For Paal Flaata, parts of November and the entire December leading up to Christmas Eve are synonymous with being on tour, even this year when he will present the new songs, of course, accompanied by some songs from Christmas Island.
“It’s busy, but also something I look forward to. The days after Christmas are the cozy ones for me. It’s been 17 years since Paal released Christmas Island, but the embarrassing truth is that Paal Flaata has actually released one and a third Christmas albums before. In 2017, he released “I Wish Every Day Could Be Like Christmas” with Vidar Busk and the deeply missed Stephen Ackles. Here, the three friends took turns in front of the microphone to sing rock classics made famous by Elvis Presley.
“I really love Christmas songs, and in many ways, I think of Christmas music as country music, in the sense that it’s a vast genre. That’s why it’s natural for me to do Elvis songs as well. ‘Christmas Island’ is also a more modern album than ‘I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.’ Now, I thought it was delightful to create a record that sounds incredibly old-fashioned; it made sense to do something completely different. As a follow-up album, I am very satisfied with this one; they are two different varieties. It’s just that if you deal with gospel and hymns and intertwining things, Christmas music is inside much of all this. It’s a period of the year where you get tangled up in it; it’s a bit of coziness in the middle of winter.”
The strong influence of religious Christmas songs on the new album primarily has to do with the difficulty of avoiding them in the search for the right material. Flaata and Grini wanted to explore songs with a similar function and form as lullabies, and that’s why we can now hear atmospheric interpretations of the Austrian Christmas song “Still, Still, Still” and timeless classics like “Away In A Manger” and “Auld Lang Syne.” They had to include one country classic too, Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper.”
“It’s also a cornerstone, one of the first ones that came to mind, located in a landscape I know well. We were a bit unsure because it’s outside of everything else, but it’s cool to have a different color in there. It was also a challenge for me to try to sing as high as Roy Orbison, so it was reassuring for me that I didn’t have to go any lower.”
After ten albums and more than 20 years of collaboration with Gøran Grini, Paal Flaata can’t quite imagine it coming to an end.
“I probably could manage fine with someone else, but I don’t want to manage without Gøran. It has become stronger and stronger over the years, especially in the last ten, so no. Gøran just keeps getting better and better, so it’s him and me,” says Flaata.
There is broad consensus among music lovers in the country that Paal Flaata’s Christmas Island is one of the few truly flawless Norwegian-produced Christmas albums out there. It is in good company with “Rosa frå Betlehem” and “It’s Snowing On My Piano,” and possibly a few others, but very few can measure up to Flaata’s velvety handling of Christmas classics. With the new album, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” he repeats the success, if not surpasses it.