Brady Rymer’s tuneful new holiday album for families is Revvin’ Up the Reindeer. In an interview, he shared his own family’s favorite holiday traditions and the inspiration for his songs about untangling Christmas lights and rainbow candles for Hanukkah.
You have toured with some of the greats — what did you learn from performing with them in front of such huge audiences?
My grown-up group From Good Homes did a very special tour with Bob Weir back in 1995. He was one of my idols growing up -- his rhythm guitar playing was very inspirational -- so here I am with my buddies in a band, years later sharing the stage with him – it was incredible! We were on tour with Bob the day Jerry Garcia passed away, and I remember the show after Jerry passed Bob saying, “Let’s go on and do our thing. Jerry would want it that way.” That night, I saw the power of music to heal, communicate, connect us all. Giving us joy, sadness, hope to carry on – it was all there as we celebrated through song an artist that we all loved and who gave so much of himself. Later on the tour, I asked him how he had kept going after all of these years (roughly 30 at that point). He simply said, “You gotta have fun." He said he wouldn’t be doing it all these years if it wasn’t fun. So, guess you can just take it from the good ol’ Grateful Dead: Just go out there and do what you do and have fun! Don’t try to be something that you’re not — share your passion and talents in an honest way.
How are kid audiences different from grown-ups?
I struggle with this one because in a lot of ways they are similar. They all wanna get rockin’. They both wanna see the band having fun, and they both like to dance. Both grown-ups and kids have been known to get rowdy; they both wanna hear their favorite songs, they both wanna connect with the artist and each other and experience something. One difference is that it’s hard to do the longer improvisational and instrumental stuff for the kids! No space jams for them! Ha! But I don’t know, maybe it would work if I just asked them all to pretend they were all ballerinas for the next 10 minutes. At the core they seem the same. We are always trying to connect with our music and songs and as people. At live concerts, we are all together for a little amount of time, singing, dancing and experiencing something magical together.
I don’t think there’s ever been a song about untangling Christmas tree lights before — what inspired that?
That’s one of my holiday tasks! Year after year I get to untangle the lights and hang ‘m on the tree - aren’t I lucky! So, a few years back I was untangling a particularly knotted, stubborn batch when I just started singing to help manage the time and frustration. I recorded a little bit of it, and you can hear on the tape the sound of the lights being untangled. That version actually became the basis for the final song, I went back to it when I was writing the lyrics. The original tape of me singing was about 50 minutes long, so we had to cut it down a bit for the album!
Why is music such an important part of celebrating Christmas?
So much emotion, memory, is wrapped up in the holiday music. When you hear it again it opens up and hopefully you open your heart to a sweet time and some magical feelings. Music is a great way to spread the love and cheer. It just seems to mix well with the snow, chill, peace, hope and magic that comes around each holiday season.
What are some of your family’s favorite holiday traditions?
Cooking (& eating)! We usually host lots of family. My wife, Bridget & I love planning a different menu each year, and we create special cocktails to serve, etc. Now that our two kids are older they are involved as well -- suggesting recipes and helping along. I also love getting up every Christmas morn to see what kind of surprise Santa has left each year. Last year, because it was so warm on Christmas, Santa moved our entire Christmas situation — the tree, all the presents, the stockings - everything was moved from the living room to our (typically freezing) enclosed deck space where the kids have been wanting to have Christmas since they were little. It was just too cold in past years. So, how did Santa know that the weather was perfect last year? It was so crazy when the kids ran into the living room on Christmas morn expecting the tree and all the presents to be there… they yelled, “Santa! Where’s our Christmas?!”
What was the first instrument you ever learned to play?
Well, I played the baritone horn in elementary school for a bit but it had a hard time competing with a shiny, cool (and loud) electric guitar! Led Zeppelin riffs were not being played on the baritone horn. Around the same time (5th or 6th grade) my brother and our friends also picked up guitars, basses and pianos & we started a rock band. It was the thing to do. After a few nights in my parents’ garage we had a few songs down. That was it for me – I loved it.
What was the first rock concert you ever attended?
KISS with my dad & brother! Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ, July 10th 1976 - I’ve even seen it on Youtube! They were on their Destroyer Tour and the show started with explosions, and I loved the huge rock n roll sound and spectacle! It was incredible. It was a great bill. And the other bands left just as much impact -- it was Bob Seger and the J Geils Band. Kind of a strange bill, but it worked. And wow, what a scene, so much to see at an outdoor rock concert in the 70’s! My head was spinning. I think my dad’s was too.
How do you approach writing a song for Hanukkah?
I remembered a book that was in my kids’ preschool classes called “Rainbow Candles.” I thought that would be a sweet thing to sing about and a great way to write about the holiday. I didn’t have any songs in waltz time so I tried it in ¾ time. I also wanted it to have a Klezmer flavor so it’s in a minor key.
What parts of the holiday are most music-friendly?
I knew I wanted to sing about kid-friendly Hanukkah treats like latkes and donuts, dreidel spinning and lighting the menorah. But I also wanted to express the feeling of love, hope, family and joy. The idea of a festival of lights is so lovely - the hope, promise, peace, that image & idea made its way into a few other holiday songs on the album as well. Those ideas became somewhat of a holiday theme. And as Bob Weir said - just trying to have some fun with it all