Rehya Stevens Marries Old and New Holiday Joy with the Deluxe Edition of Santa’s Takin’ Over The Town

2021 may not have been the most cheerful year, but that didn’t stop singer/songwriter and holiday fanatic Rehya Stevens from delivering some well-needed holiday spirit. Her Christmas album ‘Tis The Season released in 2021 featuring 11 carol-worthy songs is now being reintroduced into the Christmas canon along with 10 all-new festive tunes off of her new album Santa’s Takin’ Over The Town. The Deluxe Edition CD features both albums combined and beautiful album artwork that radiates holiday nostalgia. With classical compositions, sultry jazz-infused vocals, and jingle bells aplenty, Rehya invites you and your family to cozy up by the fireplace and enjoy some Christmas magic as we inch closer and closer to the beloved holiday. 

Q. You’ve done two widely successful Christmas albums before this one. How exciting is it to hop back in the studio and record some new holiday cheer?

A. It was exciting and unexpected! I hadn’t planned on recording a new Christmas album until I met Brian Steckler, who produced and co-wrote most of the songs on this new album. In 2022, I decided it was time to leave Los Angeles and move up to Placer County (in Northern California) to be closer to family. I figured I’d just bounce files back and forth with my LA music team, in hopes that it would be a sustainable way to work long-term. Then one afternoon while running errands in Auburn, CA., an acquaintance suggested that I reach out to Brian and introduce myself. I DM’d him on social media and said, “Hey! I hear you’re the best producer in Placer County. I’m moving up in a year, and would love to get together for coffee once I’m settled in.” He said, “Do you have anything we can work on now?” 

I sent him two finished songs to produce, “The Flame” and “Be My Man” (you’ll hear those on my next album), and we finalized mixes on both tracks in a few weeks. It was so smooth. From there, we started co-writing Christmas songs, one right after the other. By October of 2023, we had made a new, all-original Christmas album! I was not planning to make a new album in the middle of a big move, but it all came together quite naturally. 


Q. For the deluxe edition CD of this album, you’ve decided to combine the songs from Santa’s Takin’ Over The Town with your other popular album ‘Tis The Season. Talk about this choice. 

A. Well, I feel like ‘Tis the Season has so many great songs! It was recorded during Covid, across all of 2020 into the middle of 2021. I worked with an amazing team on the album, and we gave it all we had! My core team included Jon Kubis (arranger on Dancing With The Stars), Tom Keane (songwriter/producer for Chaka Khan, Celine Dion), Gardner Cole (hit songwriter for Madonna, Amy Grant), and Gene Black (songwriter for Heart, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker). Honestly, 2020 for me was fabulous, musically and artistically. My team was incredible! I released ‘Tis The Season on all streaming platforms in November of 2021 when the world was feeling pretty “Bah Humbug.” The songs on ‘Tis the Season are fun and effusive but nestled in between are a few romantic songs that just melt the room. My favorite song on the album is “Marry Me For Christmas.”  

I really want to give people the opportunity to enjoy ‘Tis The Season the way maybe they couldn’t have in 2021. So, I decided to release the Santa’s Takin’ Over The Town Deluxe Edition CD, which includes the new 10-song album, Santa’s Takin’ Over The Town, plus ‘Tis the Season, which has 11 songs. The artwork on the CD is so fun. It has a lot of great family photos that remind me of a retro scrapbook. So with the CD, you get 21 songs, and the physical album art that is designed to make the listening experience more intimate and engaging. 

Q. Take us through Santa’s Takin’ Over The Town track by track. What are some highlights you remember during the writing and production process?

A. Fun question! Here goes!

Track 1.  “Christmas Is Nearwas the last song written for the album. I composed the classical intro on piano, thinking it would make a great vignette or interlude to weave between songs on the album. I sent it to Brian and he built it into a full song with such brilliant orchestration! He had a melody all worked out, so I wrote the lyrics to his melody. It’s one of my favorite pieces of music on the album. Brian knocked it out of the park! It sounds like a Christmas song from the Victorian era!

Track 2. “Don’t be latewas SO fun to write! I pictured children across the ages sucking up to Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa just a little more each day as the 24th approaches. I was definitely one of those kids! I always wanted someone to give me a kitten for Christmas, and I was relentless about it. Brian did the orchestration, and I didn’t have a single note for him. He sent me the file, and it was a slam dunk! 

Track 3. “Santa’s Takin’ Over The Townfelt like we were producing an enormous bonfire! I heard the production in my head while writing, and it felt like Brian was inside my head. He knew exactly what to do. The horn arrangement, the guitars, the piano, there’s nothing about it I don’t love. When it was finished I knew we had made something special.

Track 4. “Be My Baby By Christmas Night was pretty magical to hear back when it was finished. I was sitting in my office feeling so grateful while listening. It’s the kind of production I love to listen to, and the song is so much fun! I made myself a latte after finalizing the mix, looked up at the sky, sent up a big thank you for the gift of music, and for such a great track to have on the record.

Track 5. “Early Winteris such a personal song. Initially, I thought I’d produce it as a guitar and vocal, real simple, singer-songwriter style. Brian generously offered to produce it, and I said, “Are you sure? This one may be a dud. I love it, but everybody seems to like my fun songs the most.” He ignored me, thankfully, and a few hours later, he sent me the track. I cried. It was so beautiful. I couldn’t even bring myself to do the vocals for a few weeks. It’s the most raw, close-to-the-bone song on the album, and so far, people have connected with it from the first listen. I’m so grateful for this piece of music. 

Track 6. “Christmas Is Comin’ Again is so innocent, platonic, and leisurely! I wrote this song while on a writer’s retreat at The Dorland Arts Colony in Temecula, CA. The sunsets at night over the wine country were breathtaking. I imagined people celebrating simple Christmases on those plains in the early days. The production captures the simple Christmas vibe in such a charming way. The Bari sax makes me smile every time. It’s cute as a button!

