Alright, we’ve already established that I’m a bit of a Gleek (translation: Gleegeek, or someone who is batsh*t obsessed with the show). So when I heard that Matthew Morrison was releasing his first-ever holiday albumMatthew Morrison: A Classic Christmas(out November 19), I jumped at the chance to interview him again and secure an exclusive song to premiere (stream “This Christmas” below). Like his last set of songs, it will have that debonair, Matthew Morrison vibe and was produced by Adam Levine’s label, 222 Records. The lineup features his Broadway-trained voice crooning out hits like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Let it Snow.” Plus, you can watch him sing (and dance!) the songs when PBS airs his performance with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on November 30. But before then, I quizzed him on creating these holiday tunes, being like Mr. Schue off-set, and how our December cover girl, Lea Michele, has been coping with the loss of her late boyfriend, Cory Monteith.
It seems so natural that you would have a holiday album; why did you wait until now to do it?
I just started coming out with music [recently]. I was in the studio with my friend and producer Phil Ramone working on the last album, Where It All Began. It had that great classic feel and it just made me think of the great, classic Christmas songs. We were like, “Since we are all here, why don’t we do the holiday songs? Let’s revise these timeless songs.” It was weird doing holiday songs in March, but we put Christmas lights all around the recording studio and made it feel a little Christmas-y.
How did you rearrange the songs to make them more “Matthew Morrison,” to give them your Broadway-pop spin?
A lot of it was the great team I had: the late, great Phil Ramone, and Chris Walden, who orchestrated it. I am not an orchestrator—that is not my forte—but I wanted it to have that Matt Morrison feel. I thought of the great Christmas albums by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra—I wanted it to have that classic Christmas sound.
Do you have any dance moves prepared for when you perform these songs?
I haven’t thought about the performances yet. The hard thing about this process is this is technically my second job, so I had to put a lot of focus into what’s going on in Glee right now and doing the lines and dances for that. Nothing is going to be choreographed for sure, but I am a dancer, so I am going to get up there, and whatever feeling my body has, it will just act accordingly.
So we’re exclusively premiering “This Christmas” on ELLE.com. Let’s talk about that song!
“This Christmas” has more of a pop sensibility to it, which I think was probably the hardest for me to record since I have more of that classic [style]. I love this song, and I tried to make it my own. It is just a fun song, and I need that fun, uptempo release as well.
How would you describe your sound?
Lauren, you are not messing around this morning. You are getting deep now.
We didn’t even start with the ‘Glee’ questions, I haven’t gotten deep yet.
For me, my sound is orchestra. I don’t obviously sound orchestral, but in music today, I can hear that everything is over-produced and it sounds synthesized and stuff. I miss hearing a beautiful violin solo or a sax solo, which just moves me in a different way. We actually recorded a lot of this album before the orchestra went into it and then, once the orchestra laid down their stuff, I had to go in and re-record. I was just so inspired by what came out of all the musicians. I had a new sense of how I wanted to interpret the songs just by how they interpreted them. So I think there is a great combination—a duality, between myself and this orchestra—and that is where the energy and the life lives. That just sounded really weird but it’s early [laughs].
That was deep…and now on to ‘Glee!’ I know you are filming the show right now—can you give us any spoilers on what we can expect?
Well, we get our scripts probably the day before we start filming so I don’t know too much in advance, [but I do know] we will be doing a Billy Joel tribute.
How do you think this season has been going so far? Obviously, it has been really emotional. Has it been hard to film?
It was in the beginning. It was extremely hard. I knew it was going to be hard; I didn’t think it would be that hard—just opening up those fresh wounds that we had about Cory [Monteith]. I think the hard part is kind of behind us now, so I think we are all refocused and able to move forward—in a better, more positive way. We have a better outlook on things now, and we are a lot closer as a cast than we ever have been. There is a great energy on set. I feel Cory’s presence is still there, and we kind of have a new motivation for this season and obviously for the rest of the run: to do it for him.
That response was a very Mr. Schue one—motivational, empowering…
See? Sometimes he seeps into things and I can’t help it.
Do you tend to take on the role of Mr. Schue in real life with the cast? After all, you are more of a veteran than most of them. Do your character and your personality overlap?
Yes, absolutely. It did a lot more in the beginning. Everyone kind of has their likes about them, and they know the show so well. They don’t really need my motivation, [but] I think in the beginning there was a lot of that.
It’s been announced that unfortunately there are only two seasons left of ‘Glee.’ What do you hope Mr. Schue and the crew accomplish before we say goodbye?
I don’t know what is happening with the show. I know this season will finish like a normal Glee season. Ryan [Murphy] hasn’t told me about next season, but he just kind of said that he has something special planned. He likes very high-concept kind of things, so I think that he is going to shake it up a lot with the last season and it is going to be completely something different, leaving the fans on a high note and ending this thing properly.
I hope there is one final tour.
You want another Glee tour?
Yes. Or a movie—Glee The Movie—like the ‘Sex and the City’ movies. Would you want to be in it?
Um, I don’t know. I feel like this thing is such a TV show. But…I dunno…yes, I would love to be in it.
Have you seen Lea Michele’s December ELLE cover?
No, I have not seen it. Does she look good?
She looks amazing.
How has it been working with her this season? Everyone says she’s so strong.
She is the strongest one of us all. It definitely hit her the hardest. There were a lot times when different people would go to her house. Everyone was on watch with her, and we would just kind of take care of her, making sure she was okay. She has come out of this thing a lot stronger, and I think with a better sense of self. I think she knows herself even more and has grown through this whole experience. A lot of it had to do with Cory, too. I think Cory was someone who was such a great influence on her life and such a positive person for her to be around. They really helped each other grow. So it is great to see her keep that same sensibility of what he brought to her and keep him alive through her actions.
So, you recently got engaged. Any wedding plans yet?
Yes, we have gotten into planning. We are going to get married sometime in early 2015—that is kind of when I can, when my schedule frees up. It is going to be a small intimate wedding, like 40 people.
Is there going to be a theme?
We are both rustic people, so it will probably be very minimalist but quaint—a lot of great lighting and wood tables.
Will you serenade her at the wedding?
Um, there is a chance. I hope for a lot of singing at the wedding. We have a lot of musical friends, and I hope we have a great band that lets everyone come up and do different numbers. It can be one big singing and dancing party.
It will be like Mr. Schue and Emma’s wedding on ‘Glee!’
Yes, exactly, that is what I am going to model it off of [laughs].