A holiday album was inevitable for the Piano Guys -- at least according to the Utah duo's cellist, Steven Sharp Nelson.
"We're huge Christmas fans," Nelson tells Billboard, referring to himself and Piano Guys' piano guy Jon Schmidt. "We have young kids at home, which makes it a great, exciting time of the year." Nelson adds that, "Long before Piano Guys started, (Schmidt) had two or three Christmas albums, and I've got one and a half. So we've really been creating this album for a long time."
The album in question is "A Family Christmas," a 12-track set the Piano Guys released today (Oct. 22). It's comprised of what Nelson called "a really eclectic mix" of seasonal standards such as "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "Silent Night," some of which the duo has already posted on its YouTube channel, along with a couple of original compositions, while Schmidt and Nelson also mash up "Carol of the Bells" with "God Rest Ye Gentlemen" and "Winter Wonderland" with "Let It Snow."
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"Those two songs belong together; you can hardly tell where we pick up one and drop another," Nelson says of the latter coupling. "It's got a real fun Michael Buble/Sarah Bareilles feel to it, great spunk to that tune. And 'Carol of the Bells' and 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' is a fun mash-up of 4/4 time and 3/4 time."
The duo also fuses together eight public domain holiday songs -- including "Angels We Have Heard on High," "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Little Drummer Boy" into another musical mash.
The project was great fun, but Nelson cautions that "we're not going to be the perpetual Christmas group like Mannheim Steamroller or something. This may be the only Christmas album we put out, or the next one will be long down the road. We love being a year-round group and don't want to get pigeonholed, which would be easy."
Nelson and Schmidt are, in fact, working on their third Piano Guys studio album to follow "The Piano Guys" and "The Piano Guys 2," both of which debuted at No. 1 on the Classical and New Age charts.
"We already have four or five songs ready for 'The Piano Guys 3,' " Nelson says, projecting a fall of 2014 release. "We have to keep up with the Beatles and do three albums in, like, a year or something when they started out. We only signed with Sony nine months ago, so we're just trying to keep pace."
The Piano Guys are also on their biggest headlining tour to date, cruising around North America until Nov. 9, then playing a few European shows in early December with a handful of U.S. holiday dates immediately thereafter. Nelson says a 2014 tour is already in the books and will "probably be the same sort of thing we're doing this year, just in bigger venues. Nobody would have expected how well we're doings, neither us nor the promoters -- nor the record company. We didn't do this to become big stars or even make albums. It's just something that started small and grew beyond anything we could have anticipated."