Most people know Mark Tremonti as the guitar hero from Creed, Alter Bridge, and Tremonti, but, in 2022 he released a record of Frank Sinatra covers recorded with the living members of Frank’s band. He has followed that up with a new record Christmas Classics New & Old and recently took some time to talk about that record and some of his favorite Christmas music.
Please press the PLAY icon for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Mark Tremonti –
On if a Christmas record was a natural followup to the Sinatra record – I wanted to create a record that sounded like it was something that we heard when we were kids, something that was recorded in the fifties, same style. I didn’t want a modern Christmas record. I want it to sound classic.
On if he listened to multiple versions of these songs or if he already had an arrangement in mind – I would listen nonstop to every single version that existed of these songs that I could find on YouTube or any kind of streaming service. Some of the toughest ones were “Oh, Holy Night”, and “First Noel” because they are sung so many different ways. There are many different versions of the lyrics and the arrangements. So I wanted to take my favorite. Some songs would have a certain little key change or a certain chord that they ended phrases with that I wanted to incorporate. I think we tried to come up with the best of all my favorite parts of all the different versions.
On writing an original Christmas song in the same style for this record – That was definitely a challenge. It was something that my father had told me decades ago, “You should do a Christmas song, it’s a legacy piece that will live on beyond you”. And I said, “You can’t really do that as a rock and roll guy. It’s not really that acceptable unless you’re doing a funny, heavy version of it”. But then when I did the Sinatra thing, and when I put the record out, a lot of people said, “You should do a Christmas album”. That’s why I had the idea to do it. But when I was practicing singing like Sinatra, I challenged myself to write a big band jazzy kind of thing and that’s the first song that came out, and it just happened to be a Christmas song and I was writing it maybe in July. It wasn’t something that was happening at Christmas. It just kind of came out. So it was one of those happy mistakes.
On his upcoming Christmas concert – It’s on December 16th here in Orlando. If everybody wants to check it out, check the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center’s website for tickets and seating. That night we are celebrating the opening of the Smile with Stella Tremonti Down Syndrome Clinic. That’s at Advent Health here in Orlando and it’s the 1st lifespan Down Syndrome program in the southeast. As a family, it’s the proudest moment we’ve ever had to be able to do this because it’s affected so many families already. But all the proceeds from the show are going towards that clinic. I think we’ve already raised, I think $150,000 in VIP tickets and whatnot. We’re really excited about it. We’ve had 17 brass on stage. I think a whole string section, a choir, and this is the only time this year we’re going to be able to perform these Christmas songs. So we’re really looking forward to it. There’s a new song that we didn’t do on the Christmas record. A couple, I think three Christmas songs that aren’t on the record that we’ll be doing live. National Down Syndrome Society
On if Christmas music was big in his house growing up – Absolutely. My favorite memories are being at my grandparent’s house, listening to Christmas music and playing hide and seek with my cousins, and trying to find where the presents are hidden. Christmas is one of the most magical times of our childhood. So that’s why I wanted to create the album to sound like it would have come out in those days. The music video for “Christmas Morning” is also the claymation stop animation, like the movies that we watched as kids. I wanted to create that whole vibe.
On the Christmas music he loved most as a kid – Andy Williams is one of my favorites. Frank Sinatra, of course. Donny Hathaway. Nat King Cole is the king, he’s incredible. Gosh, there’s so many. It just goes on and on. There’s just certain songs that you’ve never heard somebody sing before that they’ve just done that one song that just sticks with you. There’s so many of these old-school songs that you just, they’re irreplaceable. So when I did this record, I tried to stay as true to them as possible.
On recording Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” – I was very nervous to do that one. That’s a tough song to do. So I went into the studio with that one. I practiced a lot on it. I’m very happy with the way it turned out. At this Christmas show we’re doing here in Orlando, I actually have Scott (Phillips) and Brian (Marshall) from Alter Bridge and Creed coming up to perform the rhythm section for that tune. So that’d be a good part of that show. I’m looking forward to.
On if he used musicians from Sinatra’s band on the Christmas record – It was all the same brass. Maybe there was one or two different folks, but mostly guys that toured with Frank Sinatra. Then we added 23 stringed instruments. I don’t know how many of them had performed with Sinatra because he didn’t do a lot of the big symphony stuff a ton. He did the more, more of the jazzy, brass stuff. Then we brought in a percussionist and a choir. I think there were 52 musicians and all on the Christmas record, and it was a big to-do, I loved it.
On if he will do more Sinatra or Christmas records – I hope so. These have been some of the most fun and exciting times I’ve ever spent in the studio doing the Sinatra record and the Christmas record. When you’re a recording artist for, I don’t know, almost 30 years now, it’s fun to mix things up and do something new. It makes it exciting when you get back into the rock world. You get the best of both worlds. So any excuse I can get back in the studio with these guys, I’m going to do it. So hopefully Christmas Volume Two, Sinatra Volume Two. I want to keep just keep on going with it.
On if he was surprised about the huge reaction to the Creed reunion – It’s amazing. When we talked about it, we didn’t know how the response was going to be. When we put the cruise on sale, the cruise, folks at Six Man said this is one of the fastest cruises they’ve ever sold out. That kind of got us excited to announce the tour. When the tickets for the tour went on sale and did so well, we knew that it’s the proper time to get Creed back on the road. So we’re excited about it.
On if he would ever do a rock Christmas record – I’ll stick with the Sinatra, big band vein. That’s the kind of Christmas music I love. If it’s Christmas time, I’m not putting on a rock Christmas record. I’m not putting on King Diamond, “No Presents for Christmas”. Those are great. Those are great albums, but I want to listen to the stuff I heard when I was a kid…It’s just like the American Songbook. You can have the same song performed by dozens of different people and it’s going to be excellent. It’s good to see everybody’s takes on it. Christmas music is the same. It’s timeless. Like you said, anybody can do it and it’s great to hear all your different artists perform the same song.