As we’ve come to the end of another year, and as we met up with Mike Donehey for our final cover Q&A interview of 2017, things were noticeably off-kilter for the Tenth Avenue North front man. No, it wasn’t the unseasonably warm Nashville weather, or the fact that his wife, carrying their fourth daughter at the time, could have gone into labor at any given moment (we’re happy to report that at the time of publication, they now have a healthy, new baby girl!).
Donehey’s apparent unbalance was all due to the band’s latest holiday release, and first full-length Christmas album, Decade The Halls, Vol. 1 (buy—which was, of course, the reason for our visit). “This whole Christmas thing—it’s tough for me,” said a half-smirking Donehey. “I have a pretty strict policy: I don’t listen to Christmas music until Black Friday.” By this point, we knew were being roped into a signature Donehey straight-faced and light-hearted ruse, but chose to play along, anyway.
“We go to a Christmas tree farm and cut down a tree every year,” as we chatted about family Christmas traditions. “That’s when I really start listening to Christmas music. I’m kind-of breaking my own rule, here, by putting out this Christmas record. I get it. You’ve got to let people know it’s coming…” And yes, we all knew that it was arriving, thanks to the early announcements by Kenneth The Christmas Yeti (whom, strangely enough, sounds a lot like Donehey does in person…hmmm), but more on Kenneth later.
Just like our reason for meeting, Decade The Halls is certainly worth any pre-Thanksgiving listen for any year (yes, we think this will be a favorite to come), as the band has taken this unique Christmas concept and turned it into something they can call their very own. Packed with styles from every decade of the last one-hundred years, this could prove to be one of those gifts that gives (and gives) again. So, in that spirit—and with a few more laughs—we ask Mike more about the making of the album, what’s ahead for the band, and more about his year-round…oops, what we meant to say, was…post-Thanksgiving affinity for all-things Christmas!
CCM Magazine: The Decade The Halls concept is certainly unique. How did all of this come about?
Mike Donehey: Well, this was a great record to make because with Christmas music you’re already beginning with a less-commercial incentive than normal. Christmas records traditionally, unless some freakish-thing happens, are going to make less money than a normal album. So, we’re not doing this to make money. I think the idea really just came from listening to Christmas records. The Christmas music I wanted to listen to wasn’t contemporary music. There’s just too much good music over the decades that you’d rather be listening to than to some modern thing. For instance, if Coldplay were to put out a Christmas record, I’d probably listen to three or four tracks and then I’d get bored. It’s like, “Oh I get it, it’s Chris Martin singing all [favorite] the songs.”
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