Roy Wood may have wished it could be Christmas every day – but Gwen Stefani is actually put into practice.
The No Doubt singer has spent the last 12 months, surrounded by sleigh bells, as she worked on her first album, festive, recording classics like Let It Snow and Santa Baby in the scorching heat of the summer.
“I put up a Christmas tree in the studio?”, jokes the singer. “Not really. I’ve done it and had a lot of fun.
“I have lived through the grief and all that stuff to write my other folders. It was so much fun and easy.”
Inspiration arrived while Stefani was to run to his boyfriend Blake Shelton ranch – 200 acres of property full of wildebeest and deer in the plains of Oklahoma.
“It was a beautiful and magical run and I started to think,” If I wrote a Christmas song, what would it be?’ And it just came out of me, this song called the Eve of Christmas.
“It sounded like a hymn, and I started to panic like, ‘Oh my God! I have to get back to my phone so I don’t forget it!'”
Back at the ranch, Stefani anxiously asked his parents: “Is this the church? Have I to steal?”
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Reassured, he was the source, she sent a text message to his managers and set up a studio session. In a few weeks, the voice memo on his phone turned into an eccentric, chain-loaded walk.
After that, the album came with a surprising speed.
“My life style is very busy now, with all of my children and everything, so I would be in the studio at nine in the morning and… just to put my mind to it.
“I had only three sessions and I wrote six songs. Two songs each session and I was at home for school time!”
Fans have come to expect from Stefani to knock out a few ska-punk covers of Bing Crosby; or an electro-hip-hop take on Jingle Bells will be sorely disappointed.
The star, who grew up listening to Emmylou Harris Christmas record, Light Of The Stable, and the Charlie Brown Christmas Album, remains affectionately faithful to the old standards, spreading its arrangements with crackling blades of brass and shimmering, doo-wop backing vocals.
Even his version of Wham’s Last Christmas adds a 60 gloss of George Michael, the broken hearts classic.
“It was a little of the atmosphere that we wanted: the wall of sound, Ronettes-style, back,” she said.
“It is really rare to be able to make a folder like that because it is so expensive to get all the musicians.
“It’s so old-fashioned [but] it was pretty magical to be a part of it.”‘Sexiest man alive’
The album, You Make it Feel Like Christmas, cool palate-cleanser after Stefani’s last solo album, 2016 This Is what The Truth Feels Like.
This record came in the wake of her divorce with Gavin Rossdale and, later, the unexpected, the romance with Blake Shelton – his co-host on the US version of The Voice.
The results have been sufficiently confused, meandering between the icy beards of Me, Without You and the cartoon bounce pop to Make Me Like You, without settling on a single tone.
Stefani’s personal life is off-limits, the BBC is told in advance of this interview, but she’s happily chats away on Shelton, after a pause to check if we have heard of him.
We certainly do. After all, he has just been named the sexiest man alive.
“Exactly!” Stefani laughed, with a self-deprecating movement of his hair. “I don’t know if you’ve heard of him? The sexiest man alive? This is my boyfriend, by the way.”
In fact, it was going to be hard to avoid discussions of Shelton, since he co-wrote the title track on the You Make it Feel Like Christmas, a nice little love song that climbs up the rhythm from The Supremes ” you Can’t Hurry Love.
The track came from the sky, says Stefani, as Shelton has largely abandoned writing his own songs.
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“He went to Nashville just to be a writer, but he doesn’t enjoy it, I guess. He likes to sing, ” she says.
“But I happened to be sitting around the [tour] bus and started to write this song You Make it Feel Like Christmas.
“He sent me a voice text and I was like, ‘I was just thinking about your file and I don’t know if it is any good.
“And I was like, ‘Oh my god, this sounds like a hit!'”
“It is one thing to write a Christmas song that’s mid-tempo or slow or emotional, but an uptempo, fun, happy? This is hard.”#
You Make it Feel Like Christmas is without a doubt the highlight of the album, and Stefani’s best shot to have a recurring Christmas hit.
“As an author, it is the ultimate dream,” she admits. “The idea of having a song that is repeated every year.
“I mean, every year, Mariah Carey, it’s like, ‘Here I am again! I’m back! Even if I don’t have a record this year, I’m back at Christmas!’
“It was the idea that I was going to get the basketball and try to score a basket.
“You never know with music if it is to connect. But, until now, has been kind of magical.
“It’s probably going to be my favorite Christmas I’ve ever had – and it lasts for the month of April!”
You Make it Feel Like Christmas, it is now.
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