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Vince Vance Interview, Christmas And New Orleans
  // Wednesday, 08 December 2010 11:41 //

When I first saw on Youtube Vince Vance’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, I said to myself, “WOW”.

Vance had told me that he wrote the song and that it was a big hit nationally.  I had heard the song’s title before so that was a good start, for me. 

Frankly, I have begun to become familiar with the zany and whacky Vince Vance and his music ever since I listened to and watched his “I Am New Orleans” video which he released during the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

I was so impressed with that music video that I put it up on Youtube and now it has received over 204,000 visits since August.

Even more than the impressive number of views, I read the hundreds of comments that went like “Captures our? soul and? love of the this. Way to go Vince” and this one—“ Absolutely AWESOME! I got goosebumps at the third line; a lump? in my throat at the first "I Am New Orleans".

Thank you for taking us home...”

As the holiday season approached, I once again listened to Vance’s rendition of “All I want for Christmas” and decided, this song and music video is—well, great.  It sounds somewhat country.   with a heavy New Orleans flavor,  And, perhaps the best part of the music video is watching a much younger Vince Vance and his trade mark his “hair” perform.   To me, and apparently based upon the song’s rankings, it is among the classics.

Which gets me to the interview.   I thought, “how and why did Vince Vance write and produce the music and video”.  So, I sent him some questions and below are his responses.  

So, please read the interview and watch the music video.

In the spirit of the season of giving, if you like any other Louisiana and/or New Orleans December holiday videos, please send those Internet links our way and Bayoubuzz will consider including them when we write a salute to  Louisiana Christmas music.   

 

Your music video, “All I want for Christmas Is You” is a terrific song.   How did the song come about?

In 1987, my friend and lead guitarist, Troy Powers said he had a great name for a Christmas song, "All I Want for Christmas is You."  I concurred and we agreed to write it immediately.  But being a touring band with one-nighters every night, with so much traveling, an agent who used a dartboard for a touring GPS, family, practicing, wardrobe, groupies... you often lose your center.  In August of 1988, we finally got a week engagement at World Famous Hershey Park.  As I think back over the years, I can feel the air-conditioner trying to cool off  Pennsylvania's worst heatwave ever!   We decided to get a two-bedroom suite and do some serious writing.  I thought about what we were actually trying to say in the song.  Who is that "you" in the song?  Is it your child, your parent, your grandparent, your lover, your spouse.  Then, thinking through all those  relationships, I realized one we'd overlooked -God.  I prayed to The Big Guy Upstairs for the guidance to write a Christmas song that would honor  Him!   So we made the love interest a indecipherable "You."  So, it would fit for whoever you might needed it to at Christmas.  It was not an easy write.  We both struggled to make it something that might live on beyond us.  However, it honestly was a labor of love.

I never thought that a Christmas song would be one of my my biggest legacies, but this looks like that may be just the case.

"All I Want for Christmas is You" is far bigger than either Troy or myself.  As they say in the music biz, it has legs of its own.  And, believe you-me, it's running... #1 Country Christmas single, Most-Requested Country Christmas song, #1 Country Christmas Oldie. Even the video garnered status: #6 Merriest Christmas Video All-Time on Country Music Television (CMT).

I love people and I love Christmas.  I truly want every race and creed to enjoy the feeling that Christmas can bring to those with open hearts. I do not mention God, though certainly you can substitute God, your child, or lover, mate, spouse, parent or friend for the "you' in the song..

I think we describe it best in our hit, "Merry Christmas to You:"

"Silver Bells in the air are ringing. People smile... even strangers are friends
And the sounds that you hear that twinkle in your ear, say, Merry Christmas!
Everywhere you can hear children singing. Holding hands, lovers skate two-by-two.
All the World is in love as the snow falls from above and Merry Christmas to You."
                                                                                                          -Troy Powers & Vince Vance

Troy and I have spent our lives loving and performing old music. So, the song has an antique feel to it.  Our idea was brought to life by the generosity of our Executive Producers, John R Newsome & John A Newsome, the great inventor and his son.  They are the ones who brought us to record it at Masterphonics Studio VI in Nashville.

It was engineered by the late Nashville great, Lynn Peterzel, and produced by DreamWorks own, Jimmy James Stroud, who is also on that trap set.   However, the arrangement, for the most part, is all Troy's and mine..  The great Brent Rowan is on lead guitar and Bob Wray is on Bass.  In the background you can feel Larry Bowman's acoustic guitar. The classic sax solo is Traveling Wilburys' Jim Horn, who felt very insulted that we made him take the sax solo over three times. We must have been right.

