Josh Rouse never had a Christmas album on his to-do list. But with a batch of appropriate songs and some guidance from Nick Lowe, he’s put together The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse, a nine-song set coming out Nov. 1 and premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Oct. 28). “It’s something I’ve been chipping at — without realizing it,” Rouse tells Billboard.
The Holiday Sounds accumulates songs he wrote for his family during the holidays, not so much carols as anecdotes and reflections. Several tracks are about experiencing the holidays in a different place, which Rouse did over the course of 15 years living in Spain. The idea of turning them into an album first came to Rouse during 2015, when he was touring with Lowe, who had released his own Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family two years prior.
“He told me he never wanted to do [a holiday album] either,” recalls Rouse, whose children are now eight and 10 years old, “but he came up with things that were not your typical holiday songs and thought that would work. I felt the same way and I had a bunch of songs already around, so that was when the idea came up to maybe do an album.”
Rouse describes his holiday songs as an exercise he began more than a decade ago. “Around Thanksgiving or so I would take a musical idea I had and write a [holiday] song around it,” he explains. “For the past 10 years I’ve been in Spain for Christmas. There was no snow or no real cold weather, so I would write some music to get in the Christmas spirit.” But Rouse is quick to add that Christmas was still a special time of year in Valencia.
“I’d never want to say I haven’t enjoyed Christmas the last 10 years, but it was different,” he says. “There’s no snow, but there are plenty of Christmas themes around. There’s people shopping and Christmas music playing, and they definitely get in the spirit there. The food is slightly different, I guess, but it’s mostly the same as it is here.”
Rouse recorded The Holiday Sounds over three days last November at Alex The Great Recording in Nashville, with producer Brad Jones and a corps of musicians who played on his 2003 album 1972. “The recording was fantastic,” he recalls. “I wanted that in-the-moment, everyone playing together, community Christmas vibe. Everybody really loved the songs and came up with great parts, and it felt very easy to do.”
Rouse plans to play his Holiday Sounds during November in Spain and Portugal, and then in December on the U.S. East Coast. He’s happy to have tapped into a well of material he hadn’t released yet, but Rouse isn’t sure yet how he plans to follow it up.
“Lately I haven’t been writing too much,” he says. “I do have songs that haven’t made it onto a record that are lying around, waiting to see the light of day, but I’m slowing down a bit. This’ll be my 13th album, so that’s a lot of material. I have some good songs, but I don’t have an album idea in mind, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them yet. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Listen to The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse in its entirety below.