Esteemed producer, composer, songwriter, and recording artist, Tommee Profitt, has released his new high-concept holiday album, The Birth of a King, via Capitol CMG. The self-produced record, which has been 15-years in the making, features collaborations with an eclectic lineup of guests including internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter Avril Lavigne, celebrated pop-rock musician Tauren Wells, R&B artist Stanaj, and singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin, to name a few. The LP is a collection of thrillingly grandiose tracks that spotlight Profitt’s unbridled musicality, cinematic production sensibilities, and signature genre-warping sound. In true Profitt fashion, The Birth of a King is elaborately detailed and brings an undeniably epic quality to the realm of traditional holiday music. In this TCB Exclusive, Profitt shares his vision for the record, hopes for the collection and listener reaction so far.
Congratulations on the recent release of The Birth Of A King! Can you share a little of how such a collaborative project came to be?
I literally have had dreams of making this Christmas album since 2005, when I was in college. I knew that someday I wanted to do a BIG Christmas album, covering all of the main traditional carols, and putting my spin on them. I’ve actually tried to start it every year for the past several years, but I just never had time – too much on my plate! So this year, when the worldwide quarantine hit, I took advantage of the time to myself and dove right in… not realizing it would begin a six-month process with 17 different featured artists. As I was working on each song and arrangement, very specific voices came to mind. So I studied that artist’s range and put the song in a key that would be good for their voice, tailored each track for them, and completed all of the music/choruses/tracks before I even asked them! Thankfully, by the grace of God, every single artist said yes to collaborating with me, and I didn’t have to go with any plan B’s or second options. It was so cool hearing my internal vision for the songs come to life once the actual artists’ voices were recorded. They all delivered amazing performances of a lifetime – it was incredible.
This album stands out for many reasons, one of which being the number and variety of featured artists. How has the reaction been to the release?
It’s been amazing. I’m so super grateful that people are finding the album and listening. The response has been far beyond what I had imagined, but not just by people liking the record, but by the way God is working through it. I’ve received messages and texts, from both strangers and friends, that have made me cry, sharing really powerful moments of how God showed up and changed someone’s life. That was secretly one of the missions behind this whole album. I don’t think people start listening to a Christmas album thinking that they’re going to be impacted by something powerful, but I felt very much like God was in this process, and even changed the direction a little bit of where I was initially intending to go, and I love that! I felt like this was an album that HE wanted to be made, so that He could offer hope to people at the end of 2020, arguably one of the worst years in history, and point them to worship Him. Or maybe even think about the story that sometimes gets brushed over in the midst of family, presents, and snow. People are desperate for hope today, and maybe because of this difficult year, they’re more open to receiving that hope. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be hit with that surprise while listening to ‘The Birth of a King’.
The album features many holiday classics. How did you go about choosing the songs you did and balancing the desire to stay true to traditional Christmas sounds while also bringing your own flavor?
There’s definitely a theme to this album. I thought about the traditional story of Christmas: “A King is being born, greeted by angels, who’s coming to save the world.” That is the most epic synopsis of a story that you could ever imagine! It definitely deserves an equally epic soundtrack, and that was our goal: To treat Jesus’ birth like a Lord of the Rings movie, while emphasizing the power and impact of His birth. However, through the process, I was aware of how people don’t want you to mess too much with their beloved classic carols, so I wanted to give people something that felt true to the timeless and classic songs, while also offering some completely reimagined arrangements. I also wanted the entire thing to still feel natural and non-distracting, so that was the challenge. I added choruses that felt like they fit the original time in which they were written, while also throwing in brand new arrangements that would be interesting to both 20-year-old gamer dudes, and 65-year-old moms. Those were the two audiences I had in mind when creating the album and figuring out how to bridge that gap of everyone in between.
You will be debuting your music video for “O Holy Night” featuring Tauren Wells and SVRCINA on Nov 19. When did you first have the artistic vision for this video?
It was really a collaboration with the director Patrick Tohill. We knew we wanted it to be a performance video with me at a grand piano, and the two singers, with string players around us. Patrick knew of this big warehouse that would be perfect for it. His team is amazing, and they did some amazing lighting that brought the video to life! I can’t wait for people to check out the video. It’s really special to me!
Can you take us back to the day you filmed the “O Holy Night” video – is there a moment during the video shoot that stood out to you most?
I think the coolest thing for me was playing with live strings. Although we were playing along with the song for the video, I could hear the string players performing their parts, and it felt like we were all performing the song together each and every time we ran through it. It’s been a dream of mine to play live at a grand piano, with singers and an orchestra, and it was a pretty cool moment to get to do that.
What message do you hope listeners take away from this collection?
Honestly, like I mentioned, I hope that people continue to be impacted by an encounter with God while listening to this album. Some people have no desire for that, and that’s okay, and they can still receive the album the way they would by watching a movie and just appreciating the story and the production/performances. I think there is some amazing richness and depth to these traditional Christmas hymns, and I simply tried to extract the meat and emphasize some of the words and choruses, so that it stands out a little more when people sing along with these songs. How many times do we just sing ‘Joy to the world the Lord has come’ without even thinking about it? We just sing out of habit and the melody comes out of us as casually as if we were ordering a taco at Taco Bell, haha! But the message is powerful! The story is powerful! This is the greatest gift that has ever been given… and I want people to feel like they’re joining the angels in greeting this King, this Savior, that has come.
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?
Just being with family! I have three little kids now, and it’s so much fun spending extra time with them and seeing how excited they get, while also instilling in them the true reason we celebrate Christmas. We usually pack up and head to Michigan for a few weeks, where we’re originally from, and spend time with our families. It’s always super special and a nice relaxing break.
With 2020 coming to a close, can you share with us something you are looking forward to in the remaining months or even into 2021?
Honestly, I’m pumped to end the year at a slightly slower pace than usual. Normally, I’m rushing to beat the clock with work projects before we leave for our Christmas vacation trip to Michigan, but this year I’ll have most everything done and turned in by Thanksgiving, so the month in between I’m just going to slowly catch up, take some time to work by myself, and move at a slower pace to enjoy this season with my family. I haven’t done this since… well, since I was born. So I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to have a slower end of the year!