Tori Kelly also tells PEOPLE about her family's special tradition that "some people think sounds crazy"

By Tomás Mier
November 30, 2020 05:50 PM
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Tori Kelly is ready for Christmas!

The singer-songwriter — who recently released her first-ever Christmas album A Tori Kelly Christmas  — chats with PEOPLE about her plans for the holiday season and the "legend" collab on her album.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," Kelly, 27, says about the 13-track holiday album. "And this year just seemed like this would be the year to do it — to bring hopefully some hope and some light to people during such a crazy year."

"I know everyone's been going through a lot, so I hope this can be my gift to people," she adds. "And I hope people really love it."

Tori Kelly
| Credit: Angela Köhler

The album showcases Kelly's signature, sweet vocals and features modern takes on classics like "Silent Night" and "Sleigh Ride" along with originals such as "25th" and "Gift That Keeps on Giving." (Kelly really showcases her strong voice on "O Holy Night.")

She recorded the album from her in-home studio — and she was surprised when a certain "legend" agreed to join her for a rendition of "Let It Snow."

"I thought it was a long shot. I was like, 'He's not going to say yes, he's a legend. He's busy,'" she says about asking Babyface to join her album. "I guess he was a fan of mine and was down to work together. I was freaking out [after] having had this dream of doing a Christmas album and now knowing that Babyface is going to be a part of it, I just knew this was going to be such a special album for me."

Kelly says Babyface "really nailed" his verses on the record and that the star, responsible for tracks such as "Every Time I Close My Eyes" and "When Can I See You," helped provide a "really soulful, warm and classic vibe that still feels like me."

Tori Kelly
| Credit: Angela Köhler

As for her own plans this holiday season, Kelly says she's looking forward to being with family and "keeping it really small."

"I'm just looking forward to gathering and doing presents and coffee," she says. "We have a tradition of doing orange rolls, which are like cinnamon rolls, but orange flavored. A lot of people think it sounds crazy, but it's a tradition of ours that I've done since I was a kid."

"I'm really looking forward to those simple things that make Christmas really special," she says.

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Kelly says that she's also excited for that restful, yet "awkward" week that comes between Christmas and New Year's Day. She says she'll sit back and reflect on 2020, which she says allowed her to make up "lost time" with her husband of two and a half years, André Murillo.

"I'll sit and reflect on the previous year and I'll go month by month and kind of write down the different highlights of each month," she says. "This is definitely a unique year, so I'm looking forward to doing that and writing down my goals for the next year. And looking ahead."

Kelly's album also features a special interlude inspired by the main title of her favorite holiday movie: Elf.

"It's just an interlude but I think it just adds a fun little touch," she says. "That one was fun and I did it acapella. It's just my voice but I had fun doing that one."

And is she going to rewatch Elf this year?

"I feel like I kind of have to," she says with a laugh. "I watch it every year."