Local musicians lend their talents to an annual holiday album.
‘Tis the season for merry celebration, and one Woodbury native knows just how to spread some holiday cheer. Musician Phil Thompson has been producing A Minnesota Holiday since 2009, and this year marks 15 years of sharing tidings of comfort and joy from carolers that call Minnesota home.
“We really try to pick artists from a lot of different genres,” Thompson says. Think jazz and pop, but also folk and Christian. “This year we’ve got [trumpet player] Charles Lazarus from the Minnesota Orchestra; he’s doing an instrumental song, which is great. We’ve got Sounds of Blackness, which is a large Grammy-nominated ensemble. We really like to cast as wide of a net as possible when selecting our artists.”
The project is the largest collection of Minnesota music ever released, with 15 albums including 225 unique recordings by 73 different artists. “I wanted to create a compilation of the who’s who of Minnesota musicians and have that be around the holiday season and give back to the community,” Thompson says.
And give back it does. Since the first album, A Minnesota Holiday has raised over $600,000 for Second Harvest Heartland, the state’s largest food provider for those in need.
Musician Cade Bittner, a longstanding contributor to A Minnesota Holiday, returns for Volume 15 with the song Velvet Santa. We sat down with the Edina jazz artist to learn more.
Edina Magazine: You’ve repeatedly been featured on the album, what keeps you coming back to the project?
Cade Bittner: Philanthropy and music are a big part of my life, so it’s a no-brainer. And it’s all local! The artists, the charity, the distribution, who could say no to that? I also love the incredible work that Second Harvest Heartland does to end hunger. Did you know that they are one of the largest hunger-relief organizations in the nation?
EM: What’s your favorite Christmas song to perform and why?
CB: I’ll Be Home For Christmas, because I spent 10 years living between New York City and Los Angeles while touring the world, and I used to always tell my family, “I promise you, I’ll be home for Christmas.” The song really hits home for me.
EM: What song have you contributed to Volume 15? Why did you choose this song?
CB: Velvet Santa, because it has such a fun pop vibe to it which makes people smile. Fun fact: Debbie Gibson wrote that song for me. I worked with her many years ago and have remained very close with her ever since. When I was working on my Christmas album, I asked her if she would write me an original Christmas song that was about my life. And she said yes! Debbie is such a superstar in the music world, and the fact that I get to say she wrote me a song to record will always feel way cool.
EM: Aside from A Minnesota Holiday Volume 15, what have you been up to musically since we last spoke with you?
CB: Aside from being a proud—and busy—dad to my son, Parker, I released an original dance single that I wrote titled Dancing In My Own Light, which ran up the iconic UK Dance Charts and also peaked at number three on the US Dance Charts. I also sit on a board with Be The Match to help support their life-saving mission, which I am really proud to be part of.
An American Holiday is available at Kowalski’s Markets for $14.99 and online wherever digital music is sold.
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