Still merry after all these years, Juno Award winning group Good Lovelies are preparing for their 13th annual Christmas tour, with shows across Ontario, this month.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Good Lovelies’ highly popular Christmas album “Under The Mistletoe.” To celebrate, the trio just released “Evergreen”, a new collection of seasonal favourites, classic carols and original Christmas songs.
The unmistakable sound of Kerri Ough, Sue Passmore, and Caroline Brooks are a true sign that Christmas is coming.
We had a chat with Caroline about why Christmas is so important to the group.
You guys are gearing up for another Christmas tour in December and you’re going all over the 519 area – Grand Bend, Stratford, Guelph, and London. You must really love visiting the area?
We love that area. We’ve had such a nice experience over the years touring through Guelph, London, south of there, north of there, it’s been really lovely and we have such a nice following at Christmas time that it’s really special for us to be able to add a few shows in the area this year. So yeah, we’re really looking forward to it.
Kerri has a strong London connection and I bet that makes those shows just a little extra special.
Yeah, she’s an alum of Western, so we definitely get a lot of her buds from the university coming out. And we all have families from the area too. So London has been a stronghold actually. We’ve been doing a Christmas show in London every year since our second year as a band. So this will be, I think, our 12th year doing our Christmas show in London and it’s one of only three places where we have done a Christmas show every year.
It almost seems like Christmas and the Good Lovelies are one and the same. This is your 13th annual Christmas tour after all.
Yeah, it’s sort of a thing. I will admit when our band started, I had this, “Bah, humbug,” thing about being a Christmas band, quote-unquote. We do live in two worlds during the year. We have our regular show and then we have our Christmas show and a lot of people who get to know the Good Lovelies come to us through the Christmas show, the Christmas album, and now albums. But when we started, I used to have this chip on my shoulder about being a Christmas band, because in my mind it was like there was something about it that didn’t quite feel super artsy or super creative. But what’s happened over the years is I’ve let so much of that go, because our Christmas show and our Christmas records are so special to people and the amount of joy that comes from that show, from the audience to us and vice versa is so special. It’s become a huge part of people’s yearly traditions. And we’re watching kids grow up in our audience and experiencing that thing. It’s so magical.
What is it about Christmas that you love so much?
I think any one of us would give you a different answer. For me there’s a special family magic that comes at Christmas time. I have two little kids now and we are really in it. This is the magic time. The kids are so excited and there’s just this feeling, I can’t even quite describe it. It’s this cozy warmth about this time of year and family and traditions and now that has extended to our Christmas tour.
So for me, I can’t separate Christmas from music, and my best friends, and touring with all these great people, and just lovely interactions with people. So it’s all tied together for me now and it’s made Christmas all that much more special and it’s a lot longer now. Sometimes our Christmas tour starts at the end of November, so we have extended-Christmas. It’s our lives.
You said your kids are really into Christmas. What does Christmas look like at the Brooks household?
I love that you called it the Brooks household. Their last name is actually Love, which is so special. Yeah, I married a Love, but when we were married, I couldn’t take his last name, because I could not be Caroline Love of the Good Lovelies for the rest of my life. It was too much.
But there’s a few traditions we have, we get a tree and we set it up and do all that stuff. We host Christmas Eve, which has become really special. We have this small-ish house in Toronto and we invite all of my husband’s family to come and it’s really squished in here, but it’s really fun, we serve tourtières and then we do the run around.
We see my family in Whitby, Ontario and that is so lovely. Big family dinners and we try to really not make Christmas about buying more stuff. It’s really about spending time together as much as we can. Although we have little kids, so they love stuff too. It’s a pretty special time for us, especially after I come off the road, because it’s a very busy month. And so Christmas I’m back in the zone, running the house again. And it’s a really nice feeling for all of us.
This year you have a new Christmas album. What makes this the perfect time for a new Christmas album?
Yes, we do. So this year is the 10th anniversary of our first Christmas album. That album was called Under the Mistletoe. So last Friday we released Evergreen. It’s a collection of new originals, and some songs that we’ve been doing in our Christmas show for the last decade. It’s kind of a way for us to pay homage to the first Christmas record, which is, as I said earlier, a real way that people connect with us in the first place.
