This month, Rob Thomas reunited with Carlos Santana for “Move,” their first new song together since “Smooth.” But as Thomas told Rolling Stone when discussing the making of that single, it’s not the only project he’s been working on during lockdown: He’s also just wrapped up his first Christmas record.
According to Thomas, the album, scheduled for release this fall, includes originals as well as covers of Ray Charles’ “That Spirit of Christmas” and Bryan Adams’ “Christmas Time.” Duet partners include Brad Paisley, singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and gospel and R&B singer BeBe Winans.
“It’s something I’ve always kind of wanted to do,” Thomas says. “But I didn’t think anybody needs to hear me sing ‘Jingle Bells.’ You know, nobody needs to hear anybody honestly sing ‘Jingle Bells’ again. But I think I managed to pick some really cool covers, so I think it’s got its own original sound.”
The album, untitled at press time, was recorded this summer at Thomas’ home studio north of New York City, which makes one wonder: What’s it like singing holiday songs during a heatwave? In Thomas’ case, he leaned on yuletide decorations and nonstop movies on the Hallmark Channel. “They have this thing called ‘Christmas in July,’ so in the studio I have this big-screen TV with no sound on and Christmas lights everywhere,” he says. “My whole bubble of people would know what I was doing. Whenever I was talking to someone on the phone, before they got off they’d say, ‘Merry Christmas, Rob.’”
When Thomas and Santana first cut “Smooth” in 1999, they had to overcome a number of business hurdles, involving approval from their competing labels, before the single was released. In a sign of how such rules have been relaxed since then, Thomas points to his collaboration with Paisley on his holiday record. “He’s giant country star, and I said to him, ‘Is this going to be okay with the label?’” he says. “Because I just called him personally to do it. And he was like, ‘Yeah, fuck it — it’ll be great.’ So both labels were like, yeah, sounds like a win-win situation.”
Thomas is also at work on a solo album of all-original material.