GRAMMY®-nominated vocal band Ernie Haase + Signature Sound is scheduled to release its first full-length holiday album in 10 years, A Jazzy Little Christmas, on October 11. The collection of holiday classics and sacred seasonal songs, released via Gaither Music Group, resounds the joy and miracle of Christmas. A Jazzy Little Christmas is available for pre-sale now at Gaither.com, Amazon.com, CBD.com and LifeWay.com.
Q: Thank you Ernie for this opportunity. Congratulations on the release of your new Christmas album. With so many Christmas songs out there, how did you narrow down your song selections for this record?
Well, thank you for giving me this chance. And thank you for the great review! Your words NAILED what I wanted to present--an old-fashioned Christmas that was still fun, yet not loud. That is how we picked the songs and the whole direction. Our last Christmas project, Every Light That Shines at Christmas, was released in 2009; and though I am still proud of it, I wanted to create a new experience—a musical experience that you could intentionally listen to or just put on in the background as you meet with friends and loved ones. I believe this record achieves both intentions for our listeners.
Q: Why did you favor a jazzy approach to this album?
It was the sound—true, four-part harmony…and the sound of the musical band--to find players who were comfortable playing fun, but not loud…playing together, yet not needing a click track to stay in the groove.
Q: You have enlisted the help of Tony Bennett's former musical director and pianist Billy Stritch for this new record. How and why did you enlist Billy Stritch's help?
All of the things I've stated were in my heart to do. I absolutely love the old Four Freshmen recordings. I knew what I wanted. I just didn't know how to get there. On a trip to NYC with my wife and producer and friend Wayne Haun, we went to hear Billy play at the famous Birdland. It’s the oldest jazz place in NYC. After his performance, we introduced ourselves; and he was more than open to talk to us. Kind of like an EHSS after concert...he was just hanging out. Wayne said something like, "We would love to work with you if you were ever open to the idea." Billy said, “SURE! Here's my number. Let's have lunch and talk.” It just fell into place after that meeting.
Q: Who are some others who were involved in the making of this record?
Of course, Wayne Haun. He is not only my friend and business partner, but Wayne is my dreaming out loud buddy. Then, my dear friend and co-writer Joel Lindsey--they both came to my house after we met Billy, and we sat for three days writing an original song "Christmas in Manhattan" and re-writing "Sometimes I Wonder" for the Christmas recording. The rest of our time was spent thinking of songs, marketing, titles, touring and even the red velvet coats.
Q: You have written an original song for the record "Christmas in Manhattan." Tell us the story behind how this song came about?
My wife, Lisa Younce Haase, and I will celebrate 29 years of marriage this December. Ever since we first tied the knot, we have always taken trips to NYC, Cleveland, Chicago or Toronto to see musicals. Manhattan is our place! We always do a Broadway blitz right after Thanksgiving, so we can see the town lit up in all its holiday splendor. When Joel and Wayne were at my house, I told them I had an idea for a new Christmas love song called “Christmas in Manhattan.” I sang them that pick-up line that we do over and over again, "Another Christmas in Manhattan...." I told them we should fill in the blanks with what the city offers at Christmas but through the lens of two young lovers. We made a music video of that song during Christmas 2019. We are holding onto the release of that music video until we are closer to Christmas. It is AMAZING! I think it might become a new standard.
Q: One song I really like and one that I raved about in my review is "Sometimes I Wonder." Tell us more about this song.
Well, that has been an EHSS song for about seven years now. We have recorded and re-recorded it many times. People love the song. It doesn't answer any questions. Matter of fact, it asks the questions we all have about losing someone we hold dear. Christmas, even with all its joyful celebrations, is still sad for a lot of people. It reminds us of who is not there to celebrate with us. In December of 2017, my sister-in-law Tara Younce passed away suddenly at age 42. We spent Christmas at the Cleveland Clinic watching her slip away without a chance to fight. She passed on December 31st. Like C.S. Lewis said in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, "It was always winter, never Christmas." That is how we felt. Tara loved winter! To honor her, we re-wrote the first verse for Tara; and it just felt like it found its home on this Christmas recording. I think people will be moved and blessed buy it...I hope!
Q: You will also be embarking on a jazzy Christmas tour, what can our readers expect when they come out to see you?
YES! November and December are booked beyond what I have ever booked us before! We are actually booking 2020 now! It's crazy. Our tour dates are on our website: www.erniehaase.com. I'd love to see everyone!
Q: What does Christmas mean to you?
God gave us The Song! Jesus, the eternal Christ, is the song. I am forever unwrapping that gift. It's not a seasonal thing for me. I could sing Christmas songs all year long. He started the whole world singing in Bethlehem; and we, all the boys of EHSS, are trying to add to the symphony of praise. My birthday and wedding anniversary are in December, and my group was started because I wanted to record a Christmas project after The Cathedrals retired. I was doing solo work at the time. There were a few songs that sounded like they needed to be in four-part harmony. I called some friends in the studio to bring those songs to life. When I walked out of the studio, I called my wife and said, “I have to start my own quartet. I have unfinished work to do." So Christmas is everything to me!