Rehya Stevens was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her music. We started by asking about her song 'Jingle Jangle'
What was the inspiration behind using the term Jingle Jangle?
You know how kids love to sing “Jingle Bells”? How could any kid resist that chime-like melody with lyrics about sleighing in the snow with friends? That song sparks joy in every child. To write a song that might achieve that gleeful holiday feeling was what I'd hoped to capture.
While writing it, were you leaning into the style of any particular artist? What was the writing process like?
I wasn’t leaning into a particular style, but more of a feeling. Honestly, the melody fell on my head one night while I was puttering around the house with a glass of wine. It rang through my brain for a few hours until I finally sat down and wrote the verses.
A few days later, I played it for collaborator (Jon Kubis), and he took to it right away. We wrote the bridges, and the rest is history!
It’s such a fun-loving, playful song. It just goes to show that sometimes fun is more important than anything else. The chores did not need to get done that night. “Jingle Jangle” needed to be written.
What were your expectations for “Jingle Jangle,” and how did the song exceed those expectations?
It far exceeded my expectations! I just wanted to make a great Christmas record that people might love.
It was licensed in three films last year; “Noelle” (Disney +), “Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen” (Hallmark), and in the cult classic film, “Black Christmas," and won a Hollywood Music In Media
Award for "Best in Holiday." I was blown away!
It’s fun to see this song thrive! Hopefully, this is just the beginning.
In all of the interviews that I've heard you give, one song seems to not get much attention, but it’s honestly one of my favorites from the album. That song is “Fly past my roof,” which is about having a life so full of joy that you don’t want Santa to even stop by.
Did you initially set out to write this song, or was it something that just came to be while in the spirit of writing the songs from the album?
Thank you for mentioning this song! “Fly Past My Roof” was one of the first songs written for the Celebrate album, and it’s one of my personal best. I didn’t set out to write it, it just pulled me in.
The holidays are innately romantic. I think everyone wants to be in love at Christmas time. And when you're madly in love, what more could you ask for? You’re set!
My hopeless romantic flag flies high at Christmastime, so the concept had probably been working within my subconscious for years.
What was the writing process for this song?
I wrote the verses on my own, and adored the “sugar” motif. I loved the way it played off of the other lines. But I toiled relentlessly with the chorus, but it didn’t have the same “slam dunk” feeling.
One afternoon, my friend Carnell Harrell was in town. He had some down-time between gigs, so I said, “Hey! I’ve got some great snacks on-hand, and a fantastic song that’s half finished. Can you come by?" 20 minutes later, he was arranging these sweeping big band changes at my Yamaha upright. An hour later, the choruses were written.
The nuanced way he played it, with a nod to “A Wink and a Smile,” brought the song puzzle together. His playing never fails to inspire me. It never would have occurred to me to turn it into a big band track, but that’s exactly what we did!
From there, Jon Kubis wrote the big band arrangement, and knocked it out of the park. I couldn’t be more blown away by what he did. It takes teamwork to make the dream work!
Who did you work with to create the tracks?
That is the one and only, “Sir” Jon Kubis (pictured). He is one talented beast! Celebrate merely scratches the surface of what he’s capable of. He’s brilliant.
The entire Celebrate album is filled with incredible original Christmas Music.
Writing an entirely original Christmas album seems from the outside to be a very daunting task, What made you decide to do it?
For me, Celebrate was such a natural album to make. I’ve always loved Christmas music, and the classics are in my bones.
At the outset, my team thought I was a little crazy when I brought up the idea. There were a few squakings about new Christmas songs rarely measuring up to the standards. But, I really wanted to make the album. I knew I could do it, and I knew that they would commit if the songs were undeniable.
If I didn’t have such a deep love for Christmas music, and eons of sweat equity hours in my craft, it would have been daunting. But I was inspired and convinced that it would be great.
Is there a track that you feel really stands out above the rest? As far as quality or in the meaning it has for you?
The most personal songs on the album are “Come In From The Cold” and “Snowfall.” I love them in equal measure.
I wrote "Come In From The Cold" for my mother.
I came into this world on a mission to sing, write great songs, and live a life devoted to creativity - come hell or high water. My mom is my biggest fan. But it’s hard for her to see me struggle.
Failure seasons as an artist can be long, dark and lonely. Her keen wisdom has pulled me through some dark nights of the soul. She’s my guardian angel, and best friend.
It’s such a tender, heart squeezed feeling to have captured even a fraction of the essence of her spirit, and our relationship in that song.
“Snowfall” is about growing up in a small town, with a constant itch to grow up and leave -- only to love going back again. It’s cathartic to go home for the holidays. To sleep in your old bed, play your old guitar, see old friends, walk in the park where you had your first kiss…
“Snowfall” didn’t have to go on a Christmas album per se - because no matter what time of year you go home, you’re filled with nostalgia. But - Christmas is a long stretch of vacation, and a festive time for reminiscing. Life slows down long enough to be still, and review your journey with fresh perspective. That’s my favorite thing about the holidays. Having time to reflect, and just be your authentic self.
Do you have any plans to release more original Christmas music?
I do! I plan to release a new Christmas album in 2020. So far, 4 songs are recorded and mixed. A new song goes into production next week. All the music wheels are in motion here at the Christmas brigade.
What is your favorite Christmas song?
I love Mariah Carey’s version of “O, Holy Night.” She sings with all-out, otherworldly conviction that could blow the roof off your house. She’s so passionate!
At what point did you decide to write “A Christmas Song”? Or was it more spur of the moment when the song came to you?
It was a spur of the moment - “let’s see where the songwriting day takes us,” writing experience. Jon Kubis came over to co-write, and I was embarrassed because I was feeling completely disorganized and unfocused. I started flipping through the mail (in an attempt to hide) while he played the piano.
He sat there composing the changes for “A Christmas Song,” and kept looking over at me like, “well, whatcha got?” But all afternoon, the only lines I came up with were:
All our troubles seem worlds away
With friends stopping by
For no reason why
But to say, “Happy Holidays”
Those four lines inspired the lyrics for the rest of the song. I completed the melody and lyrics in the studio a few weeks later.
I love the sweet sentiment of the song. There’s such surrendered innocence in celebrating. Agendas are put on hold. It’s a welcomed reprieve to put the world on pause, and hang with the people you love.
Let’s talk about your career in general, how did it feel to find out your music was being licensed for a movie? Were you aware beforehand that the track was being considered?
I knew that the album had been submitted for “Noelle,” which was exciting. But I had no idea if they were considering any of the songs.
When I received news that "Jingle Jangle” and “‘Tis The Season” were licensed for the film, I was thrilled!! I popped the champagne, and celebrated the good news over the phone with my mom. It’s such an honor to be part of a Disney classic.
What do you consider to be your most successful song?