Elizabeth Chan continues to be the most prolific recording artist in the Christmas music space, and certainly the only singer of any notoriety doing a new release each year, having just released her 13th consecutive holiday album, “Songs From Noelle.” Variety is already on record as calling the singer-songwriter “Christmas’ one-woman Brill Building.” But if a new holiday collection from Chan seems inevitable every fall, there was nothing clockwork-like about this one’s making — since for Chan, unlike Taylor Swift, the number 13 actually seemed unlucky in 2023.
The title “Songs From Noelle” refers to Chan’s 6-year-old daughter, who co-sang and even co-wrote a few songs on the album. Chan believes Noelle is the youngest person to ever get airplay as a singer and songwriter on new Christmas music, with several tracks that are currently getting traction on SiriusXM’s holiday channel, including a song the daughter wrote herself, “Christmas Time” — the video for which is getting its premiere here.
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But Noelle’s extensive involvement in the new album wasn’t just a matter of boosting a scion in the family business, although it is, of course, that. Chan says it’s the only reason she was inspired and even provoked into recording a new album, as she usually would, after a serious injurty to her back in July left her debilitated and far from eager or able to get into the holiday spirit that’s usually a cinch for her any time of year.
“Noelle’s joined me on other songs before,” says Chan, “but she is a huge part of this record — she’s essentially my collaborator on it — and I think that’s really important to note because I was so injured in the summertime, which usually the time I work on my records.”
She’s talking publicly for the first time about the accident that nearly canceled Christmas this year. “I do Christmas music all year round, but I’m also a mother all year round,” Chan says. “My younger child has had an inordinate amount of medical issues, and one day, when she had a medical emergency and I took her home, just because she’s medically fragile, I wanted to make sure I gave her a bath before I put her to bed. As I was picking her up from the tub, I slipped and fell and shattered my lumbar spine and my sacrum — the bone that holds your hip bones together. I had paralysis of my left leg immediately. I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t breathe — I was in a tremendous amount of pain, and I was worried I would never be able to walk again.
“And Noelle grew up in like Christmas world with me… grew up in the Christmas music business from the minute that she was born. Even before she was born, I named an album after her [‘Songs for Noelle,’ not to be confused with the new ‘Songs From Noelle’], and it was about my transition from being just like me to being a mom. One of the most played songs I have on the radio, on SiriusXM, is ‘Toyland,’ and I remember doing that cover because I knew that my life would be inundated with toys, and so I did all these songs for her. She took her first steps at Blackbird Studios in Nashville when I was making Christmas music — it’s as normal to her as making dinner every night. On top of that, she’s been writing songs ever since she was 2, literally. She came up with the song ‘Christmas Holiday’ and we did that together when we were stuck in quarantine, which was the first time that I realized that she was really a writer and an artist in her own right.” (That song appeared on Chan’s “Celebrate Me Home.”)
“She had written a few songs, but one song in particular, ‘Christmas Time,’ stuck with me. I had tried to follow her on the keyboard and anticipate where she was going by ear, but before I knew it, she had finished writing the song in five minutes. And I never forgot it, but I didn’t think anything of (recording) it until I broke my spine. I remember having a call with myy musical team in the middle of the record, and I was giving them the bad news that, like, ‘Guys, I just physically can’t stand. It’s even hard to breathe sometimes. I’m not even sure how I can physically produce a record.’ And my daughter is sitting there and she’s like, ‘Mom, I can do it. I can help you.’ … And she started to curate the album.”
Chan says that, after being warned by a doctor that she might never get the feeling back in her leg, she began getting it back a few weeks ago, after months of intense five-day-a-week physical therapy, as well as acupuncture and a combination of eastern and western medicine. By that time, she already had her annual release in the can.
“I really owe it to my friends and my band, and my daughter, who just had so much confidence in the world that she wanted to help her mom. And I was just running with it because I was like, ‘Hey, every album is a snapshot of where I am in my journey, and here we are. This is what’s been going on this year.’ And I had songs that I had done with Noelle in the past, and I put them in the album as well, as kind of like a half-compilation. The album came together with such honest generosity from people that just I love and that love me. I remember my friend Dave said, ‘We all knew that we had to do this for you, to just let you know thatwe had your back.’ And I laughed and said, ‘That’s funny, because I’d like a new back, please.’”
Chan just did her first TV appearance with Noelle and says, “Explaining it to the world, I’m just so proud of her. I do still hope that she becomes a scientist or something else; sometimes she says she wants to be an artist like my husband, Andy, who’s a visual graphics designer. But that being said, this is a family business and my daughters have to appreciate the catalog and have to appreciate the family business, like if someone grew up on a farm and helped their parents, with the farm. Having an appreciation for how to write Christmas songs and where they come from, she totally gets it — gets that it comes from like the heart.”
Chan started calling her eldest daughter the “Princess of Christmas” after she was dubbed “Queen of Christmas” by the New Yorker and other media outlets. That was part of the motivation to fight Mariah Carey’s attempt to trademark “Queen of Christmas” in recent years: Carey also applied to get the trademark for “Princess of Christmas,” and that was a bridge too far for Chan, who thinks these terms should be open to everyone, not one superstar individual. (The legal fight ended last year when Carey seemingly ghosted her bid to have the terms registered.)
Four of the songs Chan recorded with her daughter are getting airplay on satellite radio. For terrestial radio, however, she’s not pushing them, relying on some of her previous recordings to get play.
“This is the first year that radio stations (that flip to the Christmas format) are starting to recognize me as a gold artist, and so they’re they’re keeping my records as gold records on their playlists. I got the note from WLTW saying, ’Christmas in the City is a standard here in New York City. We love this song; this is what we’re gonna play this year.’ It’s such an honor.”
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