Track 7. “Wonderful World Tonight was really Brian’s baby! He put so much time and effort into the track, and I just couldn’t seem to get the mental picture of what the songs should be about. I think I wrote 8 different drafts for the top line. It wasn’t until we got together in the studio that I knew it had to be about celebrating “friends-mas!” I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, but that day in the studio, I knew that was the right direction. I was so relieved. It’s nerve-wracking when you feel like you’re disappointing someone by not coming up with the goods. I recorded a lead vocal on my own, comped it, Brian mixed it, and I absolutely hated it. So, Brian graciously offered to record the vocals together at his place. It came out great in the end, but this track was such a wrestling match for me. But you know what? People love it! That just goes to show that hanging in there pays off! Don’t throw in the towel. Keep chiseling away until you love it.

Track 8. “Me, Myself & Iwas a song I started writing in Temecula. I have never been estranged from family, but I’ve held steady gigs in enough bars and clubs to know people who are. While recording this vocal, I imagined I was singing at a dive bar on Christmas Eve, telling the stories of these people I’ve known. For them, the bar is the one place they don’t feel alone and where they know they’ll be understood. I understand.

Track 9. “Welcome One & All is a non-religious hymn about softening our judgments, and widening the welcome table. What warms me so much to this track is that Brian is playing his Steinway grand. It sounds so honest and humble. I love the intimacy of this simple production. We have to humble ourselves to come down from a high horse. This track feels very humble and somewhat fragile to me. 

Track 10. “Spread A Little Love For Christmas is the only track I have with an island feel! It was fun to do a 180, and play! We recorded this in the Summer of 2021, with the idea of a “Christmas In July” vibe. If celebrating Christmas in July were to become more of a tradition, I would love to hear this song blasting from campsites and RVs all over the world. 


Q. On ‘Tis The Season you worked with a number of notable producers including Jon Kubis, Tom Keane, and Gardner Cole. Now for Santa’s Takin’ Over The Town, you worked closely with producer Brian Steckler. Talk about how these producers helped bring these two albums to life.

A. Jon Kubis is a dear friend. When he and I work together, the conversation runs deep, so the songwriting soil is rich. We talk about the way a song should feel, and we hold onto the vision and chisel away at it until it becomes a reality. Jon is a wonderful arranger and a brilliant person. He feels his way into production, but he has all the necessary tools, and tech skills as an engineer to deliver the sound he’s going for. Watching him work is like the study of a mad genius, and we have so much fun! I LOVE his piano solo on “Marry Me For Christmas.” I can’t get enough of it! His retro expertise is such a wellspring. I love working with Jon because we’re friends first, then colleagues, but we’re mostly music geeks who keep our noses to the grindstone until it’s right. 

Tom Keane is a rare gem of an arranger. His string arrangement on “Christmas In My Heart,” is as timeless as it gets. He’s studied with the best, and he’s worked extremely hard to be as good as he is. His arrangements bring so much depth to a song! When I listen to his work, I feel like I’m living inside of the “song movie,” except, it’s more like a painting from a fine artist. His shading, layers, and the subtle but complex harmonic textures he uses are stunning. He brings a production to life in a way that is very powerful. He’s a master. “Wonderland Of Winter” is one of his masterpieces. “The Old Red Sleigh” is straight-up classic Christmas perfection in my opinion, and “Santa Won’t You Hurry” is so much fun to listen to! His sensitivity on “Christmas In My Heart”  just bowls me over. 

Gardner Cole wrote “Open Your Heart” for Madonna back in the 80’s, and lives a life far, far away from the rat race of Hollywood! He’s earned it! We produced “Santa Baby” remotely. He sent me the track, already cooked to perfection, and I recorded the vocals and did the background vocal arrangement. From there, he mixed it, and it was a wrap! It was a pretty seamless production without much back and forth about anything. He did his job, I did mine, and we were both thrilled with the end result. It’s fun to have such a smooth collaboration like that.

Brian Steckler is one of the fastest, most facile producers I’ve ever known. He has keen musical instincts with an uncanny knack for nailing the right hook. When he sends me mixes, I’m listening for the really cool subtle layers that he’s tucked. It’s like a game of “Where’s Waldo.” I’m always asking him to bring those tucked elements up in the mix because, to me, they create the vibe! A lot of times he’ll say, “Oh yeah! I forgot about those. It sounds good!” There are so many fun goodies in there, it’s a treasure trove! Brian is so gifted and wonderful to work with.


Q. You wrote the music and lyrics on your own for 6 songs on the Santa’s Takin’ Over The Town Deluxe Edition CD. How important is it for you to have this kind of autonomy over your music? 

A. As a female artist, it’s important to me to leave a legacy of musical substance, especially as a songwriter. For context, not many people know that Dorothy Fields wrote “The Way You Look Tonight,” “A Fine Romance,” “On The Sunny Side Of The Street”, and “I’m In The Mood For Love.” I’ve been in the music industry for a long time, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard producers and musicians say, “She only wrote the top line.”  Or worse, “She wrote the song, but my production is the best part.” Or, “There’s no way so and so wrote that song. I don’t care if her name is on the credits. She did not write that.” Even Mariah Carey has said that her writing ability is overlooked in the industry! For crying out loud, women have been writing hit songs for a long time and have been denied their worth, when it’s undeniable! 

There are times when I have to register a producer as a co-writer because we live in a producer-centric era of music. Many of them insist upon a writing credit. But, I choose my battles and fortunately, not every producer I work with insists on taking credit for songs they don’t write from the ground up. I appreciate them so much! If a songwriter is also an independent artist, they have astronomical release expenses to shoulder annually that producers often don’t pitch in for even when claiming a 50/50 writer/publishing share.

My perspective is this: being a great songwriter is a fine art and a hard-won skill. It deserves a place of honor the same way producers are given theirs. If I am not a producer, I’m not going to demand a producer credit. That credit belongs to the producer. However, in most cases, I am a co-producer! I record my vocals, comp them, provide musical direction for tracks, cast and contract musicians, help to refine mixes, and I do the deep research and development at the outset to find out what’s needed in the film/TV/ad world to maximize the potential of the music. So, if I’m not assuming a co-production credit for all of that, why should the writer/publishing credit be up for grabs without question?


