Morning News Host Robin Meade Talks Recording Christmas Song With Sugarland's Kristian Bush

Mary Catherine Brownfield
Robin Meade

Having worked at HLN for 16 years, Robin Meade knows that reporting on tragedy is part of the news -- after all, her first day on the job was Sept. 11, 2001, and last week, Morning Express With Robin Meade turned its attention to the raging California fires. But even so, she and her producers try to shine light on positive things going on in the world. 

“My philosophy about the human spirit is that we can take only so much in terms of news that it makes you want to go back to bed. So, we are particular that in the first few minutes you’re watching, you don’t think ‘Man, it’s a terrible life out there.’ We try to give people the hard news, but also try to sprinkle in some things that you just have to comment about. Today one of the stories was about cheese – and the fact that it’s good for you! So we do try to be a little more lighter when we can.”

In addition to her Emmy-winning journalism career, Meade has also charted another course – as a recording artist. The Ohio native has released two albums – 2011’s Brand New Day and 2013’s Count On Me – and just released a brand new Christmas single, “Ghost of My Christmas Past.”

While the sound of the release definitely has a Christmas slant, perfect for the freak pre-winter snow that hit Atlanta (where Morning Express takes place) recently, Meade says she actually wrote the song in another extreme weather condition -- 80 degrees and the summer heat. “I guess that’s the way that a lot of the holiday songs over time are born,” she surmises, in describing the writing process. “Liz Rose is so well-known in writer’s circles. She’s written a lot of Taylor Swift’s hits, and I met her at a St. Jude’s benefit. I invited her down to Georgia where I live. It was 80 degrees outside, and she and some of her writer friends -- Jess Walker and Emily Shackelton -- came to our houseboat, and we wrote four or five Christmas songs by the time noon came around. It was in the middle of the summer, and we were asking each other ‘Now, how would you feel about this or that during the holidays?'"

Meade says that the inspiration for this particular song stems from someone she knows well.

“I had this idea about a friend of mine who has been divorced a couple of times, and how at Christmas, he has to divide his time. Maybe your children might have a life with a step-father or step-mother. That was his case, and I thought about how difficult it must be – even when you go back home for Christmas services. You are sitting there, and then you turn around and you think ‘There’s so-and-so.’ It’s really the ghost of your Christmas past. It’s that person that you used to have a relationship with, and those things never really go away. When you go back home, you’re going to run into people that you might have had a past with. That’s where the idea of the song came from. The way I look at it is that it’s all about your own growth and your own evolution. I was just recognizing the reality of the holidays in that it’s tough for a lot of people.”

While describing how such an experience can leave you emotionally weak or drained, Meade says there is also an undercurrent of strength. “At the same time, there’s a sense of a ‘tough girl getting back at you’ attitude in this song because in the end, she recognizes that he’s looking back at her when he’s walking out with someone else, and he’s thinking ‘You’re the ghost of my Christmas past, too.’ There is a little bit of a sense of 'gotcha.'"

While Meade did pen enough songs to record a holiday album, she didn’t get the chance to go into the studio this year. But, she did want to have something in 2017 to show for her efforts, so she made a phone call to another Atlanta resident, Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, who produced the single -- on very short notice. “I had three hours one afternoon in a few days, so I texted him and asked if he was in town. I asked if he would be interested, and he didn’t have anything going on that day. It was right before he and Jennifer [Nettles] announced that he was going to be putting out new music. He was very good at keeping that secret, but it turned out to be great timing. I zoomed over to a different part of Atlanta, and we cut it. He mastered it in a matter of hours, and it turned out to be perfect. Thankfully, there are no accidents in life.”

Meade hopes to have more new music coming down the pike in 2018, and will continue to report the news – with some stories affecting her more emotionally than others. “Who would have thought we would have had the late hurricane season, and that everything would come at once? You have the U.S. Virgin Islands suffering such a one-two punch. People are still in shelters. There was so much in such a short amount of time, and that’s just from telling the story. Can you imagine living through some of that?”

With stories such as that – and the endless stories coming from both sides of the political realm -- Meade admits there is a chance for overkill, but feels that her show is a little bit different. “Our format moves along very quickly, so even if you don’t want to hear what’s happening in Congress, the beauty of the format is that I’m not going to sit there and shove it down your throat for a long period of time. If you only have ten or fifteen minutes to get informed in a day, you can still walk away with a good chunk of knowledge in your brain, because it’s such a fast format.”

It might be fast, but it’s also early – very early. What time does Meade’s day start? “Three a.m.,” she says, while admitting that her day isn’t as totally glamorous as you might think. “It takes a long time to turn the Titanic around, and by that, I mean my face and my hair. I would love to do a bed-head on the air one day, and we could call it 'In Bed with Robin Meade,'” she says with her trademark laugh.