When it comes to classic holiday songs, there are some that are impossible to top.
That’s why producer James Glaves said the Alaska artists on this year’s Bright Lights album aren’t trying to reinvent the classics. Each song on the compilation is a fresh take on holiday music.
“That’s what I think is really great about it,” he said. “It’s not about ‘Jingle bell, jingle bell rock.’ It’s about what people feel and what they think about the holidays and the fact that there’s dark songs, I think, is really cool.”
“Bright Lights Vol. 3” is a holiday music album featuring original music from Alaska artists— and a fundraiser for domestic violence shelters in the state’s rural communities.
The project is in its third year. Glaves, who lives in Anchorage, mastered this year’s album.
Glaves has roots in Soldotna and Kasilof, where he said he grew up in a house that loved music. He started jamming when he was a student at K-Beach Elementary School.
“Got my first drum set. Got my first guitar, even though I wanted a four-wheeler,” he said, laughing. “I was a peninsula kid. My life would’ve probably been much different if I had gotten that expensive four-wheeler instead of the little red guitar under the Christmas tree.”
Glaves said from there, he became more and more obsessed with making music. Today, he’s worked with artists in Alaska and beyond and put out solo and group projects of his own.
He was brought onto the Bright Lights project in its first year in 2020 by its founders, Chad Reynvaan and Ninilchik-raised musician Andy Tholberg. The group donated the proceeds from that first album to Hope Community Resources, an Anchorage-based nonprofit that works with Alaskans with disabilities.
The next year, they donated to a few smaller organizations — all of them women’s domestic violence shelters in remote communities like Bethel, Hooper Bay and Kotzebue.
Glaves said it was important to the group to bring attention to organizations in rural parts of the state, specifically, where the problem is magnified and where organizations fighting the problem might see less funding come in.
“Most Alaskans understand that there is an unbelievable [domestic violence] problem in our state,” he said. “But a lot of people don’t know that. At the very very least, there are a few people who are going to see this and think about it for a minute.”
He said the response so far has been somewhat small. He estimated they’ve raised between $1,000 to $2,000 a year. People donate what they can to buy each album on the site Bandcamp.
Glaves said they’re hoping for a bigger response this year.
“We beat the sophomore slump,” he said. “It’s the third year. It’s real now.”
Vol. 3 features songs from Strawberry Friend in Anchorage and the Casey Smith Project in Fairbanks. Glaves and Tholberg also put it together a track, called “End of Year Feeling.”
“It’s weird and dark, but we had a super fun time making it,” Glaves said.
Glaves said there was room for artists featured on the album to be creative with their sound, since they were making music for a different kind of project than they might usually work on.
“I think that gives people a hall pass to just have fun, let their hair down, do whatever they want,” Glaves said. “And I think that’s why the albums are turning out so awesome.”
You can find “Bright Lights Vol. 3” on Bandcamp.