The Mavericks approached their upcoming Hey! Merry Christmas!, whose “I Have Wanted You For Christmas” is premiering exclusively below, with one mantra — to make new holiday music, not new versions of old songs.
“I wanted to take on the challenge of actually writing Christmas songs,” frontman Raul Malo tells Billboard. “I didn’t want to just do an album of covers and do ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and whatever. I think there’s plenty of those. The challenge was really to try and write some songs.”
Malo and his mates did just that. Hey! Merry Christmas!, which comes out Nov. 2, features eight originals, along with versions of the standards “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “Happy Holiday.” Writing the new songs wasn’t particularly daunting, according to Malo, but it did take “some time” — roughly two years, Malo estimates — before the group felt it had all it needed.
“Truthfully, there’s never a time that’s conducive for it,” Malo explains. “During Christmastime you’re not really inspired to write Christmas music; You’re busy with kids, families, parties, whatever. You’re not into settling down and getting on with the task at hand. And when it’s not Christmastime…” Nevertheless, Malo and company found a way to make that work to their advantage.
“I know this sounds weird and probably, like, anti-Christmas, but you have to have a certain emotional detachment from it to really be able to get into writing a Christmas album,” he says. “That way it becomes just another song, just another gig, something else you have to accomplish. So what better way to do that than hole up in Arizona in the heat of the desert and write some songs? That’s what we did and we started getting on a bit of a roll and, damn, before we knew it we had a Christmas record.”
The Mavericks’ new songs come from a variety of perspectives, including high-spirited material such as “Santa Wants to Take You For a Ride” and the title track. “I Have Wanted You For Christmas,” meanwhile, is intended to be “the quintessential Christmas love song on the album,” according to Malo. “It’s just a beautiful sentiment and a catchy little love song,” he says. “With Christmas you can certainly not worry so much about the cliché stuff, ’cause it’s all been done a million times — and it’s kind of expected. You just try to write a clever lyric or an interesting lyric that hopefully people can hang on to.”
The Mavericks will perform a handful of holiday shows to support Hey! Merry Christmas!,” but Malo views all this as a one-and-done prospect as the group gears up for its next project — an all-Spanish album he hopes will come out next year. “We’re not going to do a Christmas tour every year or anything like that,” Malo says. “We don’t want it to turn into that. The record will be out there every year, and hopefully every year it will get some play. But it’s not going to be part of our regular calendar. That’s not why we did it at all.”