Q. What are some of your favorite holiday traditions and how do they inspire you when writing your holiday albums?

A. I love to rally a few of my favorite people for a day trip in the snow! Those memories always inspire the fun side of my seasonal songwriting. The song “Wonderful World Tonight” is all about “friends-mas” fun! While writing it with Brian Steckler, I was recalling all the fun memories I’ve made with friends, chugging along through town, being together, and doing festive stuff. I love that I have those vivid memories, and look forward to friends-mas plans every Christmas.


Q. What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? How might these songs influence your music? 

A. I love various Christmas songs for different reasons! As a child, I was enamored with “Up On The Housetop,” “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I still adore those songs, because they remind me of my childhood and the anticipation of Santa Claus. As an adult, I fully immerse myself in ALL the Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas songs. “O Tennenbaum”, “Christmas Time Is Here”, and “Skating” are some of my favorites. I also love the melodic brilliance of “What Child Is This,” “The Holly & The Ivy,” and “O Holy Night.” Those compositions are exquisite. 

I think the fun-loving, child-like songs about Santa, combined with the elegance of the more mature Christmas classics have inspired the dynamic range of seasonal songs I write. The classics are in my bones, but even I need to hear fresh new Christmas music every year. I think that’s what I’m doing. I’m creating the Christmas songs I want to hear in addition to the classics. 


Q. What would you say to listeners who might encounter hard times over the holidays? How does music, holiday-oriented or not, bring us all together and offer solace during these difficult moments?

A. To anyone who is struggling during the holidays, I want to tell you that you are not alone. Hard times are inevitable, and everyone goes through them. If you live long enough, you will encounter difficult holiday seasons. There really ought to be support groups for people who are struggling through the holiday season. The great thing about music is that it creates a comforting space that feels alive, and less lonesome. Music can be amazing company.

I have had long lonely spells where music has been my greatest friend and deepest well of solace. If you can find a candle, pour a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and put on something lovely to listen to, you are winning! If there are no presents under the tree, but you have a day off work to take a long walk, and make some banana bread, count that as a gift because it’s a wonderful way to spend a day.


Q. There’s something very theatrical about your Christmas albums and your voice. Have you ever considered performing in this regard? What would be your ideal musical if you could create and star in one?

A. I would love to write a holiday musical about my life experience as a songwriter! It’s been such a roller coaster with hilarious encounters, dramas, and foibles. It would be a blast to write it all down and turn it into entertainment! I think the reason I’ve written and recorded so much Christmas music over the years is basically because I’ve been trying to escape the reality of life in the music business! It’s been a magical experience creating a fantastical world that is warm and welcoming. 

For a screenplay, I would tell my story through the eyes of a songwriter who goes through rejection after rejection, #metoo moment after #metoo moment, and along the way, manages to write a collection of Christmas songs that are delightful and beloved. I would cast myself as a far more casual archetypal festive version of Mary Poppins who “makes special happen” under any and every challenging holiday circumstance!






Rehya Stevens

Jamie Dunlap

Sync Licensing. It’s like an elite country club in the music industry that every artist wants to get invited into. We’ve all heard it all before, the tantalizing idea that “Artists can support their careers in music with sync licensing.” What could be better than that? Spend a few hours writing a song for a tv show and then it pays for your personal music projects. If only it were that easy.

So many artists ask the question, “How can we pitch my songs to tv/film and commercials?”, or artists are confident that their music is perfect for tv and film “…if only they could get it in front of the right people.”

When we had the honor of working with successful independent artist Rehya Stevens and Emmy-nominated composer Jamie Dunlap, we jumped at the chance to ask them the question…


1. Can you each briefly share your journey of how you entered the music industry and what steps you took to establish yourself?

I can’t begin the story of my journey without mentioning my Dad is a wonderful pianist and arranger. In the late 70’s, he was the arranger for Disney’s “The New Mickey Mouse Club.” He recorded a lot of music with Bobby Caldwell, and toured quite a bit. Within that wellspring of creativity, from the get-go, I’ve been captivated with songwriting. After years spent tucked away in my bedroom trying to write good songs, I went to The Musician’s Institute for their keyboard program. I recorded an EP with an awesome band of Danish colleagues I met there. We recorded 6 songs at Steve Tyrell’s studio off of Sweetzer – for the price of tuning his grand piano for $80. With that EP, I made the rounds to the labels and managers – and one by one – they told me that with the impact of streaming, they had no idea where budgets were going to come from for new artists. A few told me to save myself the heartache and find an easier career. I’m pretty relentless by nature, so I started sitting in at every club in town, nearly every night of the week. Eventually I landed some well paying in-town gigs as a top 40 singer for weekend party bands. Within the live circuit I met some brilliant arrangers and we started recording what has become a vast catalog of songs. Not yet having an agent, I  looked up email addresses and phone numbers for music supervisors and pitched my music directly – and diligently – just praying for a YES. It wasn’t until I found my first agent (Mike Noma) that I finally got my first placement. From there, I just kept on keeping on – never taking “no” too seriously. 


In 1988, I did a year at The Musician’s Institute and wound up staying. Realizing I wasn’t going to be a rock star, I landed a job in a film tape vault for 5 years. Later inspired by the dub room, I made my first (very crappy) demo and sent out many before finally getting a response from a little Latin boutique jingle company looking for a gringo. Over the span of 4 or 5 years, I was able to get hands-on experience learning to engineer, compose, get coffee ect. Then sometime around 1998 my old partner Scott Nickoley and I started our own little production company taking whatever we could get to pay the lease. His skills in the music publishing world gave us a clear shot at pitches working with Master Source. The Music library thing was just starting to take off. After 10 volumes with them, the landscape changed as several music libraries popped up and saturated the market thus cutting down on any upfront fees, relying on the back end. And once again one must adapt. Persistence landed us a few TV gigs leading to Disney, The Osbournes, ect.. and then like lightning in a bottle, we were able to grab the composer chair for South Park (Season 5 to present).


2. How did you build connections and relationships with industry professionals, such as music supervisors and licensing agents?

It’s really important to be prolific, to have your legal agreements in place, and if possible – make your tracks one-stop. Early on, I did not understand the importance of music clearance, so it was a deal breaker with music supervisors. Once I got my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed on the business side,  it was much easier to build trust with music supervisors and agents. If you don’t know what you don’t know, you’re a headache at best, and a potential liability at worst. My advice is – take care of your business first. Then start building relationships in the biz. The relationships are the best part! Yet in any relationship, if you start on shaky ground, it’s tough to move forward in good faith. Build a solid foundation by providing the music they need, and by having your business in order.


