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BWW Interview: John McDaniel of (AT) HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

It's definitely Christmastime when you can join a ZOOM party with John McD and get his personal holiday show.

BWW Interview: John McDaniel of (AT) HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!Like a jolly giant, John McDaniel has spent most of 2020 reaching out to his fans and friends, far and wide, to entertain and to inspire joy through his regular streaming show SUNDAY TEA WITH JOHN McD. For a while the award-winning Maestro was working behind the keyboard and the camera once a week but when autumn came around, John dialed it back to the first Sunday of every month, so that he could have time to focus on his work with the O'Neill Cabaret Conference, as well as some other projects. This Christmas, though, John McD is back online, and this time he is presenting a holiday special, right from his home to ours.

(At) Home For The Holidays will debut today, December 20th, so I thought I should get the last-minute dish on the whole thing, and John was kind enough to share some tidbits with me.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced with minimal edits.

Happy Holidays John McDaniel! How are you this holiday season?

Hi, Stephen! I'm doing remarkably well, thanks!

You've become quite the expert at streaming shows, have you missed doing Sunday Tea with John McD once a week? Or is your gig on the first Sunday of the month enough to keep you satisfied?

It turns out that doing Sunday Tea once a month is perfect for me! I love putting them together and folks still seem to be interested in watching so I'll keep on for the foreseeable future. The next episode is January 3rd, so we can all launch into the New Year with some great music & stories.

And now you are doing your first online Holiday Show - what brought on that decision?

I LOVE music that comes around each year and fills us with joy over the Holidays - and this year, since we're all isolated, even more so. I decided to put together a collection of my favorites into a one-hour music special which begins streaming today! It will stream all the way through New Year's so folks can get a ticket anytime.

Put a picture in my head of what (At) Home For The Holidays will look like for your audience.

So, one of the upsides of this pandemic is that I have acquired some skills - I decided to jump into iMovie so that I could create my own videos. That's been a lot of fun. This is my freshman effort but I'm pretty darn proud of what I've been able to do all by myself! I hope folks will enjoy it.

And how are the holidays looking for you in real life?

Typically, I would be heading home to St. Louis to spend Christmas with my mom & dad and family. But this year, we'll not be together, out of an abundance of caution. Charlie, my partner, and Clarence, our Frenchy, and I will enjoy a lazy day together and we'll zoom with the whole family for champagne, a big meal and to open our presents.

What is, traditionally, your favorite part of the holiday season, and will you be able to observe that custom this year, with all the madness that's going on?

I will have to imagine how I feel when I go home to visit my family - my blood pressure seems to drop considerably and I sleeeeeep well and long there. Sigh. I'll do my best to replicate that, but I have a feeling that's a zone unique to being home.

Tell me about the ZOOM party that is available for your show when it debuts later today.

Lots of folks have suggested that I should host a zoom get-together, so I thought I'd pair it with the launch of my special. If people donate more than $35, they get the link to the zoom hang and the concert too. I think it will be fun to zoom-hang in real-time with some music lovers!

How long will (At) Home For The Holidays be available for people to order and watch?

It's so easy - tickets are Pay What You Can (min $10) - just donate at my Venmo, johnmcdaniel123 *or* my and we'll send the links. And if you donate $35 or more, we'll include the VIP zoom launch party Sunday, Dec 20th at 5 pm EST.

You keep busy with a lot of projects - any updates on anything that you've been working on? Any news we can break on Broadway World for you?

I'm excited to be music directing ANJOU, A TALE OF HORROR, produced and directed by my pal, Roberto Araujo, and starring Julia Murney, Eden Espinosa, Javier Muñoz, and a host of other talented folks. It will premiere online on Jan 29th, benefitting Broadway Cares! I'm also going to be creating a new show for the Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples this February, so stay tuned for more news on that!

Are you a New Year's Resolution person, or do you resolve things throughout the year as the need comes up?

I'm just gonna breathe, breathe and breathe some more. I believe better times are on the horizon and I'm hopeful for a brighter 2021.

What has been your biggest learning moment of 2020, and what's your main focus for 2021?

This time of quarantine has been surprisingly productive. I've also had the opportunity to hit a giant internal reset button. I have mastered Garage Band, Logic, and now iMovie, which are skills I may never have taken the time to learn. I will carry these forward in my work and life, which feels fantastic.

John, what piece of holiday music gives you the most pleasure to perform?

For years, I think it's been John Lennon's "Happy Xmas" - it continually feels pertinent and "of the moment". The lyric "War is over if you want it..." really resonates with me and I love singing it. It's a song that sings of inclusion, learning and moving forward with love.

And what piece of holiday music do you find yourself most frequently performing, due to request?

OMG - so, I did put out feelers this year for requests and by FAR the most requested song was "Mary, Did You Know?". I had literally never done that one before, but I learned it and really enjoyed singing it. Another one that came into my purview this year was Melissa Manchester's gorgeous, "There's Still My Joy". Wow, what a beautiful song - I can't wait for folks to hear that one.

I'm so glad we got to have this chat and I can't wait to tune in to the show tonight! Thank you!

Stephen, you are a champion of so many of us who are doing our thing and I send you a virtual hug of gratitude! Happy Holidays!

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