Inspired by a chat with his Aunt Sandy, the songwriter-producer and his colleagues came up with a contemporary Christmas classic
By 2019, songwriter-producer Gian Stone had contributed his writing and production talents to tracks by artists like Keith Urban, Bebe Rexha, and Fifth Harmony, with Girls Like You by Maroon 5 feat. Cardi B being one of his most prominent early projects. Then, a conversation with a relative of Stone’s who urged him to create a Christmas song foretold one of his next music collaborations.
Months later, Stone met with songwriter-producer Freddy Wexler and singer-songwriter Annika Wells for a writing session, during which Wexler voiced the desire to make a track that centered around the theme of feeling like it’s Christmas every day. The song that ensued, Like It’s Christmas, ended up being recorded by the Jonas Brothers.
Following the track’s drop in November 2019, the trio has sung the festive, feel-good song for iHeartRadio’s Jingle Ball concert on two occasions, in addition to a performance at the White House in December 2021. Like It’s Christmas reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart in December 2019 and has gone on to gain over 100 million Spotify streams as of 2022.
Here’s the story of how Stone and a group of colleagues combined their talents for the holiday hit that calls upon old soul sounds and has emerged as a go-to contemporary Christmas anthem.
“I always go to my Aunt Sandy’s house, and I mention Aunt Sandy because she’s a very important part of this story. We always go to my Aunt Sandy’s house, and her and my mom always do this Christmas carol, and it’s just hilarious. Aunt Sandy was like, ‘You need to write a Christmas song someday.’ She put that in my head. I was like, ‘I always want to write a Christmas song,’ and that would be so fun to call Sandy and be like, ‘I got a Christmas song!’
“So fast-forward to June or July. I had a session with Freddy [Wexler] and Annika [Wells]. Freddy’s like, ‘You know, I’m kind of writing this TV show/movie…’ I don’t want to give away his whole movie, but essentially he was like, ‘We need to write a song that makes it feel like Christmas every day.’ He basically said the title. I don’t know if he said it exactly, but it was one of those moments where it was like, ‘That’s it. Let’s write what you just said.’
“So we started throwing around melodies, and we wrote the verse, pre-chorus, chorus. We thought it was really cool. I always wanted to do a shuffle beat just because of old soul music. I always wanted to do a feel of that, and I never hear it on the radio. So I had this drum loop that I built months before, and I was like, ‘Let’s do it over this.’
“Then, I texted them. I was like, ‘Yo, let’s get together to finish this.’ We got together a few days later to finish it, wrote it, and then fast-forward two or three months… I think it was September or October. I was in New York with Jason [Evigan], we were working with the Jonas Brothers, and it was a few of us in the studio. The Jonas Brothers weren’t in there, but their A&R Wendy Goldstein, who I love dearly, was in there. Out of nowhere, she’s like, ‘By the way, we need a Christmas song for the Jonas Brothers this year.’
“And I didn’t think about anything. I didn’t think about it. And Jason, out of nowhere he goes, ‘Oh, Gian has one.’ Just to rewind, my role in this room is to engineer and vocal produce them. I had nothing to do with writing or production on anything. My face turned red. She was like, ‘You do?’ I was like, ‘Um, I don’t know.’ She’s like, ‘Okay, I want to hear in one second. Let me just finish this conversation.’ So she’s talking. There are four of us in the room. I’m texting Jason, like, ‘Bro, abort mission. I’m not going to fucking play the song. It’s a super rough demo. I’m so embarrassed.’ I’m looking at him, and his phone is 10 feet away from him on the console. I’m like, ‘Dude, get your phone.’ He’s not picking up on it. I’m like, ‘Oh, no.’
“So, two minutes later, Wendy’s like, ‘Okay, play it.’ I was like, ‘I’m just done,’ and I play it. She’s like, ‘I love it… We’re going to be in Austin in two weeks. Can you come vocal produce them on it?’ So we go, and we’re in the studio with Kevin, Joe and Nick [the Jonas Brothers]. They start doing their whole thing on it. They’re fucking amazing singers, amazing arrangers. Nick is one of the best vocal arrangers ever.
“They start doing vocal arrangements and stuff, coming up with these crazy parts. They’re just totally making it their own, taking the song from a weird demo that I did that Jason ended up cutting the demo vocal on, to them just making it sound like a record. It was so cool, and they’re coming up with production ideas and everything. Then we pulled in Mike Elizondo, who was there working with us. He’s an incredible bass player and guitarist. He did some production stuff on it. Jason threw some production stuff on it. We were just kind of working on it, and then we needed to get horns.
“We got this guy Jerry Hey, who did all the Michael Jackson stuff, to do some horns on it. Next thing you know they’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s coming out in two weeks,’ and got it mixed by Serban [Ghenea].
“I didn’t tell anybody that it was happening. I remember calling my Aunt Sandy and I was like, ‘Check your phone.’ I sent her the album artwork and a little audio snippet that they posted. She’s like, ‘What’s this?’ And I was like, ‘I wrote you a Christmas song,’ and she lost it. I did the same with my mom. … She lost it.
“So it was really cool. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever been a part of, and all the people on it – Ryan Tedder jumped on it – it’s a whole crew, but it’s all my favorite people, which is great.”
“It changed a lot [once it had reached the Jonas Brothers]. It was so sparse, and they changed some melodies. They added vocal layers that we didn’t have. Also, obviously, they know each other so well. The way that they choose their parts and just kind of see the bigger picture was brilliant and made my life easier, where they just took it and ran with it. I was like, ‘Wow, this is the best-case scenario.’
“So it changed a lot. I think part of it was wanting to get real horns in it. We really wanted to try to turn it into a classic-sounding album. So it went from really shitty fake horns to the best horn players playing on it and yeah, it really changed a lot. I think also, to their point, I don’t know if it was Nick or Wendy, but originally it was piano-based, and they were like, ‘We play guitar.’ So it was their idea to make it more guitar-based. They totally coached us.
“I listen to it every year. I love it. It’s one of the few songs that I listen to all the time. It’s great. It’s fun hearing it on the radio every year. I think since then, I’ve done a few other Christmas songs. It inspired me to try to do a song every year. I just love Christmas music. It’s so joyful. It’s my favorite time of the year, so it’s fun to work on.”