By reaching out to clients on a consistent basis. Be willing to do long shot pitches with thick skin.


3. Could you provide examples of the first sync placement you each secured and share the story of how the opportunity come about?

My first sync placement was through Mike Noma, of Noma Music. He secured one of my songs in the TV show “Hawthorne” starring Jada Pinkett Smith. I believe it was for a love scene. I was so excited, I hosted a listening party with close friends on the night it aired. Thankfully, the track wasn’t played so far beneath the dialogue that we couldn’t hear it. That happened on the second placement – at my second listening party. After that, I never hosted another listening party. Haha!!


My first sync placement was a fairly low fi dance track with a cool vocal riff – being blasted on the stereo while a couple was going at it on the couch.. I’m trying to recall the movie, sorry Anyways, because Master Source’s approach to having full-on songs with vocals garnered more lucrative sync fees… Even if you can hardly hear it sometimes.. Example: We got a song in the Sixth Sense playing on the maid’s headphones barely audible.. A small little piece of lightning.


4. Did you actively seek out sync placements, or did they come to you through networking and word of mouth? 

I still pitch my music independently, and I have a sync agent I work closely with. I have some long standing, beautiful relationships with music supervisors who place my music, and who often refer me to their colleagues. Usually it’s, “Hey! Meet my friend Rehya… She has the Christmas music you’re looking for! Or, check out her dance tracks – fun stuff!”  I’m so grateful to them, because without their support, I’m not sure I would be able to sustain as an independent artist.


This is where you must develop solid relations with the publishers, music supers and show runners because if they’re worth their salt, they will have a better shot at getting it out there leaving you more time to make coffee, answer the phone and make music.


5. What advice would you give to artists looking to proactively pursue sync opportunities?

Learn the business! Know what master shares are. Know what mechanicals are. Have all of your writer/publishing split sheets in order. Meta-tag all of your music. Know the lyrical themes and production styles that music supervisors are looking for. Be appreciative of everyone on your musical team, and express it! Be persistent. Reach out every 6 to 8 weeks with new music. Attend music supervision panels, and make an authentic impression – try not to  be a goober. Keep in mind that your workflow will often be 50% music, 50% business. Remember that business is as much of an artform as music. Be gracious – know that you are not entitled to anyone’s time or energy. Be a problem solver for them – they are not a problem solver for you – you need to be their solution. Don’t take “no” too seriously. Keep following up. Be a persistent pain in the arse. Don’t keep your head in the sand for too long when you feel discouraged. You will become an undeniable force when you keep getting up – over and over and over again. Have FUN making music with your team, because it goes such a long way towards morale. When your soul bank account is overflowing, your vibe will be too.


6. How do you approach creating music that is suitable for TV and film sync? Do you have any specific tips or techniques for crafting songs that are more likely to resonate with music supervisors?

There are themes that are continually needed – songs about togetherness, swaggery empowerment themes, songs about home. Take those themes, go deep into your life experience and recall personal scenarios that resonate with those themes. Write songs from your perspective, but like you’re writing it for a friend, to a friend, or to yourself – but in an empowering way. Be authentic. Write from experience, FOR the human experience as a whole. If you’re a producer, reference production styles and sound design of successful songs in tv/film/ads. Notice where the builds are, where the breakdowns are, what the instrumentation is, and what sound libraries you’ll need. That being said, I’m always a fan of hiring live musicians in addition to programmed tracks. It just brings it up multiple levels  – and I love hiring friends to play! We need to keep musicians in business. They are golden.


There are many tools and tricks with the software these days allowing us to stretch our imaginations and beyond. But the basic rules are the same. Music needs to be non obtrusive while getting the point across under dialogue. For me the dialogue is like a singer, helping to establish the mood. It’s also about frequencies of your music not colliding with the film’s audio. Less is more as they say.


7. Have you worked with music libraries or publishing companies to increase your chances of getting sync placements? What was your experience like, and would you recommend this approach to other artists?

Yes, absolutely. Just make sure you feel really good about the deal. Don’t sign bad deals! Try to work with an agent who communicates with you every 3 to 6  months, and lets you know what’s going on with your music.


8. How important is it for artists to have a clear understanding of the licensing process and the legal aspects of sync placements? What steps did you take to educate yourself on these matters, or do you rely on entertainment lawyers and agents?

It’s VERY important. Have writer split sheets, master agreements, work for hire agreements and producer agreements drawn up for you by a reputable attorney. Read ALL of your contracts, and have an attorney review them if they seem questionable. I’ll say it again – don’t sign bad deals!!


I would think it’s even more crucial to wear as many hats as you can these days… For instance,  sometimes I get to put on my music editor hat and actually pitch songs to replace the temp when they don’t always get the sync fast enough on bigger songs.


9. Do you have any concerns regarding the emergence of music created by AI and if it may take work away from artists who compose original music? 

I know AI is already here, and already having an impact. Just last week, a producer I work with all the time used an AI vocal on a track. Scary times! My hope is that people will hear the difference and feel the difference. If I think about all the “what if’s” I’ll be in a creative wasteland. I do love singing to my cat and the horses I care for – so if all goes to hell in a handbasket, they’ll still come running for a concert – as long as I have treats in my hand:) 


We are in for some strange weather ahead. A.I. Deep Fake, all of this new technology will have an effect on us all one way or another. If you would have told me a few years ago I would need an internet subscription to use Pro Tools,  I would say you lost it…  Start collecting books and information.  Turn it off every once in a while… I think our own evolution hasn’t kept up with the machines.


Their upcoming single “Love Party” will be featured in the Lifetime Movie “Secrets of a Celebrity Nanny” (directed by Lance Robbins and Dylan Vox), starring actress Yolanthe Cabau, coming soon. The single will be available on all digital music platforms on Friday, June 30th, 2023.

