The holiday season is well and truly upon us and Adelaide singer and television presenter, Jessica Braithwaite wasted no time in delivering an up-tempo feel-good Christmas classic to bring some holiday cheer! Whilst many will recognise Jessica as a much-loved television presenter, the established singer and songwriter is no stranger to the recording studio. Jessica recently released Who You Know – which reached no. 1 on the AMRAP and plaympe charts. So when the yearly Christmas pageant was rolling into the Adelaide Oval last weekend, Jessica jumped at the opportunity and called her U.S record producer to help her create some Christmas magic.
I Still Get Excited for Christmas was produced by renowned LA producer, Stuart Brawley (Celine Dion, Michael Jackson) who engaged the help of some music industry icons and rising stars including Jamie Wollam the drummer from legendary ‘80s pop-rock band, Tears for Fears along with the singers from the cast of Glee and Disney Productions. The team worked around the clock across three countries to bring I Still Get Excited for Christmas to life in time for the pageant. What came next was a complete surprise, the single shot to the top of the iTunes Rock chart and landed at #5 in just a few days and Jessica found herself sitting amongst international superstars such as ACDC, Korn, Midnight Oil and Led Zeppelin. Jessica tells Hi Fi Way more about the single.
Congratulations on the single. You must be really chuffed and high fiving yourself seeing how well it’s done?
Well, I’m floating away because it’s so funny how these things work because I was just thinking before, because I knew I was talking to you that it was only four weeks ago that this song didn’t even exist. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to put out a Christmas song this year. Then all this crazy stuff has just happened, and it feels like it really is the silly season. Anything can happen in the silly season. That’s what it feels like at the moment.
Coming up with a new Christmas single is there a little bit of extra pressure given that you are been touted as the queen of Christmas?
Well, I felt the pressure. I think when you put out a Christmas song you know that you are going to be up for a little bit of a laugh because I think especially in Australia, there’s a little bit of a connotation that’s a bit of a daggy thing to do. Do you know what I mean? It’s not necessarily seen as the coolest thing in the world, but because I already know that I’m not cool I’m like ah, stop it. I’m only putting out a song. I don’t really care about trying to be cool. I’ve got more of a focus with my music which is more on sparking joy, having fun and celebrating the positive sides of life without that fear of, I don’t know, trying to be a cool kid. I knew that when I was going to put out a Christmas song that that would be a consideration.
Did you realise how quickly that it was going to come together? Obviously, like you said, from just an idea and four weeks later you’re number five on the iTunes chart.
I know. You couldn’t have planned it. People would’ve said you were crazy if I had have said, “Okay, so I’m going to record a song in seventy two hours and then I’m going to upload it. I’m not going to tell anyone about it, any of the streaming services or anything. I’m not going to pitch it to radio. I’m not going to do any of those things. I’m going to upload it with twenty minutes to spare, and make the cover art on my laptop at dinner with my brother at the last minute.” Then people would go, “That’s a ridiculous song release strategy.” It’s kind of the opposite, we broke all the rules of what you’re meant to do. So then to see it just explode, like that weekend that it came out and radio stations were calling me and hosts were going on air saying, “This is the best Christmas song I’ve ever heard.”
Then, that weekend it was starting to climb up in the charts and I’m going, “This is ridiculous. I haven’t even sent it to radio yet and it’s already doing its thing.” I reckon it’s because people have had a bit of a rubbish year around the country, particularly people who’ve been in lockdown, people with COVID, everything that’s happening, and because this song is about saying that I still get excited for Christmas, I think people want to let their hair down a little bit and celebrate. We’re starting to see each other again and it just feels like it’s hit this vibe of excitement for this time of year.
What does Christmas look like for you this year?
I’m really excited this year actually, because with the borders opening up I’m going to be able to see the other half of my family who are coming over from Melbourne. Christmas for us is a huge family thing, and a lot of it centres us around the music as well. We’ve got our favourite Christmas albums that we like to put on. Everyone in my family, we all love that Christmassy thing of putting on the Christmas albums and having a dance while we decorate the tree. Maybe that’s a bit tacky, but we love it. It takes on a whole new level for me now because I’ve got two little kids. I took my boy to the Christmas pageant. You should have seen his face. He just lit up. He’d never seen anything like it. For me that was like oh wow, I’m accessing like a whole new level of magic with this season now because I’m experiencing it through his eyes, and that’s even more wonderful. It’s like magic overload in our house at the moment.
Working with the calibre of people to pull this song together and the time that you did it in must feel like a monumental accomplishment?
It was wild. I just feel like we probably couldn’t have pulled it off if it wasn’t a Christmas song. I don’t know. It felt like that the spirit of the season brought everyone together. It was a ridiculous thing. I messaged Stuart Brawley, the producer in LA, because I had worked with him once before back in 2018. I remember at the time he had been talking about his Christmas light display that he puts up every year, and this was in April, and I remember thinking to myself oh, this guy really likes Christmas.
So when I was in this position where I’m like okay, I need to record this Christmas song, I was like, I’m going to ask Stuart, because I reckon if anyone’s going to get on board with this crazy idea, it’ll be him, and he did. He jumped on board and literally I was like, “Do you want to record the Christmas song? And by the way, we’ve got seventy two hours to get it done.” Because I didn’t realise there’s a lag time between when you upload it to get it up onto Spotify in time. So we had seventy two hours to make this song. He’s like, “Yeah. I reckon we can do it.”. So we used his time zone in LA, we had the drummer in Canada and then we had me here in Australia. So when he went to bed, I went and then recorded my vocals here and then sent them back to him in LA, so that when he woke up he would have my vocal to continue working on it with the backing singers.
The people that he got on board, I was just blown away. I’m sitting at home in my pajamas, I get this Zoom call come in from him and then there’s the drummer from Tears for Fears in his studio in Canada putting the drums down to my Christmas song. Then I’ll get another call the next day and the singers from Disney and Glee have come in to put down the backing vocals, and they sound amazing. I’m just going how is this even happening? Everyone came together and that’s why I say I reckon it was a bit of Christmas spirit bringing everyone together because it was just so crazy, and everyone got on board at the last minute.
Does it get you thinking about whether you would do a Christmas album next year or release more of your own music next year?
It’s definitely a juggle. When I do music it’s always a big undertaking. I mean, you know what it’s like, especially when you’re an independent musician because you don’t have people to do all the different things for you it’s a big undertaking. I try to do it at times where I feel like I have the, not just the physical energy, but the emotional resolve to do it, because it’s a big thing. Going through this, it sparks so many more ideas for me, not just about Christmas music, but maybe some kind of seasonal album that has songs for different times of the year. I think, obviously being a weather presenter, a lot about the weather and there’s different types of music that suit summer, winter, autumn and different vibes of the year. So, I’ve got some ideas floating around my head about doing something like that, but we will see. That’s a “watch this space.”
Interview By Rob Lyon