Herald’s Q&A: The Swinging Belles

This Christmas, treat your tiny tots to some holiday tunes in the best way possible. Juno and Canadian Folk Award winners The Swinging Belles have fast become a local hallmark when it comes to lively performances and entertaining antics – and it’s not just kiddos enjoying the show!

Laura Winter, Erin Power and Duane Andrews have crafted a special something with The Swinging Belles. Popularity has grown, as has demand for new material. It is only natural that a holiday record would be just what the doctor ordered while fans await a new record.

Jingle Belles contains a hearty dose of re-imagined Christmas classics, with some brand new material, as well as a kid-approved story inter-woven through the record. The trio stopped by to talk Christmas in July, kid-testing their material and music during the holidays.

 By my understanding you guys were recording this album during the summertime. How strange is it to get into Christmas mode during scorching heat and blaring sunshine?

Laura: It’s pretty funny. We did the recording in July and August. You’re in the studio with your headphones on but you have sweat dripping down your neck singing Jingle Bells, because it’s 30 degrees outside. That was pretty funny, pretty weird.

Erin: Then of course, you get earworms. You’ll be walking down the road towards the Folk Festival singing Jingle Bells or whatever.

Combing over the massive amount of Christmas content, how did you guys decide which holiday staples you’d tackle? Obviously your original material, and the adorable story of Milo the Moose made the cut. 

Duane: Anything that came to our mind we sort of put them down on the long-list and then we just started playing them all. It was like, which ones felt the best? On the album there are 12 tracks, so we recorded more than we planned to release. It’s whatever we can think of and then whatever felt best, and then the list grows smaller when you find out which ones feel better in the recording process.

Erin: We popped a story in there. We normally tell a story from the stage, so we had this story we had written and we weren’t sure whether or not to record it because we weren’t sure how it would come across. We tried it out a couple of times, and we laughed so hard, so we said yeah this will probably be good.

 You both being teachers (Erin and Laura), it seems like you have a ready-made test audience for your work. Do you find yourself sampling the material for your classes?

Laura: When we recorded it I brought it in and played it for my grade 1s, probably back in October. And they looooveeed it. We knew it was kid approved.

Erin: They’re very honest in their opinions of what they like and don’t like. And they love to sing along. When we’re recording the songs we want things that the kids can relate to, that they can sing to and dance to and do the things that they love to do. 

 What do you count among some of your more important personal holiday traditions?

Erin: We’re big singers in our house. Growing up music was always a really big part of the Christmas season for us. We have an annual Boxing Day party that’s been on the go for years and years and years. That is the highlight of the Boxing Day parties for all of the family get-togethers. People we only see once a year come together. Because there’s a whole generation of children, like the grandkids, we do our own little sing-along with them so they have their own moment, and then the adults sing all the old folks songs that we’ve been singing for years. Music is a huge part of our Christmas traditions for sure.

Laura: I teach grade ones and we have the Christmas assembly for the school. Every year since I’ve started I’ve had a class set of hand-bells, pitched bells, and I conduct Joy To The World with the grade 1’s and they all play the handbells. It has all the notes, runs the full octave. That’s one of my favourite things.

Erin: You go out and there’s so many shows at Christmastime and people are home that are away all year … You come together with your friends when you’re there to see the music and be a part of the music. You might be at someone’s house and get together and have a jam with people you haven’t seen in a long time.

 Outside of some holiday cheer, what would you like your fans to take away from this album, and where you guys are as a band right now?

Erin: At the core we always want to be making music that make people happy and that they can connect to. I think this album certainly does that

Jingle Belles is available now at local music retailers. For more on The Swinging Belles visit theswingingbelles.ca

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