By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
Since Steve Free released a single several years ago titled “Just a Baby Boy,” about the birth of Jesus Christ, people have been asking him to do a complete Christmas album.
“My record company, promoters, radio people, have all been asking me, ‘When are you going to come out with a Christmas album,’” Free said. “I just never did it because I didn’t know what to do, because I can’t do better than Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. So I didn’t want to do “Jingle Bells” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” And you’ve got the old traditional carols and I couldn’t improve on them.”
But Steve Free has always been able to do something a lot of other artists have not been able to do — find a niche. And he did just that with his latest project, “The Light of Christmas.”
“I don’t want to say it was a religious experience, but I developed migraines real bad in the last year, and I was just thinking one day, ‘God if you just help me get through this I promise I’ll do that Christmas album,’” Free said. “So I had a lot of time to think about it. I decided I wanted to take ‘Baby Boy’ and maybe stay in that theme, but not do your traditional carols, either. What people liked about ‘Baby Boy’ was that it was simple. So that’s sort of how I wanted this album to be.”
Free decided to write several new songs in the same vain as “Just a Baby Boy” and then add some old songs with beautiful lyrics. Included along with “Just a Baby Boy,” as original material on the CD are “Birthday Of a King,” “It’s Christmas Day,” “Christmas in the Valley,” and the title song “Light of Christmas.”
“One of my favorites is ‘In The Bleak Mid Winter,’ which we did naturally with a lot of acoustic guitar, a lot of classical guitar, and then just added strings in the right places,” Free said.
When most people think of an old song, their minds usually go back 20 or 30 years, but the song “Be Thou My Vision,” off Free’s album was written in 700 AD.
“They think that St. Patrick wrote it. Legend has it, but nobody can prove it,” Free said. “It was an old Irish song. A lot of the old songs I had to practically rewrite because the words were in old English and Gaelic, and they didn’t make a lot of sense. I had to take whole lines and rearrange them.”
Free said he does all of his own arranging, while also listening to suggestions. One of the songs, “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” is arranged so differently, it comes out as an almost totally new song.
In addition to his new Christmas album, Free is currently riding several international charts. His song “Rivertown,” about Portsmouth, is No. 1 on the Country Gospel Christian Country chart. He is also getting a lot of airplay on stations using the European Country Music Association chart, with play in Sweden, Germany, France, and on the Americana Music chart.
Free said the album is available at Market Street Cafe, the Scioto County Welcome Center, the Boneyfiddle Arts Center, Allegro Music, and online at stevefree.com, CD Baby, as well as iTunes.
“What makes my music a big hit is that it is very simple,” Free said. “It took me a long time to realize this, but the simplicity in how I write songs is what makes them successful. I guess I wanted to make a very simplistic album. Not only do I feel sometimes like we’ve lost the meaning of Christmas, but the Christmas music, even though it has the same message, it gets too big. It’s a very simple message, and I wanted to make it a very simple album.”