It’s the holiday season and musician Gene Casey is getting a bit nostalgic. But it’s OK if you know that because he freely admits it.
“This time of year, I’m very sentimental and often have a breakdown where I start weeping,” said Casey, front man for the Lone Sharks. “It’s a very troubling world with the pandemic. But I’m not going to lay anything heavy on people. I have to be careful not to get too nostalgic.”
With that in mind, Casey is giving his many fans an early Christmas present in the form of “Here Come the Holidays,” his new single that can be downloaded as an MP3 and enjoyed in the weeks ahead — whether its while decorating the tree, driving in the car to do some holiday shopping, or sitting by the fire on Christmas Eve waiting for the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof.
“I wrote it last December, and of course that gave me no time to do anything with it,” Casey said. “I always write a song at Christmas and then hold it for a year. I wrote the song really fast, that might not be a surprise. Generally that means it’s catchy. I wanted a simple, upbeat message, referencing that Phil Spector sound, the Beach Boys and John and Yoko’s ‘Happy Christmas’ — that kind of vibe.”
But, as this is a story about nostalgia, there is a bit of melancholy in the middle of what is a decidedly upbeat tune.
“In the middle of the song there’s a little bit of pathos,” Casey admitted. “It alludes to homelessness or wanting to go back home — the lyric says ‘every house looks like your own when you’re going home.’ It’s a hint of how Christmas can be really emotionally upsetting and depressing.”
In writing “Here Come the Holidays” — which clocks in at a fast-paced two minutes, 44 seconds — Casey was looking to harness those Christmas songs that he grew up hearing. Not his parents’ WWII-era holiday classics sung by the likes of Bing Crosby or Judy Garland, but the next generation of performer who recorded seasonal songs with pop-infused lyrics, a rockabilly beat and lots of sleigh bell percussion.
In fact, in his own recording, he had to keep telling the sound engineer to up the sleigh bell track in the mix.
“He didn’t really like sleigh bells,” admits Casey.
This is actually Casey’s third seasonally-themed song — it follows the previously recorded “Christmas Lights” and “A Cup of Coffee Christmas.” But “Here Come the Holidays” is the musician’s first attempt to release a song as a single.
“With the digital platforms and streaming, it’s difficult for me to keep abreast of what you’re supposed to do,” Casey said. “I came of age with vinyl or CDs. With that, I’m trying to send out MP3s. It’s gotten more response than earlier records.
“I’m finding that people don’t have time for 12 songs. You send it to a radio station, if they listen, they’ll listen to just one or maybe two songs.
But at 2 minutes, 44 seconds? Who can’t find time for that — even in the midst of the busy holiday season?
“I grew up on albums, but there’s also the part of me that loves early rock and roll. Two minutes and 44 seconds says it all,” Casey noted. “That’s the perfect medium for rock and roll. This single is silly and simple and to me this is, by its nature, what a 45 should be. No frills, no time to get into something. I also like the pop aspect of it. I always say Christmas gives you the right to be corny.”
And it also gives musicians like Casey the right to ask for exactly what he wants for Christmas — even if it’s a wall of sleigh bell sound.
Gene Casey will perform “Here Come The Holidays” and many other songs this Friday, December 10, at 8 p.m. as part of WLNG’s Rockabilly Christmas at Suffolk Theater. The show also features Sun Records’ last recording artist, Jason D. Williams, on piano, who is often compared to his friend and mentor Jerry Lee Lewis. Tickets are $45/$49, and the doors, bar and restaurant open at 6:30 p.m. For tickets, visit suffolktheater.com. The Suffolk Theater is at 118 East Main Street, Riverhead.