It’s Christmas, and so we have to review at least one Christmas number, and why not “South Pole” by the talented country artist and Louisiana girl, Laine Lonero? This great little Christmas track has all those Christmas ingredients: kissing under the mistletoe, Christmas carols and snow! It has that swaying rhythm that you would dance along to while your cold beer sat on the side and the snowman watched from outside. It is Christmas in the South Pole, with a country music sound embodied through and through.
It is therefore a little Christmas cracker that will fit nicely into any Christmas party stocking this year.
We were lucky enough to get to chat with the producer of the song, the equally talented, multi-award-nominated country producer, Tyler Spicer. So it is a chance to find out all about the single and a bit about the producer as well.
We were listening to the Laine Lonero Christmas single, “South Pole.” Can you tell us how you came to be involved as the producer for that one?
Tyler: I’d reached out to Laine earlier in the year about working together. I’d heard her stuff and loved what she did; I thought we’d be a great fit to work together. Between one thing and another, it wasn’t quite the right time. Then, a couple of months later, in late October or early November, I got a message from her asking if I could do a track with a quick turnaround for Christmas playlisting. At the time, I was booked into the studio all week with Wood Burnt Red, a UK country band, but I love a challenge and have done a few tracks with tight deadlines before, so I am committed to making it work no matter what. At that point, I was messaging all my different contacts to make it happen. I had a good friend and producer, Cedric Israel, out in Nashville to record the vocals with Laine. After that, he sent over the track, and I added all the instrumentation—with the exception of the keys, which the great Mark Jones laid down. After that, it went to my friend and mixer Todd Peterson in Nashville, and I returned to the UK to have Phillip Marsden at Marsden Mastering master it. With me working with the band all week, the track went from a vocal rough with acoustic guitar to the full-mastered production you hear now in about 72 hours. Everyone on the team deserves huge credit for that; without them, it would never have happened!
Christmas singles have a shortish lifespan by the nature of the beast, but they often keep coming back every year! Do you think there is a certain recipe for a Christmas number to be successful?
Tyler: I think it’s a balance of leaning into the clichés without making it sound like you’ve heard it all before. A good dose of sleigh bells always brings joy and taps into that classic sound of Christmas we all know and love! I believe keeping it simple is going to help too. Simple structures that people are familiar with, simple, easy-to-sing melodies, and lyrics too. Christmas tracks are all about celebrating the season and making people feel warm and at home, so I wouldn’t be trying to challenge them with advanced harmony! There are a couple of allusions to other Christmas song clichés in the production of South Pole, as well as, of course, sleigh bells! I generally feel like Christmas songs are a great time to strip things back and incorporate some old-school, more organic sounds too. That makes it feel like a Christmas track to me. Ultimately, you never know what’s going to be a hit, so it’s all about making the best art we can as a team that we love and hoping other people love it too!
Are you a big Christmas person—one of those who puts the lights all over the front of your house and has the huge snowman out front? Or are you more low-key?
Tyler: I’m much like my personality—probably an extroverted introvert when it comes to Christmas. I’m not big and showy with the lights or tinsel, but I love the season. It’s a great thing to focus on family, take time away, reset, and simply be able to celebrate and relax at the same time. However, I am known for putting my Christmas jumper on early; we’re talking maybe mid-November. It’s a Star Wars Christmas jumper with different icons coming together to form the tree. It probably came from George at Asda; therefore, it is not particularly elaborate, but I adore it. I’d never owned a Christmas jumper until the last couple of years, so I’m making up for lost time!
Although you are known for your place in the country scene, we do note that you have some jazz roots too. We love jazz here at the magazine (as well as country); do you retain that love of jazz today, and does it still feature in your songwriting?
Tyler: I love jazz, of course! I listen to a bunch of different things and have really eclectic tastes. Ultimately, though, I think it helps to have a niche as a producer, particularly when building a track record. Hopefully, as time goes by, I can add a few more jazz and other genre recordings to my discography. I often feel like capturing great organic sounds can be a crucial part of country music, so that’s one area where my jazz past probably manifests itself. The other significant place is harmony. The thing I love most about jazz is the harmony. Harmony and different progressions really affect me emotionally, so that informs my country production. I’m often thinking about what’s the most satisfying chord progression and whether we need to tweak a couple of chords in the arrangement of the song. Part of the sound of country music is the harmony. I like the fact that you can incorporate a minor or major seven chord when the song calls for it, and in doing so, you’re channeling the canon of country music.
Producer Tyler Spicer
Where are you at the close of 2023 musically? Has it been a good year for you, and what have you planned for 2024?
Tyler: I’ve worked with a large number of artists from all over the world in 2023. It’s been a year of real growth, and I’ve connected with some great artists, made some great music, and had it capped off by getting through to the final five, for the second time, in the British Country Music Association’s ‘UK Musician of the Year 2023’, awards category. For 2024, I intend to keep building on the good work this year—more of the same but even better. So more artists, more songs and more personal growth too. There should be a lot of change on the personal side too, as my girlfriend Rachel and I work to fulfil our dream of moving to Nashville, TN.
Lastly, a quick question: what album would you most like to listen to on a cold winter night if you suddenly had no television, no radio and no internet? You only have the vinyl record player; a storm is blowing outside. What album do you play?
Tyler: I always find these questions the hardest. With that in mind, I’m going to go with my initial instinct. All this Christmas talk clearly has Christmas on the brain, so I’m going to choose “A Very Kacey Christmas” by Kacey Musgraves. I’ll be listening to it alone, as Rachel’s really not a fan.
By Benny (the Ball) Benson
I hope you liked the review, and may I wish you all a happy Christmas season? If you liked what I did, then please show your appreciation by buying me a cold beer at the link below (the others at the magazine may like a coffee or tea; mine’s a cold beer, please). It always makes me smile! Also, hang around a bit and check out our features, reviews and merchandise. Nice having you here!