It’s a really lovely collection. We recorded it in Toronto in the spring with our touring band, which was really nice. The people who are on the record are the people who’ve toured with us for years and we produced it with Adam King who made the first Christmas record with us. So there’s a lot of circularity in there. It’s really felt like a family event and nice to pay homage to our roots, because there’s lots of the old timey swing feel in there too.
If you recorded it in the spring, does it feel weird singing Christmas songs in the springtime?
It didn’t this time, the first time it did though. The benefit is we were rehearsing all those songs in the Spring, so our rehearsals this year as intense. Yes and no. I mean we’re in an air conditioned studio. But the first time we made our Christmas record, which was, as I said, 12 years ago, we recorded that during a heat wave in the city of Toronto. And we were in a studio that had no air conditioning.
There was also a garbage strike. So hot and so gross. And I have this vivid memory of Sue being outside, because we wanted to create a horse hoof sound. We were out sweating on the sidewalk, hacking at a coconut, so that we could use it for a percussion sound. Oh, my God. So yeah, that was a little weird. But now Christmas is such a part of our lives that it’s kind of nice. It was like, “Oh, I love these songs. This is great.” Singing O Holy Night in May.
Why did you title the new album Evergreen?
So Evergreen is part of a lyric from one of our originals called The Garland. And the lyric goes, “there’s an evergreen wrapped up in a garland. There’s a Christmas tree at the center of a family.”
We were looking at all these titles for the record, looking through lyrics and evergreen felt right to us, because you can picture it as Christmas. A lot of people have an evergreen in their living room, this time of year. But also the idea of what evergreen means, always new, always relevant and we loved that idea that this Christmas album we’ll return to it every year.
It’s not like your regular album recording where a couple of years later it’s your old record. The Christmas albums really can return year to year and people do listen to them year, after year, after year and that’s kind of what was really captured in that title as well.
You chose to cover the iconic Beach Boys song, Little Saint Nick. Such a huge song to cover. Why did you choose that one and how did you approach recording such a classic track?
That’s a tough one for me because the Beach Boys are male harmony voices singing. That’s the center of our band, The Good Lovelies is really about harmony singing. So Kerri brought that song to the table and she’s like, “I really want to do this song.”
I think she used to listen to the Mini-pops sing it when she was a kid. So when we approached it we didn’t want to stray too far from the original but it’s got a very similar harmony structure and we had the guys sing on it too, so there’s a lot of big gang vocals in there. It’s so fun to sing live. It’s a bit of an exercise for sure, but when we were putting it together, like I said, we didn’t want to stray too far from the original, but it definitely has a Good Lovelies stamp on it.
You guys went a little more pop on the last album. Is that what the future holds for the Good Lovelies sound?
Shapeshifters is definitely leaning a little harder into the pop category. We’re just at the point where we’re writing the next record and we don’t really know where it’s going to lead specifically sonically.
We’ll listen to pop music and we all enjoy it. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue down that road, but who knows, we might end up making like a banjo record. At this point the world is ours. We haven’t decided specifically what we’re going to do yet.
The Good Lovelies original story says that you guys got together for a one-off Christmas show. Was there ever a plan to launch a permanent band and at what point was it obvious that you needed to continue?
I think the universe got us together in a really special way. That show was meant to be done as soloists and then it was near Christmas, so we sang three or four songs in harmony. And I can remember the first time we practiced, the hair on my arms standing on end and I just knew immediately there was something really special about it. And so we did that show.
Then a friend who was at that show said, “Hey, I want you to come and open for my CD release party, but I want you to do it as a trio.” And we were like, “Okay.” So this name Good Lovelies, which was a random name we had slapped on that first show was then the name of our band. And six months later we were recording an EP. And then that summer we played our first festival together.
A year later we all quit our jobs and we went on the road. And it kept snowballing. To use a Christmas metaphor. A Winter metaphor. Yeah, we just kept playing and all these things were coming to us, these opportunities and we just kept taking them. And it’s easy to quit your job when your two best buddies are in it with you and you’re making music. It was really special. And now here we are 13 years later and it’s our full time job and the Christmas thing is part of it. So cool.