"Christmas has always been a major part of my life, maybe a little bit because of my birthday, but it's also just my favorite time of the year," he says as he drops "Christmas in Your Arms" with PEOPLE


His name is Steve Noel Wariner for a reason!

On Thursday, Wariner debuted the single 'Christmas In Your Arms' off his holiday album with PEOPLE as he opened up about the meaning of the holiday in his life as he teases his LP Feels Like Christmas Time, which is out Oct. 15.

"When I was a kid I would be worried to death in school when they would talk about middle names that people would find out I was born on Christmas and my middle name was Noel. I think it's funny now looking back on that," the 66-year-old musician tells PEOPLE. "My wife [Caryn] makes such an effort to not wrap my birthday presents in Christmas paper and make my birthday totally separate from Christmas."

About his birthday-meets-Christmas celebrations, Wariner says his family usually celebrates his birthday later in the evening with a cake and all the good stuff.

Steve Wariner
Credit: David Abbott

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"Christmas has always been a major part of my life, maybe a little bit because of my birthday, but it's also just my favorite time of the year," he says. "Every year I drag out my favorite Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Aretha Franklin albums. I love listening to those old Christmas albums and I just love that time of year."

Feels Like Christmas Time is Wariner's third holiday album after releasing his first, Christmas Memories, in 1990 and Guitar Christmas in 2009.

"I usually write Christmas songs every year and am proud of the writing on this new Christmas album. I wrote with Jim 'Moose' Brown, Bill Anderson and a lot of the album I wrote by myself and then included some Christmas standards," he says. "Looking back on my childhood, walking through my little town of Noblesville, Indiana at our courthouse they would play Christmas standards all through Christmas time from the belltower. You would walk through the square and there were little Santa Claus houses where you could go in and tell Santa what you want."

Steve Wariner
Credit: David Abbott

"I was that little kid going in there, getting a candy cane and sitting on Santa's lap. That memory paints such a great image in my mind," he adds.

About his new album, Wariner explained that because of limitations due to the pandemic he "played many of the instruments on this album myself" — upright bass, piano, mandolin and background vocals. However, he got some help from his son Ross!

"He was involved in the engineering process and he brought the string quartet players out to the studio," he says. "I did it in a way that the players came up by elevator and I stayed in the other room talking to them through the glass. I don't like doing it that way, but we did everything we could while making this record to stay safe. "

As for what's to come, Wariner is looking forward to continue performing in front of a large audience after playing for "4,400 empty seats" during the pandemic at Grand Ole Opry.

"But, now that I've been back out touring for about a month, we're just being extra cautious, making sure to distance, wearing a mask and have also eliminated meet and greets," he says. "To be honest, that's the part that just kills me, because I love meeting with fans, so it's unfortunate we have to avoid that now."

"But, what we do is if anyone wants anything signed we have it sent to our office and then I send it back as quickly as I can," he adds. "We're just trying to be safe everywhere and on the bus, we have hand sanitizer, masks everywhere, testing kits available if need be. We've got all the protocols in place and are just being extra, extra cautious."

Here's the Feels Like Christmas Time tracklist:

  1. Feels Like Christmas Time
  1. Silent Night
  1. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  1. Christmas in Your Arms
  1. Medley: Away in a Manger/O Little Town of Bethlehem/We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  1. On Christmas Morning
  1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  1. The First Noel
  1. Our Savior is Born
  1. Tennessee Snowfall
  1. It Won't Be Christmas