About: Jamie Dunlap writes and produces scores and source cues for film and TV. Recent clients include South Park, MTV, Supernatural, The History Channel, and Dark Angel. Dunlap was nominated for two Emmy Awards in 2005 and 2015 and awarded the BMI Film/TV Awards in 2012. Jamie has scored a diverse range of music for the Disney XD TV shows PAIR OF KINGS (3 seasons), earning the 2012 BMI award, CRASH AND BERNSTEIN (2 seasons), MIGHTY MED (Two seasons) Kirby Buckets (Season One) and several History Channel features, including RWANDA: DO SCARS EVER FADE?, which earned him an Emmy Award nomination. In 2007, he scored the HBO documentary SAND AND SORROW (narrated by George Clooney) which details the events that led to the rise of Darfur’s present government. Most recently, Dunlap finished season 19 of SOUTH PARK and worked on the sequel to the highly successful South Park video game The Stick Of Truth.
To date, Jamie and his co-writers have licensed over 1,200 original songs and compositions for television and film including songs for SEX AND THE CITY, SUPERNATURAL, THE WOLVERINE, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, SECRETARIAT, WALK THE LINE, WEDDING CRASHERS, HOT ROD, THE SIXTH SENSE, and LAKEVIEW TERRACE to name a few.

About: Rehya Stevens is an LA-based composer who has landed over 40 sync licenses in tv/film and commercials, with a focus on holiday music. Rehya’s exceptional talent has been recognized by the industry, earning her prestigious accolades. In 2019, her standout track “JINGLE JANGLE” received the esteemed Hollywood Music in Media award for ‘Best in Holiday.’ Furthermore, her smooth jazz single “HAPPY HOLIDAY” reached an impressive #2 position on the Billboard charts in 2018. 




Rehya Stevens Celebrates What Makes Us Unique With “Love Party”

Being a session singer, Rehya Stevens has mastered the art of being able to adapt vocally and creatively to whatever task she’s assigned. Her songs have been featured in an array of films, video games, and TV, including her Christmas song “Jingle Jangle” which has been used in eleven movies to date. Though emphasis has been placed on her experience with holiday cheer, that hasn’t stopped Rehya from expressing herself and her opinions on issues that are close to her heart. As a way to close out Pride Month, Juneteenth, and all of the early Summer celebrations that honor inclusivity and diversity, Rehya released “Love Party” a ravey, energetic track that encourages all of us to embrace our differences and dance through life together. 


Q. Your latest single “Love Party” is pure rave pop with upbeat rhythms that’ll have a dance floor full in minutes. Talk about the production of this song.

A. “Love Party” was produced by South Park composer, Jamie Dunlap. I can take no credit for his fantastic production. He sent the track to me already pre-cooked and said “Hey do you wanna topline this?” From an inspiration standpoint, he and I had a recording session for a song from the South Park Xbox game The Stick of Truth called “All In Your Head” where I’m the voice of Goth Girl. [It] is so funny because here I am this blonde girl who makes a lot of happy music and a lot of Christmas music and I’m “Goth Girl” (laughs). 

Anyway, Jamie and I both lived in Los Angeles at the time and while recording “All In Your Head,” we shared a long conversation about the racial and economic divide in the city coupled with rampant discrimination that our colleagues face on a regular basis. So when Jamie sent me the track for “Love Party” I said, “Hey let’s make this song about inclusivity and use the dance floor as a metaphor for life. Life is like a dance floor and every person should feel welcome.”


Q. Before “Love Party”’s release you were primarily focused on seasonal songs, recording your Christmas album Tis The Season in 2021. What inspired you to shift genres rather than continuing to create seasonal albums?

A. I spent a lot of years singing in top 40 bands and working as a session singer for producers all over Los Angeles, so I’ve developed the ability to be somewhat of a chameleon. As an artist, I love to write in a fun space that is empowering – but that is also warm and relatable – which is why Pop and seasonal music is such a natural fit for me. EDM was actually not something I’d delved into before. I had done several Pop, Dance, and R&B tracks in the past, but Jamie shines in the EDM genre. What I think is interesting is that the track has a rave vibe – while the topline is pop. I think the marriage of the Pop topline with the undeniable EDM vibe makes the song more universal. 

As a session singer, I was primed to put on my chameleon hat and do my EDM thing to the best of my ability. I think this song is Jamie’s happy place in the EDM space infused with my happy place in the Pop space. I have a new, all-original Christmas album coming out later this year, and a Pop/R&B album coming out in 2024 – so I have not abandoned either genre in exchange for EDM. “Love Party” happened alongside the process of both projects, and it was a blast! It’s fun to try something new, and working with Jamie is always great! I’m so glad he provided the opportunity for us to work on this together. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!


Q. “Love Party” is set to be included in the Lifetime film Secrets of a Celebrity Nanny and several of your other songs have been included in a variety of films, including Noelle and the upcoming movie Best. Christmas. Ever. starring Heather Graham. What is it like hearing your music on screen?

A. It’s fantastic! Part of the joy of making music is that I get so much pleasure from the creative process. When it’s useful in the context of film it’s even more wonderful. People email saying, “I heard your song in this movie, TV show, or ad, and I love it!” It’s really rewarding. It’s always a big win when a song makes it into a film or a TV show. It also broadens your fan base in ways that are challenging to reach independently.

Q. You’ve mentioned that “Love Party” is so much more than a “Summer bop” and that it’s also about celebrating togetherness and what makes us all special in an unstable world. Why is this message so important to hear right now?

A. I think that when people feel valued for who they are, it helps everybody to do better and live better. If you don’t feel valued it’s really easy to adopt a ‘why bother’ attitude. When you feel loved, accepted, and appreciated, you have so much more vitality. When you have to spend a lot of time and energy rising above feeling undervalued and unappreciated it’s like you’ve constantly got an energy leak. 

We need all the energy we can get to get through this life so why the hierarchy? Why is there this constant pecking order? Why is it that we all have to be alike to be accepted? I think it’s crazy. I mean there are all kinds of different flowers. They all bring beauty to the world and I think of humanity the same way. If there were only one flower in the garden it wouldn’t be as extraordinary, would it? 


Q. Your family is deeply involved in the world of music, your dad being a renowned keyboardist. How has their influence and knowledge of the music industry helped propel your career?

