For GRAMMY®-winning hitmaker Zach Williams, making a Christmas album was about more than picking which holiday favorites to record. From the start, Zach knew he needed the right sound, a specific vibe, songs that could celebrate the season in his signature down home rock and roll style. I Don’t Want Christmas To End goes beyond standard Christmas fare. It’s a holly-jolly-party-turned-jam-session worthy of its title – you never want it to end. According to Zach, that’s thanks in large part to where the album was recorded.
“When we started working on this record, we knew we wanted it to have a rock and roll edge, a southern rock feel. That’s when we got the idea to go down to Muscle Shoals, Alabama and record at FAME studios.” FAME, where artists from Aretha Franklin to Little Richard to The Gregg Allman Band have recorded, is preserved in all its 1960s rock glory and a key component in capturing the sound for I Don’t Want Christmas To End. “We got down there and all the original gear is still there from the Sixties,” Zach says, “the original rooms, the original console. Recording there really made the songs come alive even more than I thought it was going to.”
True to FAME’s legend, each song sounds like it was crafted in a time capsule. After making a wish list of favorites to record, Zach and his band, along with longtime producer and collaborator Jonathan Smith, headed down to Muscle Shoals and got to work shaping Christmas classics into re-imagined tunes that manage to sound fresh without losing any of the nostalgia. Recorded in the round, Zach and his band settled into the historic setting and let themselves play their chosen Christmas favorites exactly how they’d want to hear them. “White Christmas” became an Elvis “Blue Christmas” tribute, updated to Zach’s Arkansas and Tennessee roots. “Merry Christmas Baby” was reimagined as a Van Morrison classic. “Run Run Rudolph” became a Ray Charles-inspired piano rocker. Every song on the album, while instantly familiar, surprises with an unexpected new twist that still feels vintage.
The album’s one original tune, “I Don’t Want Christmas To End,” was co-written with Dallas Davidson, a member of hit songwriting trio, The Peach Pickers. Zach knew he wanted a song that summed up the spirit of the album and Dallas had already been kicking around an idea about not wanting Christmas to be over. Zach took the song and finished it out with his own twist on the theme. “I wanted a song that talked about how you wish Christmas could last forever. Along with that, I wanted something that sounded like it had been around forever, like a song from thirty or forty years ago. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record and really ties the whole thing together.”
One of the album’s most moving tracks, “Silent Night,” almost didn’t make it onto the record.
“My producer really pushed for it, but I didn’t think I could find the range, vocally. It’s such a difficult song to sing and I wanted to serve it well. I didn’t think I could do it justice.” After putting the song on the back burner, Smith brought it up again a few days into recording. The band set up to record and Zach went into the vocal booth, willing to give it a shot. “My guitarist got in there and started putting together a guitar slide solo. That was when it started to feel really special, like how in the moment, you get inspiration from everything around you. I’d heard how that happens when you get down to FAME, and that was one of those moments for us.” The result is a gorgeous track that’s both soulful and reverent, Zach’s vocals soaring as he sings about the birth of Jesus.
For the iconic “Mary Did You Know,” Zach chose to go in the opposite direction, creating something so surprising and new, it’s become an entirely new song. “I’ve always loved ‘Mary Did You Know.’ The original is in a minor key, kind of dark and sacred sounding. We were kicking around ideas and I started playing a riff on my acoustic. We ended up changing the structure of the song and gave it a ‘Mustang Sally’ kind of vibe, like it was recorded in the Sixties.” With I Don’t Want Christmas To End, Zach Williams has created a holiday album that rocks around the Christmas tree while staying true to his artistry. Equal parts fun and nostalgic, with a dash of prayerful hope, this classic-inspired album is easily a new Christmas favorite.
Leave a Reply