“There is an old historic ivory colonial house in my hometown that is tastefully decorated for Christmas every year,” remembers actor/musician Gina Naomi Baez. “No Christmas lights… no blow up Santas… no candy canes… just one, glowing ivory candlestick in the center of every window.”
Like the stark contrast of holiday over-commercialization to the understated and uncomplicated ornamentation that she admires, Baez clearly delineates her idea of Christmas beauty by stripping away the overindulgent artifice. “To some, [the candle decorations] might have looked boring and simple but in my eyes, it was the most beautiful Christmas house on the block.”
While it may seem like sacrilege to be presenting a holiday track less than two weeks after Halloween and still three weeks before Thanksgiving, Baez’s gorgeously festive new song “Christmas Candlelight” doesn’t feel like an unwelcome early visitor. Instead, it feels like a necessary reprieve from the chaos of the contested presidential election, ongoing racial tensions, the menacing pandemic, and other odious circumstances. It’s comforting, not jarring. A gorgeous mélange of pop, Americana and folk, “Christmas Candlelight” carries the sweet dulcet sounds of the holiday without being anchored in it. Lush and textured, its epic and emotional swells offer a secure and protective respite from the ills of modern times.
“That childhood memory along with the darkness and uncertainty going on in the world was why I wrote ‘Christmas Candlelight’,” she says. “It’s a musical shimmer of hope, inspiration and a reminder of what matters most especially during the holidays.”
“Keep it simple, maybe even unplug /This year we’ll make new traditions,” she sings in the song. Sage advice when the constant clamor of news cycles and social media creates anxiety and unnecessarily heightened emotions. In a way, it’s similar to the difference between the cacophony and noise of inflated Rudolphs and giant blowup snowglobes versus the simple and uncomplicated and classy and basic beauty of a candle in a window. “I think that contrast [in décor] made such a vibrant, special impact because it radiated this unique peaceful, simple Christmas feeling,” she explains, “Just taking in the picture made you forget the holiday craziness and gain a little peace.”
An accomplished actress of stage and screen with roles on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black and Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, Baez’s acting has been temporarily sidelined by the pandemic, affording her more time to work on her other passion: music. “I feel like the music and the acting world have both been open to me in unique and special ways,” she replies. “I am personally invested in the arts as a whole. I never want to just choose one thing and put myself in a box. With both industries being so competitive, I find whenever I have downtime from acting, that’s when I can focus on music and vice versa.” Having completed a film that’s in post-production with her parts already in the can (“I have a feature film being released in the upcoming months called Triple Threat. I play the role of ‘Laura’”), she’s excitedly concentrating on new music. “I also am working on an EP that I will be releasing in early spring 2021!”
Meanwhile, however, “Christmas Candlelight” is her current focus. While the upcoming holidays are looking like they are turning into socially-distant and potentially lonely events, does she see these holidays as becoming almost nonexistent? “I think the key word in your question is ‘almost’,” she corrects. “They will still be there for better or for worse. I was compelled to write a song about hope, the beauty of simplicity, the importance of remembering what really matters. The holidays might feel dark and cancelled in a sense this year, and I hope this song reminds others of the importance of the season and what truly matters most. Things are going to be okay.”