The voices were my girl singers which we call Valiantettes.  The lead singer was Vickie Valiantette and the background vocals are Vince Ann Valiantette, whose aunt was the great opera star, Christine Palmer.

Was it always a music video?  Or was it a song first that was a record and then the music video followed?

We recorded "All I Want for Christmas is You" first. As soon as it was recorded we shot the music video.  The video was shot ot on 16mm film and produced by Joe Wilson of Aries Productions.  That is is little dog that I present the girl singing in the video. Her name was Lori Nunn, the former Beauty QUeen who won Miss Fort Worth of 1988.  The video was created by Steve, the director. He came up with the idea, but the ramrod who brought it all to fruition was our manager and dear friend, Ed Cobb. Cobb burned a lot of bridges putting the scenes together.  Actually, we stoked the fire in the opening scene so high trying to please the director that we permanently injured the mantel of Ed's next door neighbor.
What is the background of the music video, meaning, how did it develop?

Growing up and even now, Christmas was always a special time of year to me.  I can’t think of one thing about Christmas that I don’t like.  Guess I’m just a big kid; I love it all, even the commercialism that you hear everyone else complain about!  Not me.  When I was a kid and going to school everyday, I’d look forward to every holiday.  Easter’s kinda nice with all the candy, Halloween’s exciting, Thanksgiving Turkey, but Christmas… Christmas has it all:  seasonal shows on TV, the family picking out just the right Christmas Tree, decorating the tree, decorating the house, putting up the crib and making sure you put the angel in just the right place, Santa Claus is coming to town and you just “Can’t Wait till Christmas Day.” Then the torture of Christmas Eve and you just can’t go to sleep. You really want to stay up and see Santa Claus… to see him eat the cookies and milk you left for him. You wake up and run to see what Santa left for you.  There’s no greater happiness than tearing off all that paper to find out if you got what you really wanted Christmas morn..

 

When you’re a kid it’s the greatest!  Well, guess what?  I’m still that kid!  I might be more of the facilitator now, but I still love it all. My kids are grown. After they grew up, I did it for my late mother.  I'd make a little display and leave a note to her from Santa.  One time, she off-handedly said, “I love Santa Claus.” Wow!  Mistake Number 12.25C.  For about 10 years, I gave her 4 or 5 Santa figurines yearly... until she begged me not to give her anymore. Now I have them...

 

I have two boys.  I tried my heart out to give them the best Christmases ever!  When Chris was about 6 or 7, he liked Star Wars figurines.. He loved ‘em so much I bought him the whole set.  Unfortunately, they evidently tasted very delicious as he chewed the heads off the lot of ‘em.  That didn’t stop Super Dad!  I got him the whole set again the very next year.  Hey, you wanna know a secret.  I’d love to go through it all again.  Sometimes I wish I had a little girl <sigh>, just so I could spoil her all year long.

 

What does this all hafta do with the Number 1 Most-Requested Christmas Song over-all for 20 years?  It’s all Christmas, baby!  I didn’t mention the music when I was enumerating all the elements of Christmas..  Well, the music might be more important than all that other stuff combined.  Think about it.  A nd it just ain’t me, either.  Come Thanksgiving whole formats of radio stations change just so you can hear the songs you know by heart over and over and over.  Music is what makes Christmas, Christmas….  But you’re interested in that song.  Okay, I will never forget…

 

That song title says it all.  See, the greatest songs are always the ones where you show a desire, a need… a want. That was the easy part...

 

To get the perfect melody, we were running over all of the greatest songs we’d ever heard.  Boy, were we the right guys for that job!?  Troy and I are both experts in old music. Because Christmas is a tradition, we wanted to give it an antique sound.  Not ancient, but tones that were familiar to Western ears to bring a nostalgia to it.  We had to start it with one of our favorite chord changes.  We both agreed one of the most beautiful changes is major I to minor iii.  We truly love it.  From then on it was easy.  For the most part, we kept the melody scale-based based and followed the chords.  However, we do get crafty in the melody to catch your ear and heart.  For example, when we play the simple changes of minor ii to minor iv.  Though we sound simple when the melody saunters its diatonic path, we place a major 7th in the melody of the minor iv chord.  That’s the reason when you sing, “if I wrote a letter” that dissonance tugs at your heart strings so.  We create the melancholy feeling when we put the major 7th in the minor iv chord.  Maybe I’m getting too technical.  And it really wasn’t all that cerebral when we wrote it. 

