Elizabeth Chan’s Christmas Quest
For the past five years, singer-songwriter Elizabeth Chan has been making Christmas music. And not in a ‘tis the season, December, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, once a year sort of way. Just like her 2012 chart success namesake Everyday Holidays conveys, for Chan, every day is devoted to Christmas music. And that’s been the case for far longer than 5 years’ time.
The well-spoken and introspective Chan is candid and endearing in sharing the makings of her dream, dating back to early childhood. “When I was 7, I knew that I wanted to write a famous Christmas song.” Savvy to the core, it’s no surprise that the native New Yorker spent many successful years in the corporate rat race, working in magazine publishing at Conde Nast. We spoke of the leap Chan made back in 2012, embracing that dream she’d had since 1st grade.
“I think when you reach a point in your life you kind of evaluate what is most important. I sometimes think I realized it too late, but actually it was just on time. But, time is the most precious resource that you have to give. I am a firm believer that money comes and money goes, and you always know how many days, how many hours it takes to make a certain amount of money. You always know how much money you need to live a certain amount of days. But, you never know how much time you have. And you never know how many days you have. So, that is pretty much the fuel that kind of fires my career because I know that to create a Christmas standard, it’s gonna take time.”
Along the way, this time has meant the founding of Merry Bright Music Enterprises, of which Chan is the CEO. As stated at merrybrightmusic.com, the company was created with her personal mission in mind: To leave behind a new holiday standard that can be enjoyed by generations to come. “Between composing, writing, and producing hundreds of original holiday songs, Elizabeth travels the world to share her story and music with millions worldwide. What started off as a goal to write one Christmas song has led to multiple award nominations and critical acclaim for her music. Not only is she passionate about her own music, but she is active in music advocacy groups and is an proponent for independent labels, artists, and the rights of musicians around the world.”
Chan’s drive and determination are tangible as she speaks. She has a clarity of purpose that is enviable, and detectable in any successful person, inside or outside the music industry. A keen observer and listener, Chan has clearly taken countless mental notes along the path to success and applied them toward all she continues to achieve, mindful of the challenges she faces as a perceived “seasonal” and niche artist. “It’s not the kind of the thing where I can be like an Ariana Grande seemingly overnight and form relationships with everybody one Christmas at a time. If Christmas were every day, I’d be killing it… but, it’s not. And that’s what makes Christmas music so special. I embarked on this journey and I started from nothing. I really started from nothing.”
Five years on, the many stops on that journey have reinforced the award-winning singer-songwriter’s decision as the right one. Outta the gate, Chan’s debut Naughty and Nice debuted on the iTunes holiday chart. This season, Chan returns with Five Golden Rings, featuring a new batch of standards, including the gorgeous “Ghost of Christmas Past” and “Sleigh.” Chan’s success has fans and confidants alike urging her to expand her focus and cross over to other genres.
“Every day somebody says to me ‘you are so good at what you do. If only you did non-Christmas music, you’d be killing it.’ But that’s not my dream. And everybody has their own dream. I know that this is my calling and it’s my purpose. So, to need to just do things the way that everybody else thinks is the right way might be right for them, from their own mindset, but for me, I know what my journey is.”
Chan summarizes her craft, succinctly noting “Christmas is really my muse,” going on to share “I have a very distinctive special relationship with the season because I’m constantly inspired by it. I study and I listen to a lot of Christmas music all year around. I definitely have my own distinctive perspective on how I like to craft my Christmas music so it comes from a storytelling place. It comes from real authentic place. For me to be able to do that, I also have to protect that which inspires me. That’s one thing I’m most proud of is that this is still an art to me, that I feel like sometimes is lost with some Christmas projects.”
Fittingly, Irving Berlin is named as an idol. “When he wrote ‘White Christmas,’ he didn’t set out to write a famous Christmas song. But, he was really kind of focusing on his experience living in Hollywood during a time when he felt most alone and wanted to remember life at home, and that’s a very timeless message that we can all relate to.”
Reflecting on her previous life in publishing, Chan comments on less calm moments. “I can tell you, I barely slept. I would keep myself up at night worrying about something that somebody said in some meeting and ‘how am I gonna deal with that tomorrow?’ And I don’t have that anymore. And that is freeing emotionally. And when you’re free emotionally, you’re just all around healthier. You’re also closer to who you’re supposed to be. I think when you are not attuned to who you are supposed to be or you kind of put it to the side and you don’t really think much of it, you can really lose yourself.” In a follow-up email, Elizabeth rightly states of success, “Patience, grit but more importantly an unwavering belief in yourself and your art despite the adversity is truly the recipe I believe.” Want more pearls? Head to lizchanchrismas.com for thoughtful blog posts.
Since stepping off the corporate treadmill, Chan has worked tirelessly and prolifically, crafting countless songs, many of which may stay on the proverbial shelf for years. “I literally spend a good portion of the year writing hundreds of songs, and not all of them are great but some of them are gems. And then when I have those gems, I keep them and I let them kind of marinate in my catalog before I even release them. So, songs that I release on my “new records” are most of the time songs that I’ve written years ago that I feel, ok these are ready because I can recall them.” A word to the wise, for sure. And, to mix metaphors, these things take time…particularly in the world of Christmas music. “It takes a really long time to make a Christmas standard. Any standard that is a standard right now minimum is a 20+ year old song… like Mariah’s song is almost 30 years old. I took a leap of faith. Sometimes the only vehicle you have is a leap of faith, right? It worked out for me but I’m also somewhat obsessed with this idea of really wanting to leave behind a Christmas standard.”
It’s clear Chan is well on her way to achieving that goal. Now put your feet up by the fire, login into your Play MPE account and raise an eggnog toast!