It’s hard to imagine Jonas Brothers‘ comeback going any better. Since rebooting the band in March, they’ve scored a No. 1 single, notched a chart-topping album, kicked off an ongoing world tour, and won their first VMA. Then, last week, they capped off their incredible year with the release of a holiday instant-classic, “Like It’s Christmas,” proving that the Jo Bros reunion is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
But the song almost never made it into Kevin, Joe, and Nick’s hands, as songwriter and producer Freddy Wexler told MTV News. Wexler, 33, has worked with everyone from ZAYN to Post Malone, in addition to releasing his own music under the moniker Jackson Penn. He’s also a screenwriter, and has been developing a Christmas movie that needed an original song for one specific scene. So during a songwriting session in August, he asked two songwriter friends, Annika Wells and Gian Stone, to help him craft a fresh holiday tune. Never mind that it was the middle of the summer in Los Angeles; they ended up with “Like It’s Christmas.”
“The result was an idea that perfectly fit into the movie,” Wexler recalled. “And the craziest part of the whole thing is that upon hearing the song, my wife, who’s a former music manager and A&R said, ‘I could see the Jonas Brothers being in this movie and singing this song.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, whatever.'”
With Wells’s voice anchoring a demo version of the song, Wexler and Stone sent it off to the super producer Jason Evigan for some feedback. Apparently sensing the bop’s festive magic, Evigan put his own vocal on it and passed it along to Jonas Brothers and their A&R exec, Wendy Goldstein. The band ultimately decided to collaborate on it as a single for themselves, and Wexler believes that’s because they saw the potential in a song that’s not just about Christmas, but more broadly about love, actually (no pun intended).
“I love the idea that Christmas is not only one day, but it’s also a state of mind and a feeling,” Wexler said of the song’s theme. “So I think this idea of, ‘You make every day feel like it’s Christmas,’ resonated with them on a very human level.”
Once JB were locked in, Wexler and Stone flew to Austin, Texas, where the band was cutting vocals for some new music (“a bunch of incredible music, by the way,” Wexler added). It was there, during a few days in October, that the brothers turned “Like It’s Christmas” into “a fully realized classic record.”
“The Jonas Brothers took a good idea, and turned it into something really special,” Wexler said. “I was pretty blown away. They’re incredibly talented. The way they interpreted the melodies that we had written, and the way they interpreted the groove, and their ideas for modernizing it… all of that was really instrumental in the record that we got.”
Not only that, but “Like It’s Christmas” sounds like a legitimate Jonas Brothers tune — strip away the festive sounds and lyrics, and you’re still left with the bones of a song that feels authentic to their sound.
“Having them in the studio really helped us arrive at a sound that’s both classic and modern, and ultimately, one that is authentically Jonas Brothers,” Wexler explained, adding that all three brothers were pros in the studio who really embodied that “birds of a feather” concept they sang about in “Sucker.” Nick and Joe, for example, seamlessly sensed who should tackle which verses and harmonies, while Kevin coached his little brothers on their vocal takes. “They’re a unit, which is awesome,” Wexler said.
Aside from JB’s golden touch, the record was produced by Gian Stone and bolstered by co-producers Wexler, Evigan, and Mike Elizondo, as well as by Jerry Hey, a legendary horn arranger who notably did all the horns on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The original demo, Wexler said, had an obvious Christmas vibe, but finishing it was a matter of pulling together the right group of collaborators to take it to the next level. That also meant pulling back the reigns at certain times, like when there was a passionate debate over when the sleigh bells should enter the track.
“We all wanted to make something classic and timeless, yet still modern, and something that didn’t feel forced,” he explained. “If it’s starting right off the bat with sleigh bells and horns and everything you want to build toward, it can be too much, too soon.
“We wanted people to feel warm and fuzzy and happy and tap their feet at every second,” he continued. “If there was a moment where we lost that magic, then we changed it. Everyone knows that feeling in December when people are bundled up but can’t stop smiling. It’s inexplicable joy. We wanted to capture that.”
Judging by the enthusiastic fan reaction thus far, it seems that mission has been accomplished — and Wexler said everyone involved is basking in the positivity. They’re also, rightfully, celebrating the fact that the song got made in such a tight time frame; it was started in August, sent to Jonas Brothers in September, recorded in October, and released in November, in time to thoroughly lodge itself into fans’ ears throughout the entirety of the holiday season.
“Hit songs are amazing, but this is a different feeling. The Jonas Brothers with an original Christmas song just makes you smile,” Wexler said. That attitude aligns with Wexler’s own life — as Jackson Penn, he wants to “put happy stuff into a world that could use some happy stuff” with new songs like “My Girl” — as well as with Jonas Brothers, who have been all about that Happiness Begins mentality this year. Now they’re just doing it in Santa hats.