 

After we had solid chords and melody, I played it over and over for Troy.  At that moment, we knew we had a hit.  It sounded so great we tried it in every time signature: As a waltz, a straight 4/4, as a march.  We settled on 12/8.  To this day, I believe the music was inspired from above.  If that’s so, the lyrics were forged from steel.

 

The music was just so beautiful; it demanded that the lyrics were perfect and, thus, much harder to write.  Of course, we wanted the words to flow.  Trust me that was relatively easy for facile Tin Pan Alley composers like us.  Where we argued was more about the meaning of what we were saying.  Sometimes, we frankly didn’t agree.  In our defense, we were really trying to capture the essence of Christmas.  And we would not settle for less.  Over and over, we would ask ourselves stuff like… who is the “you” in the song. Even now!  Who does you represent?  Troy and I finally came to the understanding that the you should be about whoever the listener needed to make their Christmas special.  In all honesty, it’s why the song is still as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.

 

Troy and I both believe in God. He’s Protestant and I am Catholic. It wasn’t actually hard to imagine Christmas for me. However, I prayed before I ever started writing it.  We considered the first Christmas, about the Baby Jesus and a carpenter trying to give his family shelter.

 

We soon realized what we were doing was far more important than “Deck the Halls.”  We thought about every love there is:  a boy’s love for his girlfriend, a parent’s love of a child and conversely a child’s love for a parent.  We also thought of the love that man should have for his creator and the love we often take for granted, the love God has for us all.  Read the lyrics and you will see that the words can be substituted for whatever the listener’s situation.

 

I can talk on and on, about this and that. But one thing I know for sure is that the song truly has legs of its own.  Though it is part of me, it lives far away from my world.  It has meaning to so many people.  The second year it was out, the stores had run out of copies.  This lady comes knock on my door.  I don’t know how she ever found me, but somehow she’d tracked me down.  She begs me for my only copy.  I asked what the deal was.  She told me she’d knitted this gigantic stocking and was going to be in it when her husband got home from work.  It might sound goofy to you, but not to me. Even now it makes me misty, looking back through the years.

 

Troy may tell you something different, but “All I Want for Christmas is You” to me is not just for Christians.  Even though it subtly says Christ’s name, in the word, Christmas, Christmas is for all with love in their heart.  And all I want for Christmas is for all men and all creeds to enjoy what Christmas is at its best, a feeling no other holiday can bring:  Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men and the warmth and love of a Merry Christmas.


I have read that the music video and song is a favorite Christmas song on the charts.   Do you have any figures in terms of how well it has been doing?

 “All I want for Christmas is You” has been recorded by Sammy Kershaw, LeAnn Rimes with Brian Setzer Orchestra and Johhny Maestro. If you Google it you will find millions of mentions. A video of it was created by the cast of the “Guiding Light” Soap Opera..  However, Country Music Television (CMT) proclaimed our video the Number 5 Merriest Country Video All-Time.

 

It has been and continues to win accolades:

 

1.)   The Number One Christmas Country song

2.)   The Number One Most-requested Christmas song

3.)   The Number One Most-requested Country Christmas song

 

I usually find out how well it's doing when the royalty check comes.  I could probably live off the royalties I make off it for the rest of my life... well, provided that I die by January.



There is another song and music video with the same name written by Mariah Carey.  Was there any discussions or issues concerning the possible confusion of the two songs?

All I know is that my "All I Want for Christmas is You" pre-dates Ms. Carey's by 5 years!  This may be unkind, but I have always believed that she heard ours and she thought she would use it as a base for her version. Hers is more up-tempo, but thematically it is frighteningly similar.  I think ours smokes hers. However, I have to give it to her: Her version did confuse the market.  I guess you think those kind of things when you are a composer.  Who knows!?

Ever since you released your “I am New Orleans music video, it has done extremely well on Youtube.  What type of feedback have you received from the public?

Many have told me that they thought it was the most important piece that I've ever written. When I finally get one out there, it really causes a storm, huh?  Being it was released upon the Anniversary of Katrina, perhaps that wasn't the best metaphor, huh?  LOL.  Hey, the real truth is that God made me a composer and I have had the great fortune to have written several hits.  There is such an exciting process when you finally take a song from a note, a word, an idea and then turning it into song, then as a product as part of an album, then as a video. I have the opportunity to express more than most can only dream of. And then to have this darn universal approbation... The feeling is so fulfilling!

Watch The Music Video

by Stephen Sabludowsky, Publisher of Bayoubuzz.com

 

 

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