’Tis the season for more Christmas songs and album releases than any of us can handle. Yep, it seems everyone has something festive to sing about. Most of the times, it’s as empty as the calories one consumes during the season. Enter John Ondrasik aka Five For Fighting and Jim Brickman, who have joined forces on a new single the supports our troops entitled “Christmas Where You Are.” In a time in which everything can be construed as political or actually is political, this is simply a song dedicated to those who serve to protect our freedom and their families. The song is available on iTunes as well as on Brickman’s A Joyful Christmas.
I recently caught up with the duo and asked them about the song, working together, and why they selected the Gary Sinise Foundation for a percentage of the proceeds of the song to go toward. Obviously that last question is a no-brainer really. That foundation honors defenders, veterans, first responders and their families.
How’d the song come about?
JO: Jim and I were talking about our experiences with the USO and our love and appreciation for the troops. As he has so much experience in the Christmas space, I suggested we write a Christmas song for the troops. Jim sat down at the piano and "Christmas Where You Are" was born.
JB: think what happens is when you’ve done a lot of Christmas songs like I have, after a while, it’s like ‘gosh, I can’t do Jingle Bells again.’ I felt like I wanted to say something more. Let’s think about this holiday, and who we want to talk to and talk about. The men and women of the armed forces were already part of our world. I think like most great ideas, it came in an instant.
How’d you guys decide on what charity proceeds would go toward?
JB: That really came from John. He’s very friendly with Gary, and he’s always been a proponent with his work with Wounded Warriors, the military, and finding them housing. He’s really an amazing advocate.
JO: I’ve been working with Gary Sinise for over a decade on various concerts and efforts for our troops and their families. In my mind, Gary is our generation's Bob Hope. It was a no brainer to share part of any proceeds with his foundation...It doesn't hurt that when we play this song live, I can get a free bass player in Lt. Dan!
Ha! Talk to me a bit about the dynamic of working together.
JO: This is the first song we have completed. It's great to have a world class piano player so I can focus more on lyric and melody. We are also at a similar stage in our careers where we can take shots on songs that are atypical and that have a significance to us.
JB: When you write with somebody for the first time, it’s like going on a date. You first have to see if there’s a vibe and what the tone of the vibe is. Sometimes there’s a fit with somebody. He and I feel like we really understand each other on a creative level that it’s almost not verbal. It’s really below the surface. I’ve only been writing with him a couple years but Ive known him and known of him forever. John’s songs are so emotional. He goes really deep with a lot of metaphors for life like with “100 Years” and “Superman.” In a way, we’re very much alike. We put all of our emotions into our music - our heart and soul.
The world is kind of in disarray no matter what side of the fence you're on, how important is it to not lose sight of what's really important? This song, for example, is about our veterans but expands to their loved ones, and any loved ones far away really...
JB: It’s more about that feeling of being so far away - not that it’s the military. It’s anybody in the world that has to be way from somebody that they care about during such a special time of year. While it’s a ‘thank you’ for what they do, it’s also a testimonial to anyone far away from friends and family during the holidays.
JO: We sometimes forget that our soldiers give us the luxury to have this imperfect mess of democracy where we can disagree vehemently but all have the freedom to speak our mind and advocate for whatever political or cultural issues that we are passionate about. This luxury does not apply in many countries and sometimes I think we forget how fortunate we are in the west. I do believe the holidays are times to reflect on such blessings and be grateful for loved ones, far and near. I know that's true for me.
About A-Sides with Jon Chattman - thisisasides.com
Jon Chattman’s music, culture, and entertainment series typically features celebrities and artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometime humorous) way. No bells, no whistles — just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, Jon strives for a refreshing change. Artists featured on the series include Imagine Dragons, Melissa Etheridge, Yoko Ono, Elle King, Joe Perry, Alice Cooper, fun, Bleachers, Charli XCX, Marina and the Diamonds, and Bastille.
*Jon Chattman’s currently working on a new book entitled Moving Foreword, a pop culture anthology with talent lending forewords to books they make up.