The singer bullets at No. 2 for a second week with her cover of a holiday classic
Five questions with Whitney Wolanin, who boasts the No. 2 title on Billboard's Nielsen BDS-based Adult Contemporary chart for a second week with "Run Run Rudolph."
Her version of the song, first recorded by Chuck Berry in 1958, is her fourth AC hit since her arrival last year with the No. 23-peaking "Honesty." Prior to her current carol, she reached No. 13 last holiday season with "Frosty the Snowman" and No. 17 in July with ballad "Wrong Guy (I Did It This Time)."
Billboard: You're currently sharing space in the AC top five with Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige, Johnny Mathis and Jim Brickman. Not bad company to be in, is it? (And for them, as well, with you!)
Wolanin: I am so excited. I mean, Kelly Clarkson, I've been a superfan of hers since I was 13. To be next to her is pretty remarkable.
Also impressive is that you're charting as an independent artist (with "Rudolph" released on the TopNotch label). With AC traditionally home to established major-label acts, although it opens up to new artists a bit more during the holidays, that's a notable accomplishment.
It is like a David vs. Goliath story. It's an uphill battle, but being independent means that I have creative control of my music. I can write and release the songs I want and fully shape my image, because I have final say on everything. It means the world to me.
To get a No. 2 hit is a really, really big deal for us.
What led you to record this song? What's great is that it's a familiar classic, but there also hasn't been a definitive hit radio version in recent decades, so there's room to truly make it your own.
Christmas is my favorite holiday, by leaps and bounds. I love it so much. I wanted to make a Christmas song that was upbeat, one that could start a party without a bunch of egg nog, you know? One that could make people dance, right from the start.
We decided on "Run Run Rudolph" two years ago because of how rocked up it is. I love Chuck Berry's version. So, I tried to incorporate that, while making it a little Whitney, a little more modern.
Your current success has been a goal for a lot longer than two years, though, right?
I decided I wanted this job when I was 11 (laughs). Over the years, I've played at the [London] Olympics and gotten to open for the Beach Boys, who even gave me songwriting tips, which was pretty cool. Their main message was to keep it simple. Keep the music simple, keep the lyrics simple, because that makes it catchy for people.
I use that lesson in my songwriting. "Wrong Guy" is about wanting someone that you shouldn't want. It was written from a personal experience (laughs).
And, I'm writing more for my first full-length album, which is coming out next year.
As you're from Florida's Sanibel Island, is "Rudolph" one of those snow-themed holiday hits that was actually recorded on a sweltering summer day?
Ha, yes. We did this one in July and it was very warm outside. We had the air conditioning on and we were dancing around, trying to get into elf spirit!