Music

Song Premiere: Mark Erelli's Wistful 'Not Quite Christmas' Addresses a Lonely Season

Joe Navas

Boston-based Americana singer-songwriter Mark Erelli had the idea for his new holiday song "Not Quite Christmas" for years, but after the strange year we've all experienced, he knew if was finally time to write it.

"Not Quite Christmas" follows in the grand tradition of melancholy Christmas songs (think Charles Brown's "Please Come Home For Christmas" and Joni Mitchell's "River"). And loneliness and isolation is something many of us can unfortunately relate to this year.

"Put the elf upon the shelf/ Trimmed the tree myself/ It helps me to keep busy with a task," Erelli sings. "Must be 5 o'clock somewhere/ But there's no one here to care if I've got more than eggnog in my glass."

Erelli says, while our "new normal" inspired the song, it was important to him that the tune sound timeless.

"I have had the phrase 'it's not quite Christmas without you here' in my songwriting notebook for over a decade. I couldn't think of anything to add to the wistfulness of 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' or the loneliness of 'Blue Christmas,' so I never got around to fleshing out the idea. Sitting in my dark living room on the precipice of a potentially even darker winter, I realized that our new normal had presented me with a whole host of imagery to weave into a new twist on a holiday song," Erelli says. "The biggest challenge was making the song not so specific that it only applied to this particular year. Are the carolers 'covered up save for their eyes' in masks or bundled up to protect themselves from the cold? 'It's not the same over phone' could refer to communication with distant relatives or awkward holiday office parties on Zoom. In the end, the song fairly wrote itself."

Listen to "Not Quite Christmas" below.

Read More: Song Premiere: Mark Erelli Re-Examines the Past on 'Rose-Colored Rearview'

Erelli says he hopes the song is a comfort to those who are struggling with being away from family and friends this year.

"Sometimes I sit on a song, and it evolves over time or is refined in live performance. But some songs arrive basically fully-formed, immediately relevant to the current moment. I am really proud of 'Not Quite Christmas' and wanted to rush it out for people to hear," Erelli continued. "In singing about what is on many of our minds this year, I'm hopeful that some might feel witnessed in their struggles with the expectations of the season. It might not feel quite like Christmas this year, but maybe this song will help take the edge off for those who need it the most."

Erelli, who released his album Blindsided earlier this year, was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2019 Americana Honors & Awards for his anti-gun violence song "By Degrees," which features Lori McKenna, Josh Ritter, Rosanne Cash, Anais Mitchell and Sheryl Crow.

For more information on Mark Erelli, visit his official website.

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Song Premiere: Mark Erelli's Wistful 'Not Quite Christmas' Addresses a Lonely Season