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Gwen Stefani wants an enduring Christmas hit like Mariah Carey

From BBC - December 5, 2017

Roy Wood may have wished it could be Christmas every day - but Gwen Stefani is actually putting it into practice.

The No Doubt singer has spent the last 12 months surrounded by sleigh bells as she worked on her first festive album, recording classics like Let It Snow and Santa Baby in the blazing heat of summer.

"Did I put up a Christmas tree in the studio?" laughs the singer. "Not really. I just did it and had fun.

"I have gone through heartbreak and all that stuff to write my other records. This one was just so fun and easy."

Inspiration arrived while Stefani was out for a run at her boyfriend Blake Shelton's ranch - a 200-acre property full of wildebeest and deer in the plains of Oklahoma.

"It was a nice, magical run and I started thinking, 'If I wrote a Christmas song, what would it be?' And it just came out of me, this song called Christmas Eve.

"It sounded like a hymn, and I started panicking like, 'Oh my God! I have got to get back to my phone so I do not forget it!'"

Back at the ranch, Stefani anxiously asked her parents: "Is this from church? Did I steal it?"

Reassured it was an original, she texted her managers and set up a studio session. In a matter of weeks, the voice memo on her phone had transformed into an extravagant, string-laden ballad.

After that, an entire album came together with surprising speed.

"My lifestyle's really busy now, with all my children and everything, so I'd get to the studio at nine in the morning and... just put my mind to it.

"I only had three sessions and I wrote six songs. Two songs every session and I was home for school time!"

Fans expecting Stefani to knock out some ska-punk covers of Bing Crosby; or an electro-hip-hop take on Jingle Bells will be sorely disappointed, though.

The star, who grew up listening to Emmylou Harris's Christmas record, Light Of The Stable, and the Charlie Brown Christmas Album, stays affectionately loyal to the old standards, sprinkling her arrangements with chirpy stabs of brass and twinkling, doo-wop backing vocals.

Even her version of Wham's Last Christmas adds a 60s sheen to George Michael's heartbroken classic.

"That was kind of the vibe we wanted: That wall of sound, Ronettes-style, throwback," she says.

"It's really rare to be able to do a record like this because it's so expensive to get all the live musicians in.

"It's so old-fashioned [but] it was pretty magical to be part of that."

'Sexiest man alive'

The album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas, is a refreshing palate-cleanser after Stefani's last solo release, 2016's This Is What The Truth Feels Like.

That record came in the wake of her divorce from Gavin Rossdale and a subsequent, unexpected, romance with Blake Shelton - her co-host on the US version of The Voice.

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