It’s Christmas all year round in one room at the home of country music artist TG Sheppard and wife Kelly Lang, a singer-songwriter who is in the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.
Details? First, let’s tackle current events: Sheppard and Lang shared their love of the holiday season by collaborating on a single that was released Friday. The single — “Christmas Without You” — is a new version of an old song.
“It’s a great song that Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton put out many, many years ago,” Lang said. “It keeps haunting me every year, so I talked TG into going in and recording our version. It was super fun to record.”
Lang and Sheppard talked about the song and other Christmas-themed topics during a recent phone interview:
Of all the Christmas songs you could have recorded, why did you pick this one?
Lang: “Well, we did ‘White Christmas’ with the Oak Ridge Boys last year. We did a song we wrote the year before. There is a list of about 10 or 12 that are some of my and some of his favorites that we are eventually going to get to one at a time. But we hope to do a Christmas album next year with a bunch of them on it. This one is at the top of that list. It’s a really fun song to sing, and we both enjoy Kenny and Dolly. It was more of in honor of them than anything.”
Sheppard: “It’s just one of those uplifting, fun songs. It has got a great musical melody to it, but Kenny was a dear friend of ours, and Dolly still is a friend of ours. What better way to celebrate a friend than to do one of their songs? We also did this song on the new upcoming Dailey and Vincent Christmas special that will be airing in the next two or three weeks.”
So, this song is a solo release and the plan is to do a Christmas album at some point?
Lang: “We hope to do a Christmas tour next year. It snuck up on us too quickly this year. We are also in the process of doing a new duet project, so we have to get that finished and we have to get this single out and we are also getting ready to start a podcast coming up soon, so there are a lot of behind-the-scenes things taking up our time, and we weren’t able to do the Christmas tour this year.”
Do you guys go all out for Christmas? Do you have an entire attic full of Christmas stuff?
Sheppard: “We do. The strange thing about us is we actually keep a Christmas tree up all year long in our bedroom. It acts as kind of a night light for us, too. We are so blessed in our lives that we really and truly feel like every day is Christmas, so we keep that Christmas tree up all year. But Kelly decorates the whole house.”
Lang: “I think it’s just his way of rebelling and not wanting to put it in the attic. It’s a little bit redneck, but that’s OK.”
Sheppard: “In Tennessee, a lot of people leave their Christmas lights up all year round around here.”
Christmas songs just put you in a mood, right?
Lang: “The other day when I was shopping in Miami, it was 85 degrees out. I was wearing shorts and flip flops and I heard ‘Jingle Bells’ at a store. It promptly shocked me into the season, whether I wanted it to or not. But it is a way of marking time, and they put me in a great mood when I hear them.”
Sheppard: “It’s our favorite time of the year, and it’s that time of the year where it’s OK to shut down. If you are really dedicated to your job or your work or whatever you do for a living, and you love what you do, you really work all the time. And when the holidays roll around, it gives me an excuse to be able to say, ‘It’s the holidays. It’s OK not to work.’ We just kind of shut down from Thanksgiving until the first part of the year.”
Lang: “The whole music business really does.”
Sheppard: “It really does, unless you are doing a Christmas tour. But in January, we start back to work, and next year looks like a busy, busy year already. We are already booking into October of next year. It’s just a crazy time for our type of music. Country music is so big. There are so many venues to play now that you can work every day if you want to.”
How much thought have you given to other songs you might put on a Christmas album?
Sheppard: “The song that Kelly and I wrote is one of our favorites. It’s called ‘Christmas in Mexico.’ We wrote that a few years back, and we thought we would include that. We will probably include a couple of songs that Kelly has written in the past that I have always kind of liked. Of course, not only is she a great singer and entertainer, but a great songwriter. And probably (we’ll include) a few of the standards. We will definitely include the ‘White Christmas’ song with the Oak Ridge Boys on that album.”
Lang: “I have always loved the song ‘Hard Candy Christmas.’ I will probably do that, and there is another song I wrote with Lorrie Morgan called ‘Merry Christmas to Me.’ If you’ve not heard that, her version is just really, really special. There’s a lot of loneliness this time of year for a lot of people, and it just kind of gives them a voice. It’s a very sweet song. If you get a chance to listen to that, it’s really something else.”
Is there a Christmas standard you are so in awe of, or respectful of, that you wouldn’t try to tread that ground?
Lang: “‘O Holy Night’ terrifies me. Only certain vocalists can hit it. Have you ever heard Jimmy Fortune sing that song? It is unbelievable. I can’t imagine us trying that one, but I have great honor for it and respect.”
Going back to “Christmas Without You,” did you try to put your own spin on it?
Sheppard: “When you are doing remakes on songs, you kind of always want to put your own twist to it. Melody-wise, it’s the same as Kenny and Dolly. But our vocals are different than theirs. So it kind of lends itself to our version of it with our vocals. But it was such a fun song to do. We are just hoping people will really like it.”
Are guys easy to buy for when it comes to finding Christmas gifts for each other?
Sheppard: “Are you kidding me?”
Lang: “I think I am easy to buy for. I think TG is difficult to buy for. I mean, he is very simple in what he enjoys. I just can replenish certain colognes. He is stuck in some ways in what he will wear. It is hard to buy for him.”
Sheppard: “I think all of us guys are kind of gadget freaks. We kind of like things to play with — new toys. I love gadgets — anything that is new that I could use in my everyday life. I burn my cell phone up all day long with that toy.”
Lang: The problem is, though, is when he wants something, he just goes and gets it. It’s hard to wait until Christmas. Hopefully, Sharper Image will be a good place to start.”