Exclusive interview: jazz artist Spiros Exaras “The magic of Christmas” [Video]
The latest holiday EP from internationally acclaimed jazz artist Spiros Exaras has arrived, and The Knockturnal got the scoop. Exaras’ very first original single for the holidays, “The Magic of Christmas”, released on December 1, brings joy to the world. Exaras is known for his impressive fusion of different musical elements, most notably in his Greco-Cuban collaboration with Elio Villafranca, “Old Waters, New River” as well as in his signature album Blue Note “Phrygianics”. With the title “The Magic of Christmas”, Spiros Exaras also released a second Christmas track called “Christmas Wish”. In the title song, “The Magic of Christmas,” Spiros’ resounding guitar sound meets Don Braden’s distinctive saxophone and Eugene Ruffolo’s mellow voice to create what is sure to be a future Christmas classic.
Inspiration for “The Magic of Christmas” struck when Spiros’ daughter was studying abroad and couldn’t join the family in decorating the Christmas tree. With love and imagination, Spiros and Ileana decided to co-write a song expressing the joy of the holidays that magically unites people, regardless of distance. A joyous journey of two solos is followed by a line in Spiros Exaras’ native language, Greek. “Ding Dong! Christou’genna pantou, ‘” (Christmas is everywhere), wishing happy holidays from his house to the world. Indeed, The Magic of Christmas Knows No Boundaries. The second track, Christmas Wish, is a song sincere about lending a hand to the less fortunate. It is a wish for a world where the joy of the holidays is not a privilege for the few, but can extend to all. Amanda Homi and Caryl Paisner’s astonishing cello rendition combine with Spiros’ dynamic arrangement to create a song that is both touching and hopeful. The Magic of Christmas EP is a joyous sleigh ride, a ride. joyful in a sparkling city and a gift of heartwarming melodies that, when opened, will make all listeners smile.
Check out our interview with guitarist, songwriter, producer Spiros Exaras below and don’t forget to watch the music video for “The Magic of Christmas” with “Christmas Wish” now on YouTube and Spotify.
Tell us about your new song
In my family, we have a tradition of decorating the Christmas tree together while listening to Christmas carols – jazzy Christmas carols. One year, my daughter, Ileana, was studying abroad and couldn’t join us for this annual tradition, so we decided to unite in a different way: by writing a song that we could eagerly listen to. next holiday season we would spend with family.
It had to be a Christmas song, a jazzed up Christmas song. If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll hear the holiday spirit of four cities, where Ileana and I have traveled: Paris, London, Moscow and, of course, New York. “The Magic of Christmas” is about the joyful energy of the holidays that knows no boundaries and brings us together no matter the distance.
It’s available on all streaming services, but Apple subscribers can also exclusively listen to the Atmos mix for a more cinematic and immersive experience.
What was the creative process behind this?
You’d think after being exposed to so many holiday songs in your life writing them would be second nature, but it isn’t! If it’s a Christmas song, you want it to “sound” like Christmas. The challenge then, is trying to think of the song rationally – like trying to find festive harmonies and thinking about traditional instruments like bells, while trying to make it come from the heart – and that’s when all the thinking you put in finally translates into emotion. After weeks of thinking and writing nothing, my daughter, Ileana, sent me a photo of her in front of St. Basil’s Church in Moscow, a historic monument. As if by magic, memories came back to mind and the first texts landed: “Christmas in Saint-Basil in Moscow, Ding Dong, Saint Patrick in New York”. I sent the draft to the ‘master’ to finish it brilliantly. This is the first time that Ileana and I have written lyrics together.
What are your favorite holiday songs?
Holiday songs are more than just a melody: they are a memory, they are hope, and they can inspire comfort even in less heartwarming times. Some songs that are timeless to me are “I’ll be Home for Christmas” “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” and “Carol of the Bells”. I believe these songs have the power to bring heartwarming moments of unity. Joni Mitchell’s “River” is also an important and beautiful song, showing the angst that can be hidden behind the lights and adornments of the season.
How was the collaboration with your daughter?
Being able to work with Ileana is a blessing. I trust him and take his advice very seriously. She is in touch with her generation and her academic and experiential knowledge acquired in different countries ensures me to stay in tune with the times and reconsider any ideas that may be outdated, both in the music industry and in life. . It is important to build a relationship of honest communication and respect with your children. You grow up together, and above all, these are values that your children will export to society. It all starts in the family. Of course, sometimes we are both “stubborn Greeks”, but that’s because we set the bar high. She has a great gift for translating the emotion I want to communicate into words.
What‘is next for you?
Then I work on a concept album with 11 songs inspired by ancient Greek mythology. You will be able to hear exotic rhythms, ethnic instruments and progressive harmonies mixed with cool electronic sounds. It will be played with my group, the World-Jazz Ensemble. If you love myths, heroes, gods and goddesses, stay tuned for a touch of “mythical” jazz!
In the meantime, you can get an acoustic preview of a Greek folk fusion, with santurist Loukia Valasi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz63BOf0frk). Finally, you can check out another very important project from last year: a video for “La Ruta”, a song co-written with Jeremy Ryan dedicated to refugees who risk their lives for a better future, with original footage from the Syria-Turkey Border, Greece, Serbia and the United States, by famous photographer Craig Ruttle and original text by NYU psychoanalyst Dr. Spyros Orfanos. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3-68KxF-bY)
What about “Christmas Wish,” the second holiday song you’ve released this season?
The holiday season in New York is a gift in itself, bringing a wave of love, compassion and gratitude. However, not everyone receives this love and compassion. “Christmas Wish” is a reminder not to lose sight of our consideration for others in the midst of shopping and sparkling shows. It’s a song that I hope will inspire those with a hand big enough to lend it to those who haven’t met their basic physical and emotional needs. I hope everyone has something to feel grateful for this season. It is my wish.
Cover by Pau Yaniz Gonzalez