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Mannheim Steamroller Christmas

Ross Boissoneau - December 20th, 2007
Mannheim Steamroller, helmed by the ever-busy Chip Davis, talks with Express’ Ross Boissoneau about Mannheim’s latest holiday album, Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, and the Kennedy Space Center. Yes, all of that is related somehow - read on!
EXPRESS: Why did you first decide to do a Christmas album?
DAVIS: I have always been fascinated with the history and tradition of Christmas carols. When I recorded my first Christmas album in 1984, it was because I wanted to take the carols that I knew and combine modern day instruments with instruments from the Renaissance era. Ever since the first Christmas record, the fans have participated on what songs would be included on the next one.

EXPRESS: Why did you decide to do another one? What keeps you coming back for more holiday spirit?
DAVIS: I recorded Christmas Song pretty much based on the feedback from the fans. In January, more than 100,000 fans voted for the tunes they wanted to hear on the new record… that told me they were ready for a new one.

EXPRESS: How did you choose the tunes for this recording?
DAVIS: The fans voted for some of them, and then I arranged four songs: one for my wife and one for each of my three children.

EXPRESS: How closely related are the Fresh Aire and the Christmas albums?
DAVIS: They are very closely related. Aire means song in Italian…that’s why, up until this CD, all of my Christmas CDs had “aire” in the title. I thought Christmas Song was an appropriate name for this CD because I am using the English translation of the word, aire.

EXPRESS: How involved is your family with your Christmas albums?
DAVIS: My family was a great inspiration to me for Christmas Song. As I mentioned, I arranged a song for my wife and each of my three children on this one. I arranged “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” for my wife in a big-band style. I wrote “Christmas Lullaby” for my oldest daughter. Watching my wife and son running around our front yard (with bare feet) during a snowstorm inspired a song that I wrote called “Catching Snowflakes on Your Tongue.” I arranged “Feliz Navidad” for my daughter Elyse; when we were in San Antonio on Christmas tour a few years ago (Elyse was 4 at the time), Elyse thought a mariachi band was making fun of her. They were singing “Feliz Navidad,” and she thought they were making fun of her by singing “Elyse Navidad.” Needless to say, to this day, we don’t let her live that story down.
EXPRESS: How are each of your Christmas albums different from one another?
DAVIS: The playlists are different, but there are a lot of similarities. Since the first Christmas record, fans have sent in their suggestions for songs they would like to hear. More than 100,000 fans voted for what they wanted to hear on Christmas Song. I also try to include a Renaissance-type piece on each of the CDs; on Christmas Song, I recorded a song called “Masters in This Hall” - the response has been great. One of the unique things about this CD is that I included some vocals on Christmas Song. “The Christmas Song” was the top vote getter from the fans and so I wanted to give it a special treatment – I asked the legendary Johnny Mathis to sing on the track. His work on the song is stunning.

EXPRESS: What are you doing to stay at the forefront of music technology?
DAVIS: I have been recording, using some new techniques for my medical company called Ambience Medical. We also worked with our friends with The Space Foundation and Kennedy Space Center to capture the sounds of the Space Shuttle takeoff and landing.

EXPRESS: Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur, with your various food lines and other offerings?
DAVIS: A lot of the products were invented as a companion piece for the music. We have now sold more than 500 tons of Mannheim Steamroller Cinnamon Hot Chocolate. We began using it as a companion to the Christmas CDs, and now it’s the #2 selling item that we have, trailing only the new Christmas Song CD.

EXPRESS: Your recipe for Hot Chocolate is a favorite. How did you come up with the recipe?
DAVIS: I like hot chocolate and I like cinnamon. I had never seen the two ingredients combined, so I combined them. It’s great by itself, but a lot of folks around our office use a scoop of it in their coffee. The stuff is addictive!

EXPRESS: Which role do you like best: Composer, musician, label head, entrepreneur?
DAVIS: I really like them all. I think if I only did one job or another, it would be boring. Each task brings different challenges and opportunities.

EXPRESS: Who are your favorite composers?
DAVIS: Mozart. I would have liked to meet him. I like Beethoven a lot too.

EXPRESS: And an easy one: What’s your favorite time of the year?
DAVIS: Christmas, of course.



 
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