Dinah Jane Hansen Says Christmas Duet With Leona Lewis Helped Her 'Feel Like Myself Again'

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Dinah Jane Hansen and Leona Lewis

"The idea just came about because we were both extra, basically," Leona Lewis laughs.

Dinah Jane Hansen took to her Facebook page on Thursday to surprise fans with a Christmas collaboration with Leona Lewis, as well as a story about how Lewis has been one of the Fifth Harmony member's biggest inspirations since she started singing. 

"At the age of 11 is when I took my love & interest for singing a bit more serious," Hansen wrote in the caption for the video. "Around this time, I was sleeping over at my cousins house and they had asked me to sing them a song just for fun. I had chosen 'Yesterday' by Leona Lewis. This became my first ever cover on YouTube titled 'Tongan Girl Singing.' I’ve always hoped to one day sing with Ms. Lewis." 

That dream came true this year, and it's all thanks to Twitter. Fans rallied to have the girls duet together after finding Hansen's cover of "Yesterday," and Lewis favorited one of the suggestions -- which inspired her to write ("I was freaking out to my mom saying, 'WHAT DOES THIS MEAN MOM !?! Is this a Green Light !?,'" Hansen added in her story).

The result was a beautiful holiday medley of "Silent Night" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," with an intro the two power singers wrote together at Lewis' house. The song highlights Hansen's and Lewis' impressive vocal abilities, as the main focus is their voices, something Hansen has been eager to do musically since she auditioned for The X Factor five years ago.

Ahead of the song's release, Billboard chatted with both Lewis and Hansen to hear a little more about how the song came to be and what it meant to both of them to get to record it together. Check out an edited transcript of our conversations below.

Lewis: Dinah reached out to me and I said, "Why don’t you come ‘round the house? And let’s just hang out. Let’s get 'round the piano, sing some songs together."

Hansen: I went over to her house, we had kettle corn and pretzels, she laid out some treats for us. At first I was like, “I think she’s just trying to make me calm down, she’s trying to tone it down for me" -- because deep inside I was freaking out like a little fangirl.

The little girl in me was like “Who would’ve thought this little girl at 11 years old is now 20 and is walking into Leona Lewis’ house?"

Lewis: I didn’t know before I got in with her that she loves writing. So I was like, "Oh my God, we need to write together. We need to do this." So, I think we both brought a bit of depth to it in that way.

We wrote something that we incorporated into this Christmas medley. We’re both -- we call ourselves "extra," so we basically did three songs and put it into one. We kind of made a medley because we couldn’t really decide on just doing one and we wanted to give something special so we crossed a song that we wrote together then we incorporated two very traditional Christmas songs. And the idea just came about because we were both extra, basically. [Laughs]

I think she is [also] such a great singer. We’re both very much influenced by the same kind of people, the same kind of music.

Hansen: We were inspired by “When You Believe,” Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. That’s why it’s a whole medley of songs, only because we wanted to change it up and we wanted to do something unexpected. We’re vocalists, of course, so with that we made sure we sang our butts off to bring you back some real music.

We feel like this is kind of what is missing in music nowadays. It just feels like I’m living in the '90s all over again. We had Mariah’s Christmas energy in this room while we were creating it.

Lewis: Her vocal range is amazing. She’s got a lot of power in her voice and a lot of soul, and she brought a lot of soul to it.

Hansen: I’ve always been interested in Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, and Leona Lewis. I’m starting to figure out who I am all over again. I honestly felt like myself again [recording this duet]. I haven’t felt like myself in like six years, so the feeling was like “I’m reliving my youth all over again.” You know when you feel like you’re singing singing? That’s what it felt like.

It feels the most true to me because this is how I used to sing. I always sang Leona Lewis covers, and if you know her songs, she’s not just singing your average easy song; she’s going off the majority of the time. So we made sure we did that in this cover.

 

@leonalewis better in time⏱--

A post shared by ♛DinahJane (@dinahjane97) on

 

Lewis: I definitely learned from [Dinah]. Every take she does, she’ll do something different every time. And I love that, because she has so many ideas and she just puts it out there. I love that because that way you can stumble upon real gems.

There’s this part that I love -- it’s on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." She’s very literal with the lyrics, so it’s a part that goes "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough" and she said to me that she really loves that lyric -- the symbolism of it -- because it’s about self-belief and it’s about reaching as high as you can in life. I think that’s very inspiring for people, and she did a beautiful melody on it. It’s a really powerful, rangey note.

She didn’t do it because "Oh, I’m just gonna sing this really high note here." She did it because it’s a part of the song that is symbolic and about reaching higher, and it’s symbolic to her journey -- and my journey. We both started off in the same kind of place. We went on a talent show and we both had self-belief. We both had this dream and this passion to be in music and to record. I think we both just have a lot of mutual love and respect for each other and each other’s process.

Hansen: I just love how much of a perfectionist [Leona] is, which is so beautiful because then I learn to always pace myself, take my time, and to really put some thought into it. For me, I get so excited I’m like, “Oh this is good!” And she’s like, “OK, just pace yourself, relax, and we’ll get through this next line.”

Lewis: I know she’s grown up listening to a lot of my stuff, and to see someone become successful and to maybe have had some kind of influence in that musically is such an honor to me. It’s kind of crazy because it kind of correlates to me as well. A couple of days ago, I was honoring Lionel Richie and got to sing his songs at the Kennedy Center Honors event. They were honoring Lionel, and I got to sing "All Night Long," and I was singing it to him and honoring him with that. And he’s been such an influence for my music, so to get to perform for him with him was incredible. If I’ve had some sort of influence on her and what she’s doing, it’s amazing to me. It’s incredible that we got to do this together.

Hansen: This is our gift for our fans. And for me!

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