Faith Hill Shares Her Christmas Inspirations and Traditions

Joy to the World Features Classics and "A Baby Changes Everything"

Editor’s note: CMT Insider’s full interview with Faith Hill premieres Saturday (Dec. 13) at 1:30 p.m. ET/PT.)

Faith Hill is filled with resounding pleasure about her new Christmas album, Joy to the World. In a recent interview with CMT Insider host Katie Cook, the singer talks about making her song list (and checking it twice) and watching old home movies with her husband, Tim McGraw, and their daughters. She also recalls the classic holiday songs that make her want to go shopping.

Katie Cook: Not everyone is a Christmas person. I’m taking it that this is one of your favorite seasons.

Faith Hill: For some people, it’s their least favorite, but it always has been [a favorite] for me. Especially with three daughters. It’s fun to see Christmas through the eyes of a child. They’re so innocent, and they take everything in. They really do pay attention. And it’s a great opportunity to remind your children especially what the season’s really about — not just Santa Claus. (laughs)

What is Christmas like in the McGraw-Hill household?

Full of lots of laughter and surprises. Just warm … and cozy. (laughs). I have Christmas everywhere in the house, and I love smelling Christmas. Since we really don’t get a lot of snow in Nashville, I like to bring the outside in, and I love the live trees and garland and the smell of evergreen. But when the kids get out of school, we usually spend our time baking and hanging out, watching movies. They love to watch old family movies. They love to watch videotapes of times when they were younger. They’re not that old now, but they really enjoy doing that. This time of year, we actually have the time to sit down and do that, which they love.

Did you have any favorite Christmas albums that you were trying to channel?

I love the Christmas albums of Johnny Mathis and Burl Ives and Barbra Streisand. There are so many but I tell you the ones that that I also enjoy. Remember the Claymations when we were kids? Frosty and Rudolph — that great sound of the ’50s and the big band jazzy kind of orchestration. I don’t know if I channeled it, but that’s what inspired me.

And then the spiritual songs, the ones that speak about baby Jesus — the real meaning of Christmas. … For me, I’ve always painted a picture in my head of what those songs create in your mind. Especially “Little Drummer Boy.” I have this vivid picture of this little boy standing before Jesus playing his drum, and that’s what he has to offer. That’s his gift, and I wanted the arrangement on that song to be as pure and simple as possible. So that’s why it’s all a cappella on that.

There are so many Christmas songs. Was the process of selecting these songs difficult?

There are hundreds of Christmas songs, and over the years, I’ve sort of made a mental note of the ones that tend to rise to the top. Once I started narrowing the list down, it felt like the ones I had chosen were really the ones that were my favorite from my childhood. So that kind of sticks with you over time. But every time I hear a new Christmas album, I get excited about some of the old ones I had forgotten about.

Most of the songs on the album are very classic Christmas songs, except for one — “A Baby Changes Everything.” Can you tell us how you found this?

It’s a song that I had actually recorded for my Fireflies album. I called Craig Wiseman, one of the writers on the song, and pleaded with him and begged him to let me save it for my Christmas album. I felt it needed to be on the Christmas album because it would get its spotlight and it may get hidden behind other songs on the Fireflies record. So he was generous enough to let me hold this song. It was supposed to be a year. Because at that time, the Christmas album was coming out in a year, but it ended up being three years. So we had to continue to call back and plead. I promised him it would be the only new song on the record. I knew that I would stand by that because I’d only wanted to record Christmas classics, always, until I heard that song. It’s so powerful. It tells the story of baby Jesus from Mary’s perspective as a teenager as a young girl. I’ve never heard it that way before.

Some songs on this album are probably going to make people want to go shopping. These songs have that effect on you, right?

Oh, yeah. Songs like “Winter Wonderland” and “Holly Jolly Christmas” make me want to go out and get something, even if I’m done. I want to go to Target or someplace and buy something special. Just festive. I wanted it to feel that way. I wanted you to smell Christmas. Again, I say we don’t have snow in Nashville, but I look out my window and see snow when I hear this music.

What is it that makes you most proud of this Christmas album?

Oh, gosh. I feel so honored to have put these songs that I’ve loved my entire life on tape with some of the greatest players in the world … and some of the greatest singers in the world — and they’re all from Nashville! (laugh) The players, anyway. I’m just excited. It’s my favorite time of year, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And to have done it and feel happy about it is good. Good for me! (laughs)