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Adam Weiner's New Song, 'Christmas Makes Me Cry,' Channels Holiday Loneliness

Dec 24, 2020
Originally published on December 23, 2020 8:36 am

Adam Weiner sings and plays piano like an old school rock and roller in the band Low Cut Connie. Like so many musicians this year, Weiner saw all his gigs go up in smoke.

The first week of pandemic-related lockdowns, Weiner was depressed. Wondering what was going to happen next, he felt like he needed to make himself useful — and with that, essentially reimagined his job. It began with a single livestreamed performance, which turned into a twice-weekly variety show from his apartment. People tuned in to watch Weiner perform with his guitarist, and he started to realize he was providing a real service.

"We had nurses that were working right on the frontlines of a COVID-19 unit in New Jersey, and they started watching the show every Saturday and streaming it for the patients. They would send us pictures of the patients watching and the nurses dancing," he says. "It was like, 'Oh my God! We are reaching people!' And lifting their spirits during a time when they're totally isolated, 'cause that's what we are right now."

Weiner spoke with NPR's David Greene about translating holiday isolation into a new song, "Christmas Makes Me Cry." Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


David Greene: I know when our producer first talked to you about this project, one of the ideas floated was a Christmas song. You were not sold on that idea, initially.

Weiner: No, I wasn't. Because I never thought I would write a Christmas song.

You've never done it before?

No, and I had all kinds of mixed feelings about the Christmas season. [But] once he started talking about having me write about what it's like at Christmastime during a global pandemic, I knew what I had to do.

You said the title actually comes from a journal entry you wrote nearly 20 years ago: You were home on break from college, working as a perfume spritzer at a local mall.

It was just, like, soul-crushing. I'm covered with perfume, having all these weird interactions with people. And then, of course, I'm back in my parents' house. I would always get sad, very sad. I think a lot of people struggle with the holidays. It's very triggering for some people. So I wrote in my notebook, 20 years ago, "Christmas makes me cry."

It feels like it fits so well with what so many people are going through right now. They can't be together for Christmas, or they might be mourning the loss of someone who died or who's sick, or they've lost a job. There's a lot to cry about.

Absolutely. To me, the good aspect of the holidays is increased sympathy. It's a time when, suddenly, people become more altruistic, more neighborly. And then it fades. That always bothered me. But, here we are, during a global pandemic. Everybody is going through something, and everybody is feeling isolated, and everybody has experienced some form of grief. We all have neighbors and friends and relatives who have lost jobs and lost loved ones. We're all in the same boat. I thought that idea, that this is a time of year for sympathy and connectivity, it was important to highlight that.

You really pull off a lot of different emotions in the song. There are some funny lines, but you're certainly not joking. There's some edge, there's definitely some sympathy, and some sad. It's all in there.

I appreciate that. I wanted to write something that was dark and soulful, but with some lightness and humor shot through. Isn't that life? It's never all one thing. I'm fascinated by those emotional layers. Christmas is a day of many emotional layers: The feelings that one is feeling about the joy of the season, for somebody else it might be the saddest day of the year. We just have to have that sense of sympathy for each other, that everybody's feeling a lot of things on that day.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's get back to the MORNING EDITION Song Project. This is the series where we ask musicians to write an original song about the COVID era. Our guest today is Adam Weiner. He sings and plays piano like an old-school rock 'n' roller with the Philly band Low Cut Connie.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHAKE IT LITTLE TINA")

LOW CUT CONNIE: (Singing) My friends and I, just to pass the time, do all the macho things - sliced bologna, chicken wings.

GREENE: Like so many musicians, Adam saw his gigs go up in smoke this year.

ADAM WEINER: The first week of this lockdown, I was depressed. I just laid on the couch. And it was like, what's going to happen? And you know what then, David? Then after a week, I said, I got to get up, and I got to do something. I got to make myself useful.

GREENE: And with that, Adam essentially reimagined his job. It all began with a single livestream performance.

WEINER: I just wanted to send, like, a message of love and humor and we're going to get through this together to some of our fans.

GREENE: It turned into a twice-weekly variety show from his apartment. People tuned in to watch Adam and his guitarist play songs and be funny.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WEINER: (Singing) Pump up the jam. Pump it up while you're feet are stomping and the joint is pumping.

