This is the year of campy Christmas music, and Onion Honey is serving up its own version of it. The band’s new album, A Merry Little While, features 14 songs, including “Christmas Parmesan,” “Holiday Hootenanny” and “White Vans,” all of which will have you wanting to break into a jig.
The idea for a Christmas album came to the group last year. The members had had almost enough Christmas music to put together an album, and they spent this year finishing it off.
To make things interesting, they turned it into a competition of sorts. Band members and partners Esther Wheaton and Dave Pike started it off by writing each other sad songs about missing one another while they were temporarily long distance.
Both songs made it onto the album: Esther’s song “Won’t You Get Me a Hound for Christmas” and Dave’s response of “Home Before the Snow.”
The newest addition to the band, Leanne Swantko, said, “It’s not a true competition but it certainly encourages you to level up to try to contribute something. So, when I listen to that album, I have a lot of pride.”
Esther and Kayleigh LeBlanc agreed that “Won’t You Get Me a Hound for Christmas” was the most fun to record, especially working with the howling hound harmonies at the end. Leanne countered with “White Vans”, a track that she contributed to writing.
For this album, they wanted to experiment with recording off the floor, meaning they were all playing live with each other rather than recording each part individually and mixing the tracks together.
Although it presented challenges, Onion Honey appreciated the organic sound it created. “It ends up meaning that the recordings are a little more alive than with the multitrack where we always have to play exactly the same each time rather than reading off each other,” Esther said.
“It was a little terrifying to be the one to screw up midway through the song and have to go like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry guys, we’re going to have to start over,’ but what a great experience,” Leanne said.
“Grey Christmas” was harder for Kayleigh to record. “I wrote it about the experience of Christmas after my mom died – who was really the Christmas energy in our household,” she said. “And when I was actually writing and learning the words, I would get kind of choked up.”
“See Amid the Winter’s Snow” was another song that was harder to record. The song switches between bluegrass and church choir harmonies, which, while the transitions are smooth and natural in the final take, was tricky to master jumping between when playing.
A sillier song, “Christmas Parmesan” is a tongue in cheek melody featuring Esther’s best lounge lizard impression of Richard Cheese.
According to Esther, recording A Merry Little While off the floor helped the band transition from how they’ve played previously into how they hope to play next.
Onion Honey is planning to release a full-length album called Foulweather Friend with an old time, neo traditional folk feel in spring 2023.
Keep up with where they’re playing at: Onion Honey – Shows