For Don Amero, a Christmas tour just made sense.
As a guy with a positive musical outlook and a deep-rooted inclination to spread joy during the festive season, the Winnipeg-born singer-songwriter says a series of festively focused gigs seemed like a natural thing to add to his schedule as his career and audience began to grow.
"I just got to thinking about how much effort you put into learning all these Christmas songs, and I figured that it would be great to get to use them more than once," says Amero, whose fourth annual holiday concert effort, Amero Little Christmas, stops this Friday at the West End Cultural Centre. "So I thought, 'Why not bring them around to some of our friends on the Prairies?'
"I started out by taking it to a few communities that I have some connections and family ties to, and then it grew from there. It started out as just getting a few folks out to celebrate Christmas with some songs, and we've actually turned it into more of a show now, with some video and some other great artists that I'm partnered with."
Amero Little Christmas features musical contributions from Amero, the recent winner of the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award for male entertainer of the year, and from local folk/roots trio Red Moon Road. The show features a mix of traditional and original festive tunes, including songs from Amero's seasonal EP, Christmastime, which was released last year.
There is, without question, a strong indication of Amero's affection for all things Christmas in the fact he has devoted so much energy to writing his own collection of yuletide tunes.
"The season of Christmas, to me, is about giving and remembering and family, and that's the kind of person I am anyway," says Amero, 32, whose festive season this year will be focused mostly on watching his one-year-old son, Oscar, celebrate his first Christmas as a toddler. "So writing songs about those themes isn't particularly hard for me, because I do want to give back, and I do want to support people in my community and abroad. That's something that has always been close to my heart."
Amero says there's a delicate art to creating the set list for a Christmas show, because even audiences filled with fans of his original music will arrive expecting to hear a lot of the tried-and-true holiday staples.
"I think it's about starting off with songs that are somewhat familiar, on a happy note that gets people tapping their toes and in the mood for the evening," he explains, "but even with traditional Christmas songs, I try to put a bit of my own spin on them. It's a matter of really carefully crafting a set that's a balance -- not too much original stuff, because people do want to hear those songs that they're familiar with at this time of year. I think we've done a really nice job with it; I think it's a really good balance of originals and classics."
Amero admits that it's a bit tricky to put his own "spin" on a seasonal favourite such as Silent Night, which has been sung to essentially the same musical arrangement for centuries, but is quick to add that he thinks it's a chance worth taking.
"Obviously, there's some risk," he says. "But as I say at the outset of every show, this is our flavour of these songs, and I think we keep them close enough that people can hang in there with us if they want to sing along. There are a couple of songs that are very traditional in the way we're singing them, but there some others, like a very groovy version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, that are a bit different.
"That one was inspired by this great bass riff that Daniel from Red Moon Road came up with the other night, and we all said, 'That is so cool; we have to do it that way.' For me, it's fun to put our own twist on things. As an audience member, I always love hearing other artists' interpretation of songs."
Which is not, however, to suggest that Amero is in favour of abandoning the traditional approach to seasonal songs. Consider his answer to the inevitable question about what his own favourite Christmas songs are:
"Oh, that's easy," he says. "Anything by Bing Crosby."
You can sample Don Amero's festive music at http://donamero.com/christmastime
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Amero Little Christmas
Featuring Don Amero and Red Moon Road
óè Friday, 7:30 p.m.
óè West End Cultural Centre
óè Tickets $15 at Ticketmaster, WECC, Music Trader and Winnipeg Folk óè Festival Music Store