[Cover photo credit to Chrissy Nix]
Texas-bred singer/songwriter Helene Cronin will be releasing the EP Beautiful December on November 17th, 2023, having released her latest album, Landmarks, in February 2023. Creating the new EP was something of a surprise for Cronin, but it was born from a “little batch of Christmas songs” that she’d been collecting over time, including “The Bells of St. Thomas”, which is already available.
Cronin, who is a dedicated “story-singer” draws from her own life experience for her songs, to connect emotionally with audiences, and share what she feels are important lessons she’s learned in life. This isn’t some kind of preachy mission on her part, but instead is about human beings sharing and helping each other navigate life through music.
Today, we’re delighted to premier a new track, titled “I Could Use a Silent Night,” from the EP Beautiful December, on Wildfire Music + News. It’s one that Cronin, who frequently collaborates with other songwriters, wrote with Nicole Lewis. The song will be available from November 3rd, 2023 onwards.
For those whose first thought about the holiday season is of all the responsibilities we must shoulder in order to make sure that everyone in our lives has a wonderful experience, this song’s for you. For those who wonder how they are going to make ends meet in the face of the commercial expectations that the holidays bring, whether it’s in giving gifts or staging bigger meals than usual, this song’s for you. For anyone who simply wants to enjoy Christmas the way that they used to before all the worry set in, this song’s definitely for you. But it’s also for all of us who see all the strange ways in which the holidays function in modern culture and just try to stay grounded in a real and significant human experience.
Helene Cronin is always a thoughtful and careful writer, lacing in details of modern life with her bigger explorations, but the holidays prove an excellent backdrop for her thoughts, creating distinctive contrasts between the details of the holidays and our inner needs and sentimental associations. The song also picks up on those sterling moments of beauty we can find in winter and in quiet reflection that often stay with us far longer than what gifts we gave or what food we prepared. The song progresses towards the beauty of spotlighted strings and the simplicity of an “angel choir”, capturing in delicate form those more profound moments we might encounter, whether with loved ones, or alone. And by recalling those moments, it does suggest that we ought to continue to look for them and prize them.
Helene Cronin shares about the new track:
Nicole Lewis and I began this song in Sept. ’21, generating lots of ideas about Christmas, but lacking a clear direction or even a title. Over a year passed before we picked it up again. By then, reviewing the lyrics, the only line we still liked was, “I could use a silent night”. There was an emotional honesty about it that resonated with us. Using that as our hook, we started completely over. This song is truthful about the busy-ness of the season and how we are pushed to focus on things that don’t really matter. Somewhere deep down, I believe Christmas should not be exhausting.
One of my favorite lines is, “Stillness broken only by an angel choir.” That one line expresses all of the longing I feel during the holidays. The funny thing is, neither I nor my producer Mitch Dane, really had that line in mind when he recruited some friends to come in and sing the ethereal “ooos” that start the song. But as we mixed, we looked at each other and realized – we “accidentally” put an angel choir on the one song that literally asked for it!
“I Could Use a Silent Night” was Produced by Mitch Dane, recorded at Sputnik Sound Production, and Assistant Engineered by David Diel. It features Bobby Terry on guitars, Byron House on bass, Chris Powell on drums, Melodie Chase on cello, keys and bells by Charlie Lowell, background vocals by Caitlin Anselmo and Matt Singleton. Additional guitar, bells, keys, and percussion were brought in by Mitch Dane. The “angel choir” consisted of Andrew Osenga, Steevie Steves, Andrew Marshall Tia Hiatt, Ellison Gossett, and Matt Singleton.
Helene Cronin shares further about the new EP:
“Having just released a new record, LANDMARKS, in February of 2023, I had no intention of recording new music this year. But truth is, we finished that record in July of 2022, and I was feeling restless. I started to think about how I had a little batch of Christmas songs, 4 of them new-ish, 2 of them quite a bit older. But it was already June and the window was closing quickly for a Christmas 2023 project! I contacted my friend, studio owner Mitch Dane, engineer on my last 2 projects, asking if he’d be interested in producing a Christmas record. Was it reasonable to think we could do it that summer? He was very enthusiastic and so encouraging about working with me. As we talked about a 4 – 6 song EP, I told him I wanted the record to “feel like Christmas”, to capture the magic of the season. Mitch and I did 2 days of pre-production, then brought in 3 players I always love working with: Bobby Terry, guitars; Chris Powell, drums; Byron House, bass. We spent one day tracking 5 songs. (Everything but “Christmas Boy”.) Then we brought in Charlie Lowell on keys, bells and B3 for a few songs and Melodie Chase on cello for a few.
The next week I did the lead vocals, struggling with a throat and vocal issue. All week, I sounded more raspy than usual and I questioned if I should keep going. But listening back, it surprised me that this added to the emotional quality and warmth in the vocals. Mitch recruited 6 friends for a fun tequila-infused session laying down angel choir airy “ooo’s” on “I Could Use a Silent Night”. Matt Singleton added cool BGVs to “Christmas Boy” and “Beautiful December”. Caitlin Anselmo sang beautiful backgrounds on “One Night on Earth”, “The Bells of St. Thomas” and “Come, Lord Jesus”. And within one month, we were done, mixes and all! I’m pleased to introduce these songs to the world. They represent my take on Christmas. It’s a time of wonder and beauty, and there is so much to celebrate. It’s also a season that can heighten loneliness and disappointment. My hope is that an understanding of these universal, complex emotions comes through on this record, and that the unique love and joy of the season comes through in these songs.”
Helene Cronin has been a presence in Nashville songwriting circles for 19 years, composing music for both her own projects and for the commercial country market. She hosts writers-in-the-round sessions at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe and performs in a variety of settings, from coffeehouses and small venues to festivals. She often performs in her nearby Texas environs, opening for Kathy Mattea, Chris Hillman and Willis Alan Ramsey, among others. Recently, she took part in a high profile Nashville songwriter festival in Denmark. She also writes constantly and is always exploring new horizons.