STORY WRITTEN BY DAVID KLEINMAN
For 21st Century Media
As reliable as the fall leaves turning brown, eventually disappearing under a light blanket of snow flurry, so is the switch in the sounds of the season. Radio stations and department stores alike change their Top 40 playlists to the staple hits of Christmas, playing the wintery classics listeners grew up singing along with and continue to know the words to by heart.
Touring artists too take notice of the dwindling days left on the calendar and country-pop superstar LeAnn Rimes is no exception. Normally favoring a set list comprised of her chart-topping hits spanning more than 15 albums, Rimes will be focusing primarily on her latest record, “One Christmas: Chapter One,” when she performs at the Sands Event Center on Dec. 7.
Rimes’ latest efforts is the beginning of an ambitious project, the first in a planned series of three chapters spanning over the end caps of the next three years. It’s been a decade since she broached Christmas music with the release of “What a Wonderful World,” too long in Rimes’s mind to revisit the tunes of her favorite holiday.
Calling from her home in warm Los Angeles, Calif., Rimes spoke of her process interpreting the more obscure holiday favorites in her newest release that haven’t been covered by recording artists ad nauseam.
“We focus on the arrangement and try to make them a little different from what you would normally hear. It’s got soul to it, it’s got moments where it’s completely heartbreaking. ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas’ is, like, the most joyful thing in the world and then ‘Blue Christmas’ is really sad. I kind of run the gamut of Christmas, the emotions and feelings that it brings out.”
Whether performing at the upcoming Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center or on the road, Rimes relishes the opportunity to spread holiday cheer with her legions of supporters. For Rimes, the chance to veer away from her musical catalogue and let the yuletide favorites take center stage is just the icing on the cake.
“I definitely have enough Christmas music to do a full holiday show this year, I’m so proud of what we’re creating. We touch on ‘Blue’, there’s the obvious ones sitting out there like ‘Blue’/’Blue Christmas’ but there’s very few. I’ve been singing my own music for-ev-er and it’s nice to be able to do something that’s my music but not really, the focus isn’t on me but the holidays and bringing people together with Christmas music.”
Togetherness will be the theme of “One Christmas” behind-the-scenes as well when her husband Eddie Cibrian joins Rimes on the tour bus for the first few performance dates. Having the luxury of bringing family along for the ride breaks up the monotony of downtime before heading to the concert venue for sound check.
“Unfortunately the boys [Rimes’s step-children] are not able to because they’ll be in school until the 19th so it’s nice to have him on tour with me,” she said. “It’s hard to be away from home, especially this time of year.”
Rimes can look forward to everyone being together for cherished holiday festivities when she returns home on the 21st. While her end-of-year professional schedules are meticulously drawn out the preparation for plans on the home front are a bit more scattered.
“We usually have all my Christmas shopping done and everything is taken care of but I’ve been so busy, I’m going to be doing a lot of online shopping on the tour bus,” she laughed. “Having the kids around is awesome, we have them every other year on Christmas morning so it’ll be total chaos, wrapping paper everywhere.”
It’s a welcome madness for Rimes as she counts down the days until everyone is under one roof again. Through the joy in her boys’ eyes Rimes is able to relive the innocence of youth and harken back to a simpler time.
“I call them kid googles, you don’t think of anything else. You don’t think of what anyone else was going to say or what song was on the radio. I think now it’s going in and finding that part of myself again, it really does come from a whole inner world. It’s exciting to be able to acknowledge that and to know how to shut the world off and let it back in which takes a lot of practice,” she said.
IF YOU GO
What: LeAnn Rimes – One Christmas
Where: Sands Event Center, 77 Sands Blvd, Bethlehem
When: Sunday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $47 – $96
Info: Call 610-297-7400 or check www.sandseventcenter.com