When it came to Christmas 2021, Chris Berardo wasn’t thinking sleigh bells ringing and carols being sung by a choir. The seasonal sentiments were more personal for the Connecticut-based singer and songwriter, a musical gauze for grief, coping with loss, and a reminder to remember who and what has been lost during the holidays.
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After losing his father around Christmas in 2019, Berardo needed to heal, and pay homage to the spirit of holidays he always knew and began writing “This Year,” a sentimental trip through the love, the laughs, the photographs and our fair share of tears.
“I remember saying to my mom, ‘in a couple of years we’re going to say what would we give to have each other here for a day,’ and I felt like this is the day we’re talking about,” adds Berardo. “We’re here this year, and you can only count on this day now, so live it up. Tell everybody all the things you want to tell them because you’ll look back and you’ll just wish this time was still there.”
Capturing the more familiar subject of loss following nearly two years living in a pandemic, “This Year” is an unlikely holiday anthem of remembrance and better days ahead in the lyrics Nothing stays the same / Time keeps moving on / So thank you for this moment now and this love I’ve counted on / I know time goes faster every day… But we are all together this year / Everything that matters is right here.
Initially writing the song after the loss of his father, “This Year” would take Berardo more than a year to complete. “I know there’s some guys who are technicians, they could just write songs on a dime, but I couldn’t face it,” shares Berardo, who eventually finished the song during the summer of 2021. “I would just become a mess trying to confront it. Eventually, I faced it and finished it and tried to make it for everybody’s situation, just the idea that we’re all lucky to have it while we got it.”
“This Year” transformed from a simple piano-led track into a lusher arrangement when Berardo shared the track with friend and collaborator David Abeyta, guitarist of country-rock band Reckless Kelly. “He really fleshed it out, playing all the other instruments,” says Berardo, “and I feel like it stands on its own as a song and a record in the style of what he and I have been creating together.”
Berardo had a touch of apprehension in writing an original holiday song when there is an abundance of classics but realized the song was less about Christmas as it was coming together and touched on something bigger. “Sometimes it’s just the experience, like Paul McCartney’s ‘Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time,” says Berardo. “That sounds like a little crazy punk dance record, but the only reason it evokes all these holiday memories is because you’ve experienced it around the holidays. Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ mentions Christmas but stands on its own. It’s not necessarily about Christmas, just take place around then, so you can listen to it year-round.”
He adds, “I didn’t have to make ‘This Year’ sound like some old Christmas carol and just wrote it the way I would write a song, so that freed it up for me to just write a song and not worry about the setting as much.”
Adding to the festive release, Berardo recorded a more soulful rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” the Ralph Blane- and Hugh Martin-penned classic made famous by Judy Garland in 1944. “It was always my favorite as a kid,” says Berardo, whose mother was also a singer when she was younger, even performing at the Copacabana. Berardo’s brother Mark is also a solo artist who also performs in his band.
“As a song, it’s clearly about Christmas in the lyrics, and it was just the song we sang around the holidays,” shares Berardo. “If Mark and I were playing a little bar around Christmas, it was one that we would pull out. It’s such a simple, melancholy, beautiful song, and I just wanted to lay my claim to it, since so many people have, and give my take on it.”
Working with Abeyta on a new album, which he says will come out when the time is right, Berardo recently released his 2020 single “Somewhere Blue” and a follow-up rendition of Badfinger’s 1971 hit “Baby Blue” with more music in 2022 and shows with his band The DesBerardos.
“We have the same sensibilities and we’re enjoying it so much,” says Berardo of the new music. “We work together so why would we stop. Who leaves the party when they’re having a good time.”