Train's Pat Monahan Explains How the Band's Christmas Album Became a Hallmark Movie

Train frontman Pat Monahan stars in and executive produces the new Hallmark Channel original movie Christmas in Tahoe, premiering on Sunday

christmas in tahoe
Photo: 2021 Crown Media United States LLC/Allister Foster

Train has been getting fans into the holiday spirit since 2015, thanks to their Christmas in Tahoe album. Now, that very record serves as the inspiration for a brand new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie starring the band's frontman Pat Monahan.

The idea for the film, also titled Christmas in Tahoe, started about four years ago. At the time, Monahan's day-to-day management team informed him of their plans to launch a film division. And while no one "really knew" how a film would come from the record, Monahan's team "had a bunch of vision."

"They actually went to Hallmark right away because Hallmark rules Christmas. They started working on it right away," Monahan, 52, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "It's just taken a long time, but [Hallmark is] so dialed in on how to do this that it just came together. And when it did come together, then it was fast. It was four years of waiting and then six months of, 'Okay, here's the script. Let's go.'"

Christmas in Tahoe follows talent booker Claire Rhodes (Laura Osnes) on the verge of landing her dream job at a major music venue in Las Vegas. She's then put to the ultimate test when the annual Christmas show at her family's hotel in Lake Tahoe is on the brink of cancellation. As a result, Claire works alongside her ex-boyfriend, rock star Ryan (Kyle Selig), to help save the day.

Monahan — an executive producer for the film who also plays Claire's best friend Jackson — says the writers who came up with the movie's concept "are so smart." The team all worked together to "make it that much better" and add "the perfect Hallmark ending" as well.

According to the "Drops of Jupiter" singer, the most "challenging" part of transforming Christmas in Tahoe into a film was incorporating Train's music. "I think that's what took so long because we wanted to make it a little younger and have it have more music in it. And that is a little less like Hallmark than the past, but I think that they were very successful in transitioning from let's get some younger audience and some younger actors," Monahan says before joking, "Like myself."

"Adding more music to it was, I think, something that was challenging for them. But I think they did a great job of it," he adds.

christmas in tahoe
2021 Crown Media United States LLC/Allister Foster

Monahan says he's "hoping that the music sets it apart a little bit" from past Hallmark movies since "some of these songs are already pretty popular."

"It's really well done," he continued. "It got me in the spirit."

Monahan, of course, is best known for his association with Train, though he does have previous acting experience under his belt.

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The Grammy winner's past acting credits include guest star roles on Magnum, P.I. and Hawaii Five-0. But he "never really thought" about whether his foray into acting would bring him to the Hallmark Channel.

"Maybe now I'll be in a Hallmark movie every year," he says. "This will be, maybe, my new trend."

And while he didn't get advice from Hallmark vets before making his debut, Monahan did receive a helpful tip from his Christmas in Tahoe costar Tom Butler.

christmas in tahoe
Crown Media United States, LLC

"He taught me how to walk away from the camera and walk to it," Monahan says of Butler, who plays Claire's dad Tim. "He is pretty cool. He showed me how John Wayne used to find his place on the floor where he said, 'Just go watch some old John Wayne movies. You'll see that John is looking at the floor. And then when he gets to his mark, he looks up at the camera and that's just him finding his mark.'"

Fortunately for Train fans, Monahan's latest acting gig didn't take time away from the band's musical comeback. In fact, the rock group plans to drop new music next year.

"We were trying to put a single out in December. We thought, 'Why don't we wait until February?'" he says. "We'll put a new single out, we'll announce a tour, which is going to be really fun."

Christmas in Tahoe premieres Sunday (6 p.m. ET) on The Hallmark Channel.

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