Recording a Christmas album is a little like cooking a turkey dinner: Everyone’s done it, and it’s the brave soul who can figure out a new recipe that no one’s tasted. For signer Natalie Toro, it was all about the spices.
“I didn’t want to do “White Christmas” or “Santa Clause Is Coming to Town,” says Toro, who speaks with a voice so sweet it sounds like a shiny ornament on the top of your tree. Her new album, Just in Time for Christmas, has just been released, and contains seven songs, five of which are standards.
“We were really careful on the songs we chose,” says Toro. “I listen to Christmas songs all the time. A lot of the time the arrangements sound the same to me. Once in awhile you’ll hear something that you think ‘Oh, that’s cool.’”
As for “competing” with everyone from Barbra to Mariah to The Chipmunks, that was never an issue.
“As far as I was concerned, I was the only one releasing a Christmas album this year,” says Toro. “I don’t put myself in a competitive level. They do what they do, I do what I do. I’m putting mine out there. And it will be out there next year. Every Christmas it will be released.”
Stylistically, Christmas does have some deliciously fun arrangements, most noticeably on her duet with Jon Secada for “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
“I wanted to make it commercial Latin,” says Toro. “I wanted to celebrate who he is as an artist.” Since Toro comes from a Broadway background, while Secada’s spent more time in recording studios, they did have a different approach. “I like to rehearse and he’s like ‘Oh, no, we’ll knock it out,’” laughs Toro.
Not to worry, folks, it turned into a love story. “Jon is one of those really humble people,” says Toro, adding, “I would ask him questions, ask him permission. He was like, ‘Nat, this is your project, your album. However you see it, it’s yours.’”
Toro sings another duet, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” with Ryan Kelly, which, in the modern age, often means the two singers never see each other. Not the case here.
“If I’m in New York and he’s in Miami, how in the world can you communicate with what you’re both trying to achieve in the song?” says Toro on the importance of sharing a studio. “It would take a lot longer, and it would be two different energies. If you’re not looking at the person, you’re in two different countries. The studio doesn’t lie.”
Toro’s a native New Yorker, from The Bronx, and in her long career on Broadway and musical theater there’s been one consistent… gay fans. That’s not about to change.
“My fans are mostly the gay community,” says Toro. “You have the straggling straight people. But being in the theater they follow you, they have no problem expressing how they feel about you.”
“I adore how they live. It’s important to have that community behind you because they have really good fucking taste! They to me are the true heroes and critics.”
When it comes to Christmas, Toro has her own good taste.
“I want a hybrid SUV,” she says, when I asked her about a gift choice. “I need a freakin’ SUV. I can’t tell you the difficulty of going shopping and I can’t fit things into the car.”
Toro thinks a bit more about her gift wish, then adds, “…and preferably green.”
If Santa hears the CD, he’ll know she’s been good.
Watch two of Natalie Toro’s videos here!