Call Him 'Mr. Christmas'! Brett Eldredge Embraces His Holiday Music Role: 'It Is My Full Passion'

For the country crooner, it's the most wonderful time of the year as he follows up his second holiday album with another popular edition of his "Glow Live" tour

Brett Eldredge
Brett Eldredge. Photo: Andrew Eccles

Brett Eldredge says he couldn't help but notice all the looks he was getting on the street — and who wouldn't notice a tall hunky guy decked out in a velvet tuxedo and velvet shoes walking in New York City on several sunny mornings in May?

"I mean, you see weird stuff in New York, so I'm sure some people were like, oh, I don't know what that was," the 35-year-old crooner tells PEOPLE.

So here's what it was: a man making sure he was earning the nickname of "Mr. Christmas" — the name of the brand-new holiday album he was recording.

Eldredge was on his way from his hotel to the studio, where a full Big Band orchestra awaited his equally velvet voice to create the follow-up to Glow, the 2016 holiday smash that has had people calling him "Mr. Christmas" ever since.

Those tuxedos (plural, because he wore a different one every day) are what he says shifted him into "Mr. Christmas mode."

"It's almost like Superman putting on his cape," Eldredge says. "I just feel an extra boost of confidence." He chose a brisk walk rather than a ride, he adds, "to get my mind clear to be able to knock out these Christmas songs and make Mr. Christmas every bit as special as the Glow record."

By now fans know he's succeeded: The 11-track album amply extends Eldredge's sway over the sounds of the holidays, and this month and next, he's taking his growing Christmas canon — as well as those tuxedos — on the road for his latest edition of the "Glow Live" tour.

Brett Eldredge - Mr. Christmas

Perhaps unlike any other contemporary country artist, Eldredge has watched as his Christmas music has helped define his career, and he welcomes it.

"For me, it is my full passion, and I pour everything into it," he says. "It's not an afterthought. It's the whole thought. It's the whole heart of me, and I just think it's changed how I see the power of music and the importance, in a non-constant world, of having a constant of tradition. Christmas music is the one true thing that does stay strong and powerful and brings back some of the magic into your life, into your heart."

In turn, that magic has brought new emotional and creative rewards to the rest of Eldredge's career.

"It's really grown me closer to fans," he says. "I've always tried to be very open, but I think this music just gives a whole other side of vulnerability that I needed in my life. I needed to take the shell off a little bit — the layers that you pour on in this life — and I've had to learn how to unwind those through the years. Christmas music really helps with that."

By now he well knows the raw emotion that must be channeled to sing the stirring classics, such as "The First Noel" and "O Holy Night," both featured on Glow. And he knows the childlike abandon needed to sing beloved children's songs like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which appears on the new album.

"That's so important, because every man, woman and kid knows that song, and it's in your soul," he says of "Rudolph." "And you've just got to let yourself go there. I think I've always kind of gone there, but when I really let myself go there in front of a crowd, I get to see everybody come out of their shell. I get to see big, strong men in the crowd singing 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' or crying to 'O Holy Night.' That's so powerful, and it's made me loosen up, too, and that's something I really needed."

"Jingle Bells" is yet one more song Eldredge pulled out of the childhood vault for the new album. Written in the mid-19th century and over-sung ever since in every grade-school classroom, it somehow finds a whole new vibrancy in the hands of the singer and his big brassy band.

Eldredge takes special pride in the track, and for good reason, considering how it was created: "I walked in the studio at 11 o'clock. I tell everybody hello and walk straight into the vocal booth. And at 11:01, the first downbeat of 'Jingle Bells' starts. It was one of the coolest moments of recording I've ever had because it had such an energy to it. We knocked it out in one take. The whole band was set to go and nailed it in one take. It was just one of those magic moments when we were all together on fire."

The 16th-century carol, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," also gets a thrilling makeover, and the singer gives arranger Rob Mounsey full due for that one. "My brain hurt just figuring out how he wrote all those different parts," Eldredge says. That song is so complex, and he made it sound so natural and beautiful. It just has a spunk to it, but also a classic sound."

Most of the album exudes a joyful jazzy vibe, but on "O Come All Ye Faithful," Eldredge shows he also has a masterful knack for restraint. The most reverent track, it arrives on the wings of angelic strings, and Eldredge's solemn interpretation brings out its grandeur.

"I love 'O Come All Ye Faithful' because it takes me back to being a kid, listening to my family belt it out at church," he says. "I love the nostalgia of that, and it's just a beautiful song."

Rounding out the nine tracks of holiday favorites are two new songs that Eldredge penned, the title track and "Feels Like Christmas."

Eldredge describes how he and songwriter Ross Copperman, who also co-wrote the title track to Glow, struggled over "Mr. Christmas" off and on for years before Eldredge finally found the chorus while taking a shower. "I called Ross, and I was like, dude, I think I have it," Eldredge recalls. "I sent him this voice memo, and he's like, man, let's get on this tomorrow, and so we did, and 'Mr. Christmas' was born and ready to go to the world."

The singer takes a rare solo writing credit for "Feels Like Christmas," one result of making the most out of his quarantine. "I started to get a little bit of the melody," Eldredge recalls, "and then I would take a break and sit on my couch a little longer — like we all were. And then I'd dive back in and just add little parts of it every day. It's such a fun song, and it's something that I'll get to sing for a long time."

Both of these originals are romantic charmers, but Eldredge divulges he's still not singing them to a special someone. "I'm working towards it," he says, demurely. "I'm making strides. I'm a lot further ahead than I was when we first started working in that direction."

In the meantime, he says, he's happy to be bringing the romance to his shows, "singing to somebody who needs to hear it out there, and then hopefully they can add it to their lives."

This year Eldredge is taking "Glow Live" to Las Vegas, Nashville, Boston, New York and Chicago. He'll wrap on Dec. 18 in more than enough time to make it home to tiny Paris, Illinois, for Christmas with his family — a much-anticipated break after months of touring and working on his next (non-holiday) album, due out in 2022.

The pandemic kept him from his annual holiday visit last year, so he's already looking forward to the special time: "I'll get to go to the same church I grew up going to, have all the amazing meals that I've always loved, see my cousins, tell old stories, have a drink before Christmas Eve service — all these little traditions we have that I just love."

But, he says, there won't be a church solo — a tradition he obligingly carried on in younger days.

"My family finally let me off the hook for singing 'O Holy Night' every Christmas, like I used to do," Eldredge says, gratefully. "And they just let me be Brett the kid that I've always been."

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