Broadway Star Michael James Scott on His Mission to ‘Bring Joy’ This Year Through Holiday Music
Despite the unique circumstances of a global pandemic changing everyone's holiday plans this year, there's one thing that remains unscathed: the music.
As Broadway star Michael James Scott explains, 2020 finds people needing festive tunes more than ever. "It's been such a dark, trying year for everyone and life has been completely turned upside down, so there's no better thing right now than holiday music," he tells PEOPLE. "We need joy."
Scott, 39, has just fulfilled a lifelong dream of releasing a Christmas album of his own, titled A Fierce Christmas. "Just from the title alone, you know what you're in for, and you have a reason to be excited. I wanted you to smile when you heard just the title," he says. "I've always wanted to do it. Where some people practice Oscar and Emmy speeches, I've been practicing my holiday album since I was a little boy."
Scott is best known as the Genie in Disney's Aladdin on Broadway, a role he has been playing since 2016. Sadly, like all Broadway shows, production closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unable to perform on stage, the star looked for a new creative outlet.
"Broadway is my home and with all of Broadway shut down, there's no work, and this album came out of protest of this crazy year," he admits. "With us also fighting for equality and inclusivity, my protest is joy. And if there's anything that can bring joy, it's holiday music. No matter what side you're on, as divided as this country is, what we know we can we can come together on is some fierce holiday music!"
The collection is full of merriment, with Scott taking fresh spins on classics like "This Christmas," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song." The actor went to his hometown of Orlando, Florida to record, taking 2020's unexpected turns as a sign to finally check this off the bucket list.
"If there's anything this year has taught me, it's that things can change in the blink of an eye, and the time is now," Scott says. "So my husband was like, 'Let's do it, let's make it happen.' It's absolutely a dream come true."
As for choosing the songs, Scott admits he "already had a list of songs to sing someday on a holiday album" and wanted to do something new with his favorite seasonal standards.
"I wanted to pay homage to the classics, but put my Michael James Scott spin on it all," he says. "I wanted to bring in my gospel roots, my Broadway, my funk, my big bands … I wanted to bring that all in there."
When it comes to the festive moments Scott and his husband, filmmaker Jeremy Merrifield, have to play each year around the tree, one iconic voice comes first: Mariah Carey.
"Obviously I have to start with [her] right away. I feel like this country started it at the beginning of November to be like, okay, let's just get there," he jokes. "Let me get 'All I Want For Christmas' in there, but also Donny Hathaway's 'This Christmas' … those two for me say, 'Okay, we're in holiday mode.'"
Scott isn't letting the pandemic get in the way of his favorite holiday traditions, like his mother's stuffing and potato salad. "I'm like, let me get some comfort. We all need comfort right now and I'm just excited about that," he reveals. "I'm excited to just go home, sit on my parents' couch and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and Lifetime and Hallmark movies."
The singer is heading into 2021 with a positive outlook, and hopes to inspire others to do the same — with the help of some joyful music.
"Performing and being on stage, music, theater, all of it, it's like a lifeline for me, so a piece of my heart has been missing," he says. "We don't know what next year is going to bring us, but if we can go into 2021 with joy, with light, with love, with laughter, with grace — that for me is everything that I'm fighting for."
A Fierce Christmas is available now.
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