10 components of a Christmas classic
As we ramp up the festivities, Irish singer-songwriter Michael Gallagher suggests the key ingredients required to build a Christmas song
The Mining Co. is a project led by Irish singer-songwriter Michael Gallagher. His Three Kings EP was originally least last year and contains five songs written with the Christmas period in mind. Drawing from traditional folk songs, ghosts and time spent in Spain over, these tracks contain many of the elements found in the very best festive music. So much so that we asked Gallagher to take us through his personal list of ingredients needed to whip up a Christmas classic…
I prefer Christmas songs that mention religion and I like to try and mention the birth of Jesus, and the spirit of giving.
2. PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
Whether it’s about the future or the past, a Christmas song should mention something dear to you. The Mining Co.’s Long Way To Christmas is about the only time it snowed at Christmas when I was a child, the song is the hope of capturing that experience of a magical night again in future.
3. TAKE INSPIRATION
It could be listening to your favourite festive songs, or being drunk at the back of the church on Christmas Eve, listening to Silent Night; whatever it is that inspires you, use it, it’s all songwriting fuel.
Ghosts are always part of Christmas to me. I took the idea for my song Ghost Writer from the character of Jacob Marley [Christmas Carol] and turned him into a writer, helping and inspiring the words for Christmas cards that people are writing to each other.
5. CHILDREN SINGING
From King’s College Choir to Aled Jones, children’s voices are the sound of Christmas, their choral singing alone sets the time of year, and adds joy and youth to a song.
In my song Holloway, I added magical soundscapes by using gentle keyboards and symbols to mimic a storm coming in and the use of a nylon string guitar to affect the sound of a harp.
Get yourself immersed in the correct environment. For me, staying up late, surrounded by low lighting, I try to tap into the music and memories I grew up with.
8. DRUMS & BELLS
On my song Wild Gift I started with a snare drum. When I was a child I played the Drummer Boy in my school’s nativity. The bells ringing out in the chorus, at the birth of Jesus (the wild gift), ensures the Christmas familiarity of that sleigh bell sound!
The bossa nova rhythm and flute used on Christmas No 1 show that if the lyrics are evocative, seasonal and sentimental, it will still be a Christmas song whatever genre of music you choose to use – for example, punk, jazz or the harmonies of bluegrass – it’ll still sound like a Christmas song.
10. WRITE A SONG WITH OTHER PEOPLE IN MIND
I like to imagine lots of people together, enjoying the Christmas season and having my songs playing in the background, enhancing their celebrations.