my wife Gillian and I banded together with one of our dearest friends and colleagues Neill Campbell to put together a passion project. A Christmas album of the classic songs and duets we grew up listening to each year. We wanted it to be an album to uplift the community and bring music and performances to so many in need of it during this challenging year, and what better time than the holidays! We then partnered with a wonderful organization in Metro-Detroit called "Box Five Productions" run by Justin Spiro. After a few phone calls, excitement was in the air for all of us.

Next came the planning. I had formerly released an album with Sergei Kvitko at Blue Griffin Recording, and greatly enjoyed the product and experience and inquired about how to put together an album together while socially distancing etc. He was incredibly thoughtful and gracious, and we set in place protocols and dates to make for a safe, fun recording experience.

Then came the music. We managed to narrow down our Christmas tunes to 11 of our favorites, and the real work began. Neill and I spent many hours discussing our arrangements, instrumentation, solos and a plan was formed. The next two weeks were a blur. Neill spent countless hours creating these remarkable new arrangements with stunning additions by Chris Glassman (trombone), and fun, festive background vocals added by Lindsay Campbell.

Once we hit the studio the rest of the plan fell into place and the results are breathtaking. We truly hope this music will uplift the community around us, and bring holiday cheer and smiles to all who listen.

What we can expect from this album?

You can expect new, but familiar renditions of classics by Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, and more sung by Gillian and I as two classical-crossover vocalists who simply adore this music.

You can also expect to hear some of the best jazz trombone solos ever (in my humble opinion) by Chris Glassman. He was not able to join us in the studio and so he recorded tracks in his basement that were than mixed into our final takes, and they are out of this world.

It is called Christmas at Home and will be released on Nov 27th (Black Friday) on all streaming services (Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, Google Play, Amazon Music, etc.) and there are a limited number of CDs for those who'd like a collectible signed copy. Pre-ordering is available on the website and I'm thrilled with the sales already! Hoping to sell out all the hard copies soon!

What was the process of recording the album like?

The choosing of the songs was easy. Gillian and I sat down and pulled out our yearly Christmas playlists and discussed which ones truly stuck out as songs we listen to on repeat year to year. Once an initial list was born, we went through and found songs that fit our voices and truly spoke to us with all that's happening in the world. Our album, in essence takes the listeners on a journey in our lives. From the excitement of a Christmas together (It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas) to Christmas Day (White Christmas, O Holy Night) to Christmas time nostalgia (Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, The Christmas Song), you will experience Christmas at home with the Riesen's and Campbell's.

How does it feel to be able to put an album out with your wife?

Amazing. We've wanted to do more recording together for years, and COVID brought about the time and desire to make it happen. We recently had our first child (a beautiful baby boy), and wanted him to have our music to listen to which further pushed me to make it happen. Nothing is more special than working with your friends and family at the highest level of professionalism to create something truly heartfelt and special.

What does it mean to you to be able to be creative and have the opportunity to release music at this moment in time?

Truly, with everything going on in our world right now, and with most live performances being postponed or canceled, it is incredibly special to be able to make music of this kind together. We've all been looking for a medium to keep our music going and I know all of us feel very grateful that this opportunity presented itself to us. We truly hope that the audience listening can feel our joy, appreciation and the love we put into this music.

Do you have anything else you would like to share?

Yes! It would mean the world to us for people to check out this music when it's available. If your experience has been like ours, this has been a challenging year. We made this album with the hope that for just a short period of time the songs could remind people that life remains beautiful when we have family love and tradition to look forward to as a community. Please feel free to check us out on Instagram and to reach out! (@riesenjohn @gillianriesen)

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