Sara Noelle is a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and creator of the print literary journal Lyrics as Poetry.
Today she shares two songs for Christmas, the original “Christmas at Sea” and her take on the Vince Guaraldi stone cold classic “Christmas Time is Here.” She spoke with the FESTIVE! Fanzine about recording these songs:
FF: “Christmas At Sea” feels very of-the-moment yet I’m wondering about the timing of the inspiration and impetus behind it, since so many Christmas songs are actually hatched in summer … or a previous year’s holiday season.
SN: “Christmas at Sea” was recorded remotely with Dan [Duszynski] around the same time as the Four Songs sessions this summer and fall. It was written during this fire season in California, when it felt surreal to be singing a holiday track in the raging heat in my apartment as everything, literally and metaphorically, was burning outside. During a smoky and difficult time, it was nice to imagine I’d be slipping away on a foggy Christmas morning into an endless blue expanse, leaving the baggage of the year behind. Dan’s production really brought that emotion to life.
FF: BRAVA for your fresh take on “Christmas Time Is Here,” too, a well-known favorite that frankly can turn treacly in the wrong hands. What prompted you to cover it, and what aesthetic choices informed your rendition?
SN: Thank you 🙂 In the Vince Guaraldi original it’s not all jolly, there’s hints of melancholy there which makes it such a memorable and timeless Christmas song. For this cover, the idea with Dan was to keep it whimsical rather than just play up the traditional “ringing in the season” aspect to it.
FF:Please share a personal favorite underrated/lesser-known Christmas or winter holidays song you wish more people knew about.
SN: “A Change at Christmas (Say It Isn’t So)” by The Flaming Lips is my favorite Christmas song that isn’t a super famous classic. I love the lyrics, the production and how it’s subtly “Christmas” — like “River” by Joni Mitchell — one you can listen to all year that becomes extra special during the holidays.
Noelle’s recently released covers EP, Four Songs, revisits a few timely classics for this moment of tumult, including a reimagined version of John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,” as well as songs by Oasis, Judee Sill and The Youngbloods. Recorded remotely during quarantine, the project was produced by Dan Duszynski, who also worked with Sara on her full-length album Cover the Blue.
Noelle’s previous LP Cover the Blue, released in May 2020, was written at the piano and envisioned as a wandering hike between the haze of uncertainty and clarity. “Clouds,” a balmy and moving mantra, fades into unvarnished “Clear Morning” and misty “Sea House” while “Ruminations” and “Where’s the Horizon” wind their way through unfamiliar paths. The album was written by Sara, produced by Duszynski and recorded in Dripping Springs, Texas.
Sara’s 2016 album, Morning Moon, plots an introspective drive from the desert up the Pacific coastline. The full-length LP blends ambient instrumentals and ethereal vocals, fitting somewhere between Alternative and New Age. The same year, Electric Moon, an EP of hypnotic, electronica mixes was released as an accompaniment to Morning Moon. The wistful twilight single “Float Distant Star” was released in 2019 along with its shoegaze alternative mix “Distance.”