Leslie Odom Jr. talks release of latest holiday-themed record ‘The Christmas Album’

Leslie Odom, Jr. Approved Photo 2020 (credit Tony Duran)
Photo: Tony Duran

Tony and Grammy Award-winning performer Leslie Odom Jr. is bringing some cheer to the holiday season with a brand new Christmas album. 

The Christmas Album” is Odom’s four studio album and his second Christmas album that he’s released. His first Christmas album, entitled “Simply Christmas,” was released in November 2016.

“Believe it or not, the project I hear about most in my career is my first Christmas album,” said Odom. “I hear about it weekly and for years, so we went in with that data. A large share of our audience responds to this type of project for us.”

Odom has always been a fan of the holiday season. For him, the season is a time where people come together collectively and agree that this is a time to pause what they’re doing.

“It’s the high holy time that season time in America, and it’s not just Christmas, it’s Chanukah and Kwanza too,” said Odom. “That last three weeks in December is the only time as Americans that we really as a society allow ourselves to push pause for a second. Everything else about hustle and grind.”

“The Christmas Album” has a mix of original songs and classic holiday tunes. Two new songs, “Snow” and “Winter Song (feat. Cynthia Erivo)” were released in October at the announcement of “The Christmas Album.” The album features reimagined hits including “Last Christmas,” “O Holy Night,” “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” and more. The album features Odom’s version of the Christmas classic, “Little Drummer Boy,” performed with the Mzansi Youth Choir, who offer a beautiful, youthful sound, providing a unique blend of energy, spirit, and devotion to South African music, as well as a recording of the traditional Chanukah song, “Ma’oz Tzur,” his wife, actress Nicolette Robinson.

When planning for “The Christmas Album,” Odom and the team looked at the massive list of Christmas songs they compiled when planning for Odom’s first Christmas album. According to Odom, he had more confidence in the recordings that he chose for “The Christmas Album” compared to “Simply Christmas.”

“Some of the songs on this album I never would have attempted on the first Christmas album, like ‘Last Christmas,'” said Odom. “A lot of this was made with the confidence and resources [the team and I] made while making ‘Mr.'”

“The Christmas Album” comes off the heels of Odom’s third album, “Mr,” which was released in November 2019. While a tour was originally planned to promote “Mr,” it was stopped in its tracks after two shows due to the pandemic.

Even though COVID-19 cut the tour short, Odom says it helped provide an opportunity to bring the team back together to create “The Christmas Album.”

“No matter how well the tour does, it’s about how you celebrate your hard work and how you bring your art to the people,” said Odom. “We got the collaborators back together — we all got our COVID tests — and made a COVID safe project together again.”

Amid the release of “The Christmas Album,” Odom re-released one of the tracks from “Mr” after collaborating with Australian singer/songwriter Sia. The two recorded a new version of “Cold” last summer, with the release date ultimately landing a month before “The Christmas Album.”

“We recorded the track during the summer, we got really good at making things remotely. Creators are going to create — I’ve seen so many of my friends push the boundaries of technology during this time and make works of art. we took the same spirit on ‘Cold,'” said Odom. “I’ve been a huge fan, friend and collaborator with Sia for a few years. I was able to do my best to get on her level. Sia, if you let her, she will always make you better as a collaborator. With Sia’s help, ‘Cold’ was bigger and bolder than I imagined. She laid down signature to it, and I did my best to exist in the same world.”

For Odom, while “This Christmas Album” is meant to bring people joy, he also says that the album will allow listeners to be able to sit with their emotions this holiday season, a time which may look very different to hundreds of thousands of people this year due to the pandemic.

“When I started recording, I imagined what people would be in need of. This is a very unique holiday season. So many lost people to COVID and are experiencing their first holiday without a loved one. There are lots of tender hearts this particular Christmas. I wanted to make something that would hopefully feel like a gift,” said Odom. “I wanted to make people smile, and I wanted it to be joyful. However, I believe that the purpose of art in all forms is to usher us to catharsis, to that spontaneous rush of emotion, and music can certainly do that. The second half of the album is meant to speak to people and sort of sit with people in some of the harder feelings that are prevalent this season.

“The Christmas Album” is available on all streaming platforms on Nov. 6.

More from around NYC