Ingrid Michaelson is going to have herself a merry little Christmas
Last year, singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson released “Snowfall,” an EP that compiled the winter- and holiday-themed songs she’d released over the course of her career, including her spare Sara Bareilles duet “Winter Song.” She grew up in a household that went all-out for the holidays — “It was such a huge deal, the holiday season,” the New York-raised Michaelson says — and for a long while she envisioned making a full-on holiday album. “Songs for the Season,” released in October, is the realization of that dream. “I love the season so much,” she tells the Globe, “and I want this [record] to be in peoples’ lives forever, the way I listen to holiday music around the holidays.”
The standards on “Season” showcase Michaelson’s sylphlike soprano, which shines on the flirtatious “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” and the sweetly hopeful “White Christmas,” which features vocals from fellow pop traveler Christina Perri. Michaelson wrote one track, the bittersweet “Happy, Happy Christmas.” Over the coming weeks, she’ll take the record on the road — her holiday tour includes a stop at the Orpheum Theatre — backed by two singers (“very Andrews Sisters,” she notes) who will assist in spreading her brand of seasonal cheer.
The Globe spoke to Michaelson by phone.
Q. Do you have a favorite Christmas song?
A. My favorite, favorite song is Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” from “Meet Me in St. Louis.” When [she] sings that song [in the movie], it’s right in the moment when they’re about to move the whole family to New York. None of them want to leave, and they’re just going to miss their home so much, and she sings this song to her weeping little sister. It’s this beautiful, sad moment.
A good Christmas song — and a good song in general — can straddle joy and sorrow equally. [“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”] does have this melancholy dripping all over it, but at the same time it is joyful, and it is sweet, and it is heartwarming. Structurally, melodically, thematically, it has followed me through my childhood into my life. It’s one of my favorite songs, period. But it’s definitely my favorite holiday song, and the song that’s had the greatest impact on me in myriad ways.
Q. How so?
A. I lost my mother about 4½ years ago, my father last year. I sang that song through my mother’s illness. There’s one line: “Through the years we all will be together/if the Fates allow.” Whenever I would get to that line while [my mother] was still here, it would just rip me apart. I knew she was struggling, and I knew she was sick, and I was like, “Will next year be the year that she’s not here?” And when she was gone, singing that song was like, “Well, the Fates don’t allow it.” And they don’t allow it. But we’ll still [persevere]. I’m staring at my Christmas tree right now. I have all my decorations up; I started a little bit earlier this year, because I’m going on tour.
Q. “Happy, Happy Christmas” seems to have that same mix of sadness and joy.
A. There’s so much sadness and so much darkness around us, whether it’s the world or whether it’s something in your life that you’re dealing with. But to me, the only choice is to persevere and to find your flicker of light and to find your joy and to continue the traditions. That’s what “Happy, Happy Christmas” is about, that’s what “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is about, and that’s the idea I wanted people to get from this record.
Q. How is your holiday show going to be structured?
A. We’re doing a trio tour — me and two bandmates, Allie Moss and Hannah Winkler. It’s just very Andrew Sisters, tight harmonies. We’re doing probably a 60/40 [percent] split, with holiday songs as the 60, and my quote unquote hits taking on the 40. People want to hear “The Way I Am,” “Be OK,” and “You and I.” And we have some cool things happening which I don’t really want to give away.
We have a lovely opener, Jenna Nicholls. I hate the word “quirky,” but she has a quirky but beautiful voice; she feels like she came from another time period. That’s why I thought she’d be perfect to open the show. I want people to feel like they’re being transported back to that time, which is the same goal as the record. I just want people to feel loved and safe and warm. Which I think is something — not to be cliché, but — it’s something we all could use a healthy dose of right now.
Ingrid Michaelson Trio Presents: Songs for the Season
With Jenna Nicholls. At the Orpheum Theatre, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $33 and up, 617-482-0106, www.crossroadspresents.com