Growing up, it seemed like my dad was rehearsing and recording around the clock in his home studio with his colleagues. Our house was swarming with musicians all the time. He was a busy working musician so there wasn’t a lot of time for collaborating. I was busy twirling in the backyard as a kid writing songs for the cats and the dogs (laughs). I used to set up tape recorders and multi-track. As a teenager, I had an 8-track machine that I lived for. He taught me how to use it, and how to not blow out every mic he loaned me. 

I think early exposure to hearing all of the greats, whether from records being played in the house, or from live music reverberating through the walls in addition to witnessing the art of communication between musical collaborators was a powerful education. Understanding the value of every single person in the band, understanding the role of the artist, and learning how to clearly communicate a musical vision was absolutely golden for my professional toolkit. 

My Dad taught me to be as independent as possible. [He taught me] to be a finisher – to finish songs, and not have a lot of good ideas sitting around, unrealized. He encouraged me to be as original as possible. As a kid, I’d be in my room emulating different singers for hours. My dad would knock on my door and say, “Try singing this song in your voice. I understand that you’re learning from this artist but how would you sing it?” He taught me a lot about phrasing, and getting ‘inside’ the song.

As far as practical advice, he advised me to not be out on the road all the time, if possible. He’d say, “Look if you want to be an artist it’s really hard to be an artist if you get trapped in the cycle of being a touring sideman for somebody else. The years roll by, and before you know it, you’ve only made one or two records of your own.” I managed to stay in town by valuing in-town work and made a lot of records of my own instead of hitting the road as a background singer. My dad is a tremendous gift in so many ways not only as my Dad, but as a mentor.


Q. A lot of artists, especially more recently, are branching out into other creative outlets. Is this something you see for yourself? Would you ever try acting or venture into the filmmaking world? 

A. If that opportunity came along, sure! I think acting would be a lot of fun –  but I’ll never know until I try it. I hear that when working with a great director, acting can be a lot of fun, but honestly, I have no acting experience whatsoever so I have no idea if I would even be capable of doing it (laughs). I hear there’s a lot of sitting around on sets, and I’m definitely a studio rat. I love to go into the studio, roll up my sleeves, and get to work. 

I produce lyric videos and quite enjoy editing. For Secrets Of A Celebrity Nanny, the producer asked if I would make some lyric videos from the movie footage, so I’ve been really busy with that. Film editing is so fun to me. I love looking at the possibilities of how a story can come together from a satchel of footage. I’m doing the same thing when I’m recording really. I’m choosing the best takes and stylizing a song imagined from various possibilities. Who knows? Maybe music-making will open doors to other creative adventures. I’ll never say never. 



The L.A. Songstress Rehya Stevens Weaves Threads of Love, Acceptance, and Festivity into her new single, “Love Party.”

Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Rehya Stevens’ new single is inspired by the kaleidoscopic diversity of city life. Her new single “Love Party,” captures the free spirit of the city while appealing to listeners all around the world.

Born into a musical family, her father, pianist/arranger Peter Martin, played with such legends as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Bobby Caldwell, and Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers.

In the late ’70s, he was the arranger and composer for the successful Disney TV series “The New Mickey Mouse Club.” It seems inevitable that Stevens would carve out a unique path in the music industry with her natural talent as a songwriter.

Stevens’ recent partnership with “South Park” composer Jamie Dunlap, winner of two Emmy Awards, is especially noteworthy. Their latest collaboration birthed her new single honouring Pride Month and Juneteenth.

“Love Party” is her first release outside of the holiday season in over five years. With driving, gritty energy that may surprise listeners – the underlying theme of equality and celebration is consistent with Stevens’ message throughout her career.

With an ever-expanding collection of original Christmas music, Stevens’ catalog has garnered over 40 sync licenses in TV/Film/Ads, a #2 single on the Billboard holiday charts, and an HMMA award for ‘Best in Holiday.’

Rehya Stevens is a shining example of unconditional love and acceptance from the heart of a gifted storyteller. Her work is also a testament to music’s transformational power, whether advocating acceptance in “Love Party” or warming hearts with her holiday compositions.

Congratulations on the release of your high-energy Dance/EDM single, “Love Party”! 

Could you tell us about the creative process behind the song?
Sure!! First off, I must digress that “Love Party” was Jamie Dunlap’s baby from the get-go. He has a really busy career as the composer for “South Park.” Around the time we wrote this, we were recording a song of his called “All in your head” for the South Park video game “The Stick of Truth.

During the process, we shared deep conversations about social inequality and the racial and economic divide in Los Angeles in particular. So many people are just barely hanging on. After that recording session, Jamie sent the track for “Love Party” to me with a “Hey! Wanna take a crack at this? I know you love dance music…” to which I responded, “Absolutely! Let’s make this a song about inclusivity.”

I wrote the lyric and melody from our conversational mustard seed – hoping it would empower somebody who feels undervalued, unheard, and unseen.

“Love Party” exudes an infectious energy that gets people moving on the dance floor. How did you go about capturing that high-energy vibe in the production and arrangement of the song?
I can’t take any credit for Jamie’s work on the track – that was all him. Creatively, I was so inspired by the grittiness of the track and all the BIG energy!! For the verses, my perspective is – we are all stardust. Stars are meant to shine! I’m reminding the listener of who they are with the lyric:

You’re a star/and you know it/You’re a star/Gotta glow it.

Writing the rap section was a great way to shed frustration – quite cathartic. These lyrics flowed like water from a faucet:

So forget the pain, the struggles, the bills/all the dreams you haven’t fulfilled…

I did NOT grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, and struggled just to barely squeak by for many years – so that mantra was completely inspired by personal experience. The chorus wrote itself – that lift that Jamie built-in paved the way for:

Celebrate/Join the Party/Love Party

That lyric sums up my worldview. We are all here to shine, to love, and to be loved. Life is something to celebrate. It’s a miracle that we made it here to this planet.

As an award-winning independent artist, you’ve undoubtedly developed a unique sound and style. How does “Love Party” fit into your musical journey, and how does it showcase your growth and artistic evolution?
I’ve always loved dance music, and I’ve made a lot of it over the years. I released an album in 2013 called “Vintage Love” that features a bunch of dance tracks that I’m still crazy about today.

