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BWW Interview: Edmund Bagnell Debuts Solo Album CHRISTMAS AT HOME

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Let's get the Holiday Season started, shall we?

BWW Interview: Edmund Bagnell Debuts Solo Album CHRISTMAS AT HOMEEdmund Bagnell didn't start the year thinking he would release his first solo CD. After all, he had only recently debuted his first solo club act, He Plays The Violin, and it would be awhile before the gestation process of an album had completed itself and rendered a work of art. After some time in quarantine, though, Edmund found himself creating music videos by remote, so an album didn't really seem so far-fetched... and Christmas WAS right around the corner... and in 2020 people are looking for any source of happiness. Someone wise once said "We need a little Christmas now" and Edmund decided he did, too, so into the (home-made) recording studio he went.

Today, the first single from CHRISTMAS AT HOME is being released, and on November 20th Edmund's fans will have a happy one-two punch when the entire CD and an accompanying music video are released. Speaking as someone who started watching Christmas movies before Halloween (hey, don't judge, Dame Joan Collins has her Christmas tree up already - check her Instagram), I was more than happy to get a preview of the album and to chat with Edmund about recording by remote, his favorite Yuletide treats, and the Christmases of his youth.

BWW Interview: Edmund Bagnell Debuts Solo Album CHRISTMAS AT HOME

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced here in its entirety.

Edmund, welcome back to Broadway World, where it is always a pleasure to visit with you. You are here today to talk about your new album CHRISTMAS AT HOME, coincidentally your first album. Congratulations on taking the jump into the solo recording world!

Hi Stephen, thanks for chatting with me!

How long have you been thinking of doing a solo album?

I suppose I've fantasized about recording a solo album since College, but it was always this far off goal with no clear shape or direction. When I debuted my solo show He Plays the Violin last year, a much more concrete idea of what a solo album could sound like began to form in my head. And then Covid hit, and suddenly faced with a wide open schedule, it made sense to stay creatively active by diving in to the world of recording.

Christmas music is a very specific niche in recordings, with a limited market based, solely, on the time of year and whether or not your audience celebrates the holiday. Why make your first CD a Christmas record?

You make a good point! My original plan when I began recording this summer was to release a "regular" album this November, so I actually have several tracks already prepared for that album. But as Covid lingered and the election battled on, it didn't make as much sense to release that album just yet. So in September I made the decision to postpone what I had originally thought would be my debut album to the Spring, and I got busy working on this holiday album. And honestly, it was my mood to record a holiday album. My band, Well Strung, performed a holiday show for several years, and that's one of my favorite "themed" shows we perform. So I think holiday music had already been percolating in my head for quite a while. And again, with Covid ramping up yet again, I wanted to record an album that could be played at home from start to finish, thus the title, Christmas at Home.

Christmas At Home was recorded during the ongoing global health crisis. I understand you and your colleagues all recorded at home - put a picture in my head of that whole process .

That's right, I recorded at home. I learned a lot about recording, and I also learned a lot about producing album tracks as well. I love the classic sound of lots of strings for Christmas music, so I recorded a ton of layers to make my violin sound like an orchestra on several tracks. But I also love that classic jazz/pop sound of brass, guitars, piano, etc. for holiday music, so I reached out to fellow musicians to contribute these instruments to the album. I worked with some fantastic musicians to fill out my "band" from literally all over the world, Canada, Israel, England, Ecuador, and throughout the US. And it was a unique challenge to bring all of these different instruments, each recorded in separate studios all over the world, together to create a cohesive track that sounds like a unified band. But I'm very pleased with the results, and I think it was worth the extra effort.

Did you already have the equipment and the tech savvy for at-home recording, or did you have to learn how to do that in preparation for the project?

I have a pretty decent microphone that I've had for years, but beyond that I have no special equipment. I was used to the recording process in general thanks to Well Strung, but honestly there was a lot of trial and error. Elements such as the gain on the microphone, or even which room in the house to record in were factors I adjusted constantly throughout the process. In the end, it came down to what "sounds good," and after that I'd have to trust that I'd made the right decisions.

Do you do your own mixing and mastering as well, or did you send it out for that?

I do not! I originally started to, but quickly realized this was a whole can of worms better left to someone who really knows what they're doing. And I've also heard that it's sometimes best to have someone with a fresh set of ears do the mixing for any track.

So let's get away from the tech and talk Christmas: do you come from a large family, with big holiday seasons and lots of ambiance?