GREENE: And Adam started to realize that he was providing a real service.

WEINER: We had nurses that were working right on the front lines in a COVID unit in New Jersey, and they started watching the show every Saturday and streaming it for the patients.

GREENE: Wow.

WEINER: And they would send us pictures of the patients watching and the nurses, like, dancing to me singing "Shake It Little Tina" and people acting like they're taking their clothes off, like I was. And it was like, oh, my God, we are, like, reaching people and lifting their spirits during a time when they're totally isolated - because that's what we are right now.

GREENE: Well, I want to hear about the song. I mean, I know when our producer Vince Pearson kind of talked to you about it, one idea he floated was a Christmas song, and you were not sold on that idea initially, it sounds like.

(LAUGHTER)

WEINER: No, I wasn't because I never thought I would write a Christmas song.

GREENE: You had never done that before?

WEINER: No. And I had all kinds of sort of mixed feelings about the Christmas season. But once he started talking about having me write something about what it's like at Christmastime during a global pandemic, I kind of knew what I had to do.

GREENE: The song he wrote for our project is called "Christmas Makes Me Cry."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS MAKES ME CRY")

WEINER: (Singing) Staring up at the ceiling, such a strange kind of feeling, waiting for sympathy, waiting for sympathy to arrive. But nobody speaks to me.

GREENE: The title comes from a journal entry that Adam wrote nearly 20 years ago. At the time, he was home on break from college, working as a perfume spritzer at a local mall.

WEINER: It was just, like, soul-crushing. You know, I'm covered with perfume and having all these weird interactions with people. And then, of course, you know, then I'm back in my parents' house. And it was just like - I would always get sad, very sad. I think a lot of people struggle at the holidays, you know. It's very triggering for some people. And so I wrote in my notebook 20 years ago, Christmas makes me cry.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS MAKES ME CRY")

WEINER: (Singing) Something tells me Christmastime is near. Everything is nice this time of year. The family together - tell me, what could be better? I can't tell you why Christmas makes me cry.

GREENE: It feels like it fits so well with what so many people are going through right now. I mean, they can't be together for Christmas, or they might be mourning the loss of someone who died or is sick, or they lost a job. I mean, there's a lot to cry about.

WEINER: Absolutely. And to me, the good aspect of the holidays is increased sympathy. It's a time when suddenly people become more altruistic, more neighborly, and then it fades. That always bothered me. But here we are during a global pandemic, when everybody is going through something, and everybody is feeling isolated, and everybody has experienced some form of grief. And we all have neighbors and friends and relatives who have lost jobs and lost loved ones. We're all in the same boat. And so I thought that that idea that this is the time of year for sympathy and connectivity around us, it was important to highlight that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS MAKES ME CRY")

WEINER: (Singing) And the evening is nigh, but it's also so trying - sharing our sympathy, feeling our sympathy. Like a dream without snow, till we wake up tomorrow...

GREENE: You really pull something off in the song. It's a lot of different emotions. I mean, there's some funny lines, but you're certainly not joking. There's some edge. There's definitely some sympathy and sad all in here, it feels like.

WEINER: Thank you, David. I appreciate that. I wanted to write something that was dark and soulful, but with some lightness and humor shot through there because isn't that life? It's never all one thing. And I'm fascinated by those emotional layers. And Christmas is a day of many emotional layers. The feelings that one is feeling about the joy of the season - somebody else, it might be the saddest day of the year.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS MAKES ME CRY")

WEINER: (Singing) Mistletoe above them, take your stockings and stuff them.

We just have to have that sense of sympathy for each other, that everybody's feeling a lot of things on that day.

GREENE: Well, Adam, best to you on this holiday. And a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you.

WEINER: Thank you, David. And to you, your family and all your listeners, I wish you all nothing but health and hope for all good things.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS MAKES ME CRY")

WEINER: (Singing) I can't tell you Christmas makes me cry.

GREENE: That's Adam Weiner from Low Cut Connie talking about his song for the MORNING EDITION Song Project. It is called "Christmas Makes Me Cry," and you can hear it at our website - npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.