Outlook singer, songwriter and worship leader Camille Parkman hopes her new Christmas album brings people back to the true message of the holiday and perhaps inspires them to find or renew a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The CD, entitled ‘Sweet Christmas’, was released this month and features 40 minutes of mostly original music, along with some favourite holiday staples that are dear to Parkman’s heart.
The album was very much a passion project of Camille’s, who says the music had a tendency to take on other forms before she got serious about recording and producing the Christmas-specific collection that she hopes will serve as something meaningful to listeners.
“I had a bunch of songs over the years that had just been collecting and morphing,” said Parkman, speaking with The Outlook. “Every Christmas, they’d get pulled up and sang a little bit more, and I think it was my family who said, ‘You need to do a Christmas album’. I wanted to do something that was kind of a little more meaningful, too. There are a lot of Christmas carols I don’t like and can hardly handle singing them anymore; a lot of them are just complete fluff like ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’, and I’m not really into those. I just wanted to put out an album that was fresh and obviously represented me and my creative side, but also something that would be really meaningful.”
With some of the songs being close to ten years old, their tones had changed a lot by the time Camille decided to make the album. The CD was the result of a year of hard work, but it also became something of a family affair as Camille’s son Josh lent his drumming skills to the music, and he also served as a co-producer and engineer.
For Parkman, it was important to get some of the work done early while it was still the holiday season, which helped her stay in the right frame of mind.
“I started last Christmas, actually,” she said. “I purposely took a year with it because we were doing something new. My son Josh, this was his first album that he co-produced with me, and he was the engineer on it. It was his entrance to the whole thing, so I wanted to make sure he had lots of time and that we weren’t rushing anything, and I also wanted to start playing and singing it while I was in the Christmas mood last year, instead of singing it in the summer. For my own sake, and so I could really enjoy this, I wanted to sing it last Christmas. I laid down all my keyboards over the holidays and then I wanted to hit the vocals while there was still snow on the ground, so we were doing vocals in January and February. It got done in layers.”
A rather unusual spot to lay down her vocals ended up being a unique location for Camille to record some of the album.
“It was actually done in my attic!” she laughed. “I mean bits and pieces, right? The vocals were done in the attic, Josh did his drums at Eston College in the chapel, and I did my keyboards down in my office. It’s actually a pretty neat atmosphere up in the attic, and we were really happy with the results.”
Out of all the songs on the album, Camille says the title track is what stands out to her as perhaps her favourite.
“Probably the title track, ‘Sweet’,” she said. “It’s almost a lullaby, and it talks about that awesome moment like as if you were looking in the manger and looking at Jesus’s face and going, ‘Oh my gosh, this is God!’ It tries to capture things from that perspective, and it’s one of the newer ones. That’s probably my favourite.”
When it comes to everyday Christmas music, Parkman says she either goes from one direction to the polar opposite as far as her tastes go, leaning toward the music from centuries ago that she says really help form the picture of what Christmas means to her.
“O Holy Night is on there, and it’s always been my favourite carol,” she said. “I tend to like new, contemporary stuff or really, really old; like going back into the 16 or 1700’s, those kinds of hymns with something of a Celtic feel, and I tend to jump over everything in between.”
If there’s a message or theme that comes with the album, Parkman hopes that listeners find themselves drawn closer to God and remind themselves what the meaning of the season is all about.
“My whole goal with this album is that it’s almost like a Christmas worship album,” she said. “I hope that it draws people closer to God and that they’d be able to sense His presence, and just have this big reminder that this is what Christmas is about; it’s about the birth of Christ, that he came and loved us, and that we don’t need anything else. I tend to react against the materialistic side of Christmas and all the fluff and how overboard we go with spending. I love the decorations and the feel of it, but there’s a point where sometimes it really feels like we’ve lost the root of it, and how this is about Jesus.”
Copies of ‘Sweet Christmas’ are available for purchase at Outlook Printers. For more information on Camille and her music, listeners can check out her website at camilleparkman.com.