Rob Thomas Credits Hallmark Christmas Movies with Helping Him Record a Holiday Album Over the Summer

Thomas released his first-ever Christmas album, Something About Christmas Time, last month

Rob Thomas
Photo: Tony Gough/Newspix via Getty

Rob Thomas got into the holiday spirit early this year thanks in part to the Hallmark Channel's Christmas in July programming.

While chatting with PEOPLE about an event held earlier this month to benefit his Sidewalk Angels Foundation, the 49-year-old singer also opened up about his recently released holiday album, Something About Christmas Time, and how he got into the right mindset to craft the project.

"I made everything Christmas. I got Christmas lights all over all my equipment, all [over] my gear," Thomas tells PEOPLE exclusively. "And then it's funny because during July, Hallmark was doing their Christmas in July, so I could just have Christmas movies kind of running in the background all the time."

Noting that he did the same thing in June and August, the months when the Hallmark Channel's annual tradition wasn't airing, the "Smooth" singer continues, "I would just have my own Christmas movies [playing]. I would just have them running with the TV on mute in my studio, just constantly feeling like it was Christmas."

"I was so living Christmas," he adds. "I feel like I've been celebrating Christmas since June."

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Rob Thomas Something About Christmas Time

Back in October, Thomas released his first-ever Christmas album, which features 10 songs total and is composed of original songs, as well as beloved holiday classics. Ingrid Michaelson, Bebe Winans, Brad Paisley and Abby Anderson also make guest appearances on the LP.

Making the album, Thomas says, was a long time coming and something he had wanted to create for some time. "Every year, right around Christmas, I'm always sitting at the piano next to the tree playing Christmas songs while we decorate and thinking, 'Oh, I want to make a Christmas record,'" he tells PEOPLE.

But, because he was always busy with other works — whether they be solo projects or something tied to his band Matchbox Twenty — the musician explains that being home amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic offered him the chance to finally make his Christmas album dreams happen.

"My wife, [Marisol Maldonado], she helped curate the idea of all the original Christmas songs I was writing, like, which ones are we going to use? And of all the covers that are out there, how do I kind of make it sound like my own unique voice?" he says. "So for me, it was about engaging originals and then the cover choices being things that were just personal to me. Maybe they're not all traditional songs, but they're all traditional in my home."

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Rob Thomas
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On Something About Christmas Time, Thomas even has a rerecorded version of his Christmas hit, "A New York Christmas," which he first recorded 20 years ago.

Creating a new version of the holiday tune, Thomas notes, was something his wife was a big supporter of, even if he wasn't initially. "I was a little hesitant to be recorded at all. I mean, I kind of felt like it was done," he explains. "Every time, if you make a song, it's really a record of you at that time in your life, right? It's a snapshot. And I felt like that was the snapshot. That was me 20 years ago writing a Christmas song."

"And I thought, 'Well, maybe I'll just put it on the record.' And then I think that sentiment, when I started to think about the 20 years later and the gravitas of what that really meant, it made me want to re-record it," he continues. "And I was glad that I did, and my wife was a really big fan in the corner of me redoing it."

"So, because she and I did this whole record together, I took it under advisement, and as usual, she was correct," Thomas adds with a laugh.

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Earlier this month, Thomas played some songs from the new album, as well as other non-holiday hits, when he performed at Daryl's House in Pawling, New York, for a streaming concert presented by VNUE.

There, the musician helped raise funds for his Sidewalk Angels Foundation, an organization that he and Maldonado founded years ago.

"We decided to do something like this, and we raised over $130,000 in that one night for that one show," Thomas says of the event.

"I think we support now almost 30 different organizations around the world. We have one in Serbia now, we have some through the Caribbean. A lot of it giving to either help their rescues, help with their medical costs, help them build runs or help them build kennels," he continues. "And then also, we support a lot of other animal organizations that are kind of more social animal organizations, like shelters that take in homeless people and battered women with their pets, or organizations that work with children with autism and help them communicate better because they find they communicate better when they use animals to communicate for nonverbal children."

"So it's been something that we've done for the last 15 years and we've been really, really lucky to have a great fan base that's always there to support us every year," the animal lover adds.

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