I’ll be releasing more dance music in 2024, following the release of a new Christmas album later this year. What I love about making seasonal and dance music is that both genres are about “WE.” At Christmas time, we’re celebrating together. On the dance floor, we’re celebrating together.

I enjoy making music that is universally celebratory and uplifting. I think everyone needs that. I know I need that – so part of me is making this music to fill a space that’s vital in my life as well as for the listener. As far as “Love Party” is now nestled in my musical journey, I think it’s an important part of the overall landscape of my work.

It’s a piece of music born of the intent to spotlight a place of honour for every person on this dance floor called “life.” No matter your race, sexual orientation, economic standing, religious beliefs, or lack thereof, you are a human being worthy of love – sent to thrive and shine. I’m so glad Jamie sent me the track because the song turned out to be such a meaningful statement.

In addition to the release of “Love Party,” do you have any exciting plans or projects in the pipeline? Can you give us a glimpse into what the future holds for your music?
I have a brand new Christmas album coming out later this year that I’m thrilled about!! It’s a deluxe edition that will include 10 new original Christmas songs, plus 11 updated masters of my previous Christmas album, “‘Tis the Season

In 2024, I’ll be releasing a large satchel of non-seasonal music. Genre-wise, it includes pop dance, sexy soulful pop, singer-songwriter stuff, some dark pop empowerment songs, and a few jazzy vibes — it’s all so rich and yummy! I can’t wait to share it — it’s some of my personal best.

As a female pop artist, you bring a unique perspective to the music industry. How do you navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with being an independent artist in today’s competitive landscape?
Interesting question! Well, I’m only in competition with myself as an artist, and I think that helps my morale. I stay true to who I am artistically, and do my best to evolve musically every year.

The business side can be pretty overwhelming at various stages as an independent artist. I wear a lot of hats – that’s for sure! If I can offer a few practical bullet points on navigating the industry while wearing so many hats, they are:

Trust your God-given set of fine-tuned instincts. They will rarely let you down. If you feel that something is off, it usually is. If something feels positive and expansive, it usually is.

In collaboration ships, where there is competition, there will rarely be nurturing. I believe nurturing bodes far better for making great music than the competition does. Good things bloom in nurturing soil. Not much blooms in the weeds.

Find opportunities to fully engage your creativity in every aspect of your work – not just in your music. For example, with marketing – I try to make it as fun, playful, and festive as possible. With lyric videos (I produce mine nowadays), I try to make them as engaging and special as I can – which can be a fun creative challenge.

When pitching music, I do plenty of research before reaching out. When you do your homework, the creative part of relationship building is so much flowier, and it informs the music you send. You don’t want to deliver a steak dinner to a vegetarian. Musically, be as prolific as you can! Keep yourself on your toes by trying new, interesting things.

Mix things up – play with different styles and perspectives. Sometimes I’ll write from personal experience, sometimes I’m creating a fantasy for the listener. Sometimes I’m empowering the underdog. Sometimes I’m shedding old skin – healing and growing in a dynamic way through music.

Sometimes I’m just celebrating being alive and throwing a party! Whatever it is you’re doing, do it authentically, in a way that is uniquely YOU. I’m not trying to be anyone but myself. There are better singers, better writers, better performers than me — but I’m not trying to compete with them.

I’m just enjoying making music and being the artist I am at the moment. I think if you ground yourself in your artistry that way, you’ll be so much stronger. Chasing what someone else is doing is only going to drain your creative energy and dilute your authenticity.

“Love Party” incorporates elements of Dance and EDM genres. Are there any other musical genres or styles that you are interested in exploring in your future releases?
Yes!! I would love to explore more stripped-down singer-songwriter production, because that’s the way I write most of my songs – at the piano, with a pot of coffee on. I’d love to make an 80’s inspired EP or album with a modern update that might revive the fun, colourful vibe of that era without being overly nostalgic.

I have such an affinity for Pop/RnB chill — it would be so fun to go there. I’d love to do a jazz tribute album – covering classics that were composed by women. I’d love to write with and for great country artists. I’ll be making music ‘til I drop.

As my late friend Freddie Gruber used to tell me, “You don’t have music, kid. Music has YOU! By the balls!”



'Tis the Season: Interview with Rehya Stevens

Rehya Stevens' new album Tis the Season has been garnering rave reviews since its November 12 release.  The acclaim is well-deserved - Tis the Season is one of the best holiday albums of 2021.  

Tis the Season, briefly previewed earlier here on Merry & Bright, is an album of bows and ribbons, candy canes and hot chocolate, Santa and Christmas magic.  With nine original songs by Rehya and three superbly done standards, Tis the Season is everything you could ever want in a joyous, energetic, get-you-in-the-spirit Christmas music album.  Rehya explores a variety of musical styles, all with an inimitable essence of the holiday.  Rehya and her team of musicians and collaborators have delivered, just as surely as a certain gentleman hailing from the North Pole.

All the info about 'Tis the Season can be found at Rehya's website.

Rehya Stevens Music - get Tis the Season and Celebrate, Rehya's first album of Christmas music.

In addition to being an amazing musician, Rehya Stevens is one of the nicest and most generous people around, and she took time from her busy schedule for a super-insightful and in depth interview with Merry & Bright.  Please enjoy learning more about Tis the Season, creating music in a pandemic, and Rehya's at-home co-worker, among other topics.

Q & A with Rehya Stevens

Merry & Bright: Welcome back to Merry & Bright Rehya! You’re becoming a regular here in our little hangout, and that’s a good thing

Rehya Stevens: Thank you, Aaron, it’s a pleasure! I appreciate your friendship and support of my music all these years!

MB: You have gifted our 2021 holidays with your second Christmas album, ’Tis the Season, and it is wonderful! From the first note through the last, it’s heartwarming, joyful, and just so Christmassy. It’s just what we need this season after the past 20 months we’ve all been through. Can you tell us a little about your journey with this album through 2020 and 2021?

