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A Song A Day: 2 Performers Create Digital Advent Calendar With Original Tunes

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Advent calendars count the days up to Christmas. They're often made of paper with a door or a window for each day. Open it up for a treat, a prayer, a poem, maybe some chocolate. Well, two performers have created their own Advent calendar this year, one that's perfect for 2020.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JULIA MATTISON AND JOEL WAGGONER: (Singing) Martha has not been socially distant, so she can't come over for Christmas this year. She's been...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Julia Mattison and Joel Waggoner, and the treats they're serving up every day are bite-sized original songs. And they join us now. Welcome to the program.

JULIA MATTISON: Hi. Thank you.

JOEL WAGGONER: Hi.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So there you both are on Instagram and YouTube in crazy Christmas sweaters with a new original song every day. How long does it take you to write and film these minute-long carols?

MATTISON: We do all 25 - it was 27, 28 - we do a couple extra for safety, but we do them all in one day. And so some are messy, but that's part of the fun. Our followers love the blooper reels as much as we do.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The sweaters are such a key part of this. I mean, how do you have so many?

WAGGONER: The sweaters are from Marshalls. We wore the same ones last year as the ones this year. That's the secret.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) All right. Well, these songs are hilarious. A lot of them put a pandemic twist on the traditional Christmas carol. For example, let's listen to "Vaccine For Christmas."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VACCINE FOR CHRISTMAS")

MATTISON AND WAGGONER: (Singing) I've been careful. I've been masked. I've done everything you asked. Now give me my Christmas wish. Vaccine for Christmas, stick it in my arm. I miss going down to the grocery store and licking a can of beans...

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: A vaccine for Christmas - something we can all get behind.

WAGGONER: Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) How did you come up with it?

MATTISON: Joel and I were going back and forth texting each other ideas for this year, and that one, I just remember looking up into the sky and thinking, (singing) vaccine for Christmas. So I was like, Joel, please give us some of a ballad we're all hoping for right now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, Joel, what's your favorite song?

WAGGONER: Oh, gosh. It's pretty endless. Just Julia is a genius, and she'll send me, like, you know, 1 a.m. voice memos of just her singing entire songs. My favorite probably is "On The Brink" because it's the first one of the season, and I - it's the most "arranged," in quotes, of any of them. But that one's really fun to sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON THE BRINK")

MATTISON AND WAGGONER: (Singing) On the brink, on the brink of something new. It feels like Christmas. On the brink, decorating and singing along. Put another ornament on the tree for you and me because Christmas will pull us right out of our misery.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This isn't just a 2020 thing. You did a version of this last year. Why did you decide to do it again, and why do you think it's been so successful this year?

MATTISON: You know, it's funny. It started - it was a holiday party in 2018 where Joel and I snuck in some silly, made-up comedy songs into a caroling book and made our friends sing them with as much passion as "Deck The Halls" or whatever else. And cops were almost called on a group of carolers singing "Everything Is Christmas Food If You Eat It At Christmastime" at the top of their lungs.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

MATTISON: One part of this thing that I love remembering is that night, our dear friend Nick Cordero, who passed this year, he was the one who would hear us do these songs and say, like, you've got to turn this into something. People have to hear these. I think it adds another more meaningful layer to getting to do it this year and to bring some joy and laughter in thinking about him as well and those good times we all had.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Nick Cordero, who, of course, passed away of COVID-19.

MATTISON: Right.

WAGGONER: Right.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the things that I think is really powerful about this, especially now, is that we can't carol together because singing together is one of the sort of most dangerous activities that you can do.

MATTISON: Right. Right.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so this just is a really lovely thing to be able to listen to and witness, you know? So I'm going to ask you, you know, just because I feel like I want to hear it, if you can just take us out on a song.

MATTISON: Ooh, exciting. Joel, what should we do?

WAGGONER: How do we do it at the same time?

MATTISON: All right, let's do an NPR Zoom lag duet.

WAGGONER: That's great.

MATTISON: OK. Do you want to start?

WAGGONER: (Singing) Boom, boom, boom, boom, deedily (ph), boom, boom, deedily, boom, boom, deedily, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, deedily...

MATTISON: (Singing) It's an audio lag for the holidays. I'm a second behind. You're a second ahead. It's an audio lag on NPR, and we're already off timing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTISON: (Singing) Christmas.

WAGGONER: (Singing) Christmas, Christmas on...

JULIA MATTISON, JOEL WAGGONER AND LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Singing) NPR.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I had to join in at the end there.

MATTISON: It was perfect.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Julia Mattison and Joel Waggoner doing a song a day on Instagram. You can find them on adventcarolndar. Thanks, and merry Christmas to you both.

WAGGONER: Thank you.

MATTISON: Thank you. You, too. Merry Christmas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATTISON: (Singing) It's Christmas morning, and the lights are up. We're drinking coffee from our morning coffee cups. You're going to want your Christmas... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.