As well as his work as a director (including the video for Mal Blum’s Ode to Kulele, Ballard C Boyd put together a Christmas ukulele album each year and releases it online. You can download the previous years’ songs here.
I caught up with him to find out what he’s cooking up this Christmas.
Why only Christmas albums?
Well, the first one just happened to be the only record I had recorded. I had only been playing for about a year at the time and it was as a christmas present for all of my friends and family. But at the same time, I heard another friend of mine rocker Stuart Davis (who’s recorded over 13 albums) when asked once “when are you going to make a christmas record?”, he yelled back “What are you talking about?! I’ve done nothing BUT Christmas records!” So in my time writing songs, I’ve decided that for the past three years – going on four – that IS genuinely hilarious. So that’s all I’ve recorded officially. Though I have written and recorded some demos for some other (hate to admit it) NON-holiday songs.
What can we expect on this year’s EP? Any more originals?
I’ve been really trying to work out this arrangement of The Christmas Song, that I’ve always wanted to do, but with a 3/4 swing beat I heard in a recording, but it’s taking a little bit of effort in the translating. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed. But I hope also to record two more originals. And this might be my first foray into traditional christmas carols with Good King Wenceslas perhaps. Maybe not, we’ll see. I’ve kept so far with more secular Christmas carols, which, yes, I know is an oxymoron, but it’s my style.
What makes for a good Christmas song?
My instinct is to say novelty, but really a catchy tune plus a good story I think really make it. There’s so much great imagery with Christmas to work with, that just like any good song, if you can combine those with a tune you enjoy, whether it’s peppy or melancholy. But I really am a big fan of so many obscure Christmas songs that I might have only found because of their novelty. Like Lord Nelson’s “A Party For Santa Claus” that is almost impossible to find, but is a straight calypso tune and is a FANTASTIC Christmas song. So story, plus tune first. And then novelty just sets some out from the pack for me.
What’s in your uke collection?
I really only have one uke. It’s a dark mahogany-shaded Hilo concert uke, from Cotton Music in Nashville, that I bought for $50, and that’s been like my best friend. I remember buying it, even without a case and before I could even play it, and seeing myself reflected in a glass window down the street as I walked to my car, and thinking “I’m a real Nashvillian now. I own a stringed instrument.” Because just about everyone plays something, mostly guitar. And I picked the uke because it’s obviuously not a guitar, but it’s cute and different and easy, and it’s hard to be taken too seriously on it which I see as a plus. I also once owned a Hilo baritone that was on the first record, but it’s since wandered into someone else’s possession in Colorado.
What tips would you give someone looking to spice up their YouTube videos?
Add the tag “erotic” to everything you have. I’m not saying it’s ethical, but it works. It’s a sad erotic state of the internet.
What’s on your Christmas list this year?
This year? Probably financial support. But seriously, like socks and dress shirts. I’m such an adult now. There may be a song on this new record that goes into detail on some other “christmas requests”. I’ll let you know.