RS: Well, it was quite an effusive album to make during such an uncertain, depressing time. Honestly, making this music was a wonderful escape from the heavy hearted state of affairs we were all reckoning with. During the making of much of this album, I worked with a producer named Tom Keane, whose work I’ve admired since I was a kid. He’s written and produced some of my favorite songs, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him. Anyway, we would get together and chisel away on tracks for a few hours, then talk about the chaos in the world, chisel away some more, talk about the chaos some more… and for me, it just felt right to be making music that is universal, and immediately relatable, because hardly anyone was relating well in the universe between 2020 and mid 2021. Families were fighting. Communities were torn apart. Friends were estranged. Social media was an on-going battle of words. 

All I know is, the more I focused on the making of this record and providing joyful music for people, the better I felt. The better I felt, the more music I made. So what started out as ‘oh, maybe I’ll record a few new Christmas songs…’ turned into a full fledged Christmas album with 8 originals and 3 covers. On an existential level, I’d like to think that the creative process of making this music had some healing effect on the world. I know that had I not had such an uplifting album to work on, my time in quarantine would have been pretty dreary but because of this music, my soul was lit up and dancing through the darkest stretch the world has seen in awhile. It’s amazing that music has the power to lift us that way. I’m so grateful for that gift, and the ability to share it with people.

MB: How do you feel ‘Tis the Season compares with Celebrate? I would never ask you to pick a favorite, because that’s like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. But do you think ‘Tis the Season is an evolution of your Christmas music, or perhaps a partner album that complements Celebrate?

RS: I think ’Tis the Season is both of those things - an extension of - and an evolution of Celebrate. So many changes in my own life - and in the world shaped the making of these two albums.

Jon Kubis and I created Celebrate over a two year period in both Orange County and Boyle Heights (in downtown LA). Our commutes were intense and sometimes after hours in traffic, we’d get to the Boyle Heights studio and wind being up unable to record because the walls were paper thin, and the bleed (not to mention the smells - no kidding) was so bad. On top of that, we had merciless schedules to contend with during the process. Under the circumstances, it’s quite a testament to our friendship and work ethic that we managed to make an album like that with so many moving parts. What’s interesting to me is that even with all we were up against, as a body of work, Celebrate is so soothing and spiritual. I’m very proud of that. Only in retrospect, it’s clear that I was trying to create a space that I wanted to dwell in emotionally, that felt non-competitive and authentic.

The music business has such an exhaustive hierarchical pecking order, no matter where you are on the ladder. I had been longing for more simplicity in my life for a long time, and a sense of unconditional acceptance, belonging and safety. I think that’s the musical space we created. It’s a record that is emotionally and spiritually nurturing.

In juxtaposition, ‘Tis the Season was made during a time of social distancing, utter simplicity as far as daily life was concerned, and complete worldly upheaval. It was easy to focus on this record, because there weren’t any live gigs or sessions happening. All the musicians I needed were in-town and available - without a single scheduling obstacle. There was zero pressure of a deadline, so I was able to work at my own pace, guilt-free. I tend to tinker and try to ‘beat’ my performances ad nauseum - and there was no limit to how much of that I could do - which I loved. I recorded and produced all the vocals for this album at home, and loved it. Tom lives 5 minutes down the road from me, so the commute was a dream - and the whole process was pretty relaxed. 

Like most people, I was longing for a friendlier, more compassionate world. I missed being with friends and family, but even more so - I missed sharing common ground and civility with people that I no longer saw eye to eye with. There are a lot of fun-loving songs on the album that remind me of childhood, when politics didn’t matter one bit - when you just played with people you loved to be with, and shared your world openly. There is also a good dose of romance on this album, because there was more space for intimacy during quarantine. On the spiritual side, “Wonderland of Winter” is a song that is lyrically symbolic. For instance, the bridge; “Even though the skies are dark and gray/The cardinal still sings her song/Echoing such beauty in refrain/In a winter wonderland” was born from the perspective that we become like the cardinal ‘singing a song’ when we celebrate in dark times. With this album, instinctively - I think we provided a spirit of levity that the world had lost. ’Tis the Season as a whole is very festive and open hearted. I think of it as a high energy Christmas morning record, while I think of Celebrate as a reflective evening record. But, you’re right - I cannot choose a favorite. I love both albums equally. They both offer something nourishing. Sometimes you need immersive tic, other times you need to play all day long. Both of these things go a long way, depending on what scratches the itch. 

MB: I’m going to pick a few of my favorites from ‘Tis the Season and ask you to tell us about them – how the song came to be, any anecdotes about the writing or recording, or just what you’d like your fans to know about it. Let’s start with “The Old Red Sleigh.”

RS: “The Old Red Sleigh” was written while I was on a bike ride in January of 2019, a few months after Celebrate was released. I was pedaling along thinking how nice it was to finally be outside ‘playing’ and not in front of a computer screen or in a rehearsal room - when the melody rattled through my brain. I thought, “Oh, no!!! Am I going back into the studio this week?!” Anyway, I tried to just focus on my ride, but 4 hours later, I was cruising back home to record the song. As soon as I’d figured out the chords, I sent a work tape to Tom, and he agreed to produce it. Tom is so masterful as an arranger. I couldn’t have asked for a finer producer for this song - he knocked it out of the park! His son Mason has a rich baritone, so I hired him to be ‘Santa’ - and sing all of those barbershop style background vocals. The western rhythm section and the 50’s sounding hollow body guitars (played by my friend, Gene Siegel) — are so irresistibly nostalgic to me. The track captures the classic childhood ‘anticipation of Christmas’ buoyancy that I was hoping for. It certainly captures the way I felt at Christmas time as a kid. I wanted to be so good for Santa - and it was so incredibly difficult. My sister and I were always squabbling, or snooping for presents. One year, in the middle of the night, we unwrapped every single one of our gifts, then wrapped them all back up and put them back under the tree. Our wrapping skills were terrible, but not worse than our ‘mock surprise’ faces on Christmas morning. Everyone in the family knew what we’d done. We were so naughty. We just couldn’t wait until Christmas morning, I guess. It was too much - too exciting. We had no self control.

MB: How about “Please Come Home”? This one hits hard right out of the gate with a solid bluesy beat – amazing song.

RS: Thank you so much! There was quite a talented crew on this piece. Jon Kubis produced the track, Griff Hamlin played those hard hitting guitars, and I wrote the song with my friend Gene Black (former guitarist for the