My family is actually pretty small, but the holidays always felt BIG. I have the best memories of the holidays growing up. The food, the music, the traditions. My parents always made the holidays feel special.

Tell me about some of the holiday music from your youth and how you came to decide which songs to record for this album.

Well, one song in particular HAD to make it on the album, no questions asked. I was obsessed with movie Home Alone as a kid, and I have always loved John Williams's score for the film. So it was a no brainer to record the main title song Somewhere in My Memory from Home Alone. All these years later, I get to live my Kevin McCallister fantasy as an adult. Most of the songs were pretty easy to pick. I created a master list of all my favorites and most of those ended up on the final album. Of course, some got cut because I wanted a nice mix of songs and didn't want the album to skew too heavy one way or another.

Some of the tracks on the CD are vocal and violin, while others are just you at the instrument. Were those easy choices to make, or did you find yourself meditating on which direction to go with each song?

I really enjoyed the process, but having made the last minute decision to record the album in September, it was a down and dirty recording schedule. I'm used to recording with Well Strung (we have three albums and several singles), but the big difference here was that in many cases when Well Strung went in to the studio, our arrangements had already been performed live well in advance of recording them. Conversely, with this solo album, I'd never performed any of these songs before. So I'd wake up to record each day knowing which song I wanted to work on, but not knowing exactly how the final arrangement would turn out. In some cases I'd write out the music notes of a particular line, but generally the album is improvisation based. I'd record myself improvising, and see what naturally came out, then take the best parts and re record them, and then often tweak those notes and re record yet again. I knew from the start I wanted to record an instrumental version of the Austrian carol Still, Still, Still, but the other instrumentals developed more organically. I'd been certain I'd want to record a vocal version of Feliz Navidad, but as I got into the process of recording it, it made more sense to record an instrumental version for the overall flow of the album.

When you decide to buy a new Christmas CD every year, what do you look for in the artists' curation and production of the music?

My favorite Christmas albums are ones you can play start to finish, that offer a nice variety of up and downtempo tracks, and you can have on in the background for all those cozy at home holiday moments. For me, a Christmas album that is smooth, warm, and cozy is just the ticket.

In your creative process for your own Christmas album, what was your goal, as an artist but also as a person who actively spends time and money acquiring holiday music every Christmas?

My goal was to create the type of Christmas album that I would want to listen to throughout the holiday season - an album you can put on while you're trimming the tree or sitting by the fire. I wanted it to be varied musically, to be contemporary, yet reference that classic Christmas sound of Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby.

Ok, for fun, play with me for a few questions, ok?

Ok.

Best Christmas baked treat: My grandmother's Christmas Biscotti! I've never had a biscotti that tastes anything like these. They're decadent and richly spiced. I love them.

Favorite Christmas movie: Home Alone. As a kid I laughed at the bad guys getting beat up, and now as an adult I love it because the movie has a lot of heart.

Favorite HALLMARK Christmas movie: I hate to admit it, but I don't think I've ever seen one.

Christmas ugly sweater, yes or no? Yes!

Mistletoe hanging in the house, yes or no? I've never done it. It seems fun though for a party maybe?

Household decor - elegant or Santa's workshop? Elegant. Although last year our house looked like Santa's workshop for weeks since it took us so long to set up.

Best Christmas album from your youth: Amy Grant's album, Home for Christmas.

Best Christmas album from your adulthood: Michael Bublé's, Christmas.

Presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Christmas Day.

Best Christmas TV Special: This isn't a special, but I loved 90210's Christmas episode in season 2 in which it "snowed" in LA.

Your personal favorite Christmas song: I don't think I can choose just one!

Edmund, with the pandemic numbers continuing to climb in America, big Christmas celebrations will probably not be possible for many people. What's the picture in your head of your own holiday season this year?

I definitely don't think we'll be attending large gatherings as we have in past years. I think it will be a very merry holiday season, but a more intimate one than other years. It will definitely be a Christmas at Home.

How can fans get a copy of CHRISTMAS AT HOME?

The album is on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Apple Music.

So, how do you feel, having finally made the move into the realm of solo recording artist? Think you'll do it again?

I loved it! I enjoyed the process immensely, and I will definitely release my second album in the late spring.

Edmund, thank you so much for stopping by to chat today. I hope you folks have a wonderful holiday sprint this year and, again, congratulations on the new album.

Thank you so much, and same to you!

BWW Interview: Edmund Bagnell Debuts Solo Album CHRISTMAS AT HOME

Photos provided by Edmund Bagnell



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