Sam Palladio is feeling the holiday spirit!
For his new holiday movie, The Princess Switch, the former Nashville star wrote an original song, which debuted in the movie’s credits. However, writing and performing a new holiday track wasn’t always in the cards for Palladio, who plays Prince Edward in the film and costars alongside Vanessa Hudgens.
Although his character never actually sings, Palladio says initially he’d been enlisted to sing some classic holiday tunes for the movie as background for the scenes, and it wasn’t until he saw an early cut of the film that he got the inspiration for “Bring the Snow.”
“I just thought there was a missed opportunity, really, to have an original song written for the movie,” Palladio, 32, tells PEOPLE.
At that time, he pitched the idea of a song to the Netflix film’s producer, but they were only about a month or so away from the release date.
“Everything had been kind of tied off,” Palladio says. “But he was like, ‘Okay, well, we’ve got a couple of days so if you can put something together, go for it.’ So I did.”
He called his friend and songwriting partner, Trent Dabbs, to help him get a few lyrics on paper, and Palladio says the pair were able to cut a demo for the track within three hours of his conversation with the film’s producer.
“I sent it to him and he was like, ‘Holy s— that was quick,” Palladio says. “Then he gave me the green light to jump in the studio to produce the song.”
While perfecting the lyrics for the song, Palladio says he was inspired in part by the emotions that surround the movie.
“It’s sort of doing everything it needs to do at Christmas,” he says. “It’s giving you that warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s fun. It’s lighthearted. It really does capture the Christmas spirit. So I didn’t really pull from the storyline per se, but I definitely pulled from those Christmas themes: love, warmth, happiness, fun.”
However, Palladio also drew inspiration from a unique source by bringing his dog River to the recording studio.
“I was walking him around — picking him up, swinging him around, playing the baselines and coming up with some fun energetic pieces of music,” Palladio says.
Specifically, Palladio says River inspired the bridge of “Bring the Snow,” where he sings “Happy Holidays, baby / I got you a puppy with a bow.”
“I don’t condone gifting puppies for Christmas at all,” he admits with a laugh. “I know it’s a big responsibility, but I was like, ‘I’ve got to get River in the song.'”
Palladio says this was his first time writing a Christmas song, but he enjoyed having criteria that needed to be met in the lyrics.
“I really enjoy actually writing for a purpose,” he says. “As a singer/songwriter you’ll often be delving for some deep thought or some big revelation and that process can take a while. Inspiration can come and go, but to know that this is the criteria for the song and to have it set out, it’s almost like doing a really cool puzzle.”
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For Palladio, it wasn’t only the first time he’d written a holiday tune, but “Bring the Snow” also marks the first song he ever produced on his own, and he was able to hand-select who he wanted to play instruments for the track. Ultimately, Palladio played drums and bass, and enlisted the help of the Nashville-based duo Striking Matches to play the harmonies.
While Palladio is no stranger to acting, he admits that starring in The Princess Switch forced him to channel a different type of character because it was the first time that he’d ever played the “full-on romantic lead.”
“I don’t sit down and watch a lot of holiday movies myself,” Palladio says. “Having come out on the other end of it and seeing the reaction, people are loving me as a little Prince Charming, which I hadn’t thought about really. I was just trying to play this prince that was a little bit gullible and a little bit unaware of what’s going on and suddenly I realize, ‘Oh yeah, I’m the prince in a romantic comedy. Cool.'”
Palladio has been settling into his own romance with The Voice winner Cassadee Pope, and December marks a year since the pair first connected romantically. Palladio tells PEOPLE he and Pope have been in his hometown of Cornwall, England for a few weeks preparing for the holidays.
“It’s a nice part of the world to be festive in,” Palladio says. “We’ve been doing all the shopping and the decorating of the house. She loves Christmas, so lots of lights and Christmas toppers and decorations. I don’t usually bother, so it’s quite nice actually because she’s decorated the house for us.”
However, Pope flew back home to the states on Friday for Christmas, Palladio says, once Gatwick Airport opened back up following its closure after drones were spotted flying in the area.
“Unfortunately, she won’t be here this year,” Palladio says. “But maybe next year.”
Pope will be missed, but may be grateful to sit out the Palladio family’s longstanding Christmas Day tradition: taking an icy dip in the ocean to support local charities. Palladio tells PEOPLE he’s looking forward to it more than ever this year because the holidays are bound to be tougher following the death of his mother Sally in late November.
“It’s going to be a difficult one this year,” Palladio says. “But we usually do a Christmas swim at 11 a.m. It’s freezing cold and there’s about 300 people on the beach. It’s a bunch of mad people and we all jump in the sea.”
He adds that his 96-year-old grandfather started him on this tradition 15 years ago, and continued the polar plunge until he was 94. “He only stopped two years ago,” Palladio says. “I don’t have any excuse, so now I carry on the tradition.”
“It’s the Christmas spirit, really,” he adds. “Everyone is there in their Santa hats and their speedos and you’re not allowed to wear a wetsuit. It’s a motley crew and it’s something I dread all year but I’m always so happy at 11:15 when I am getting out of the water. There’s just a lot of love down there and a lot of good people. I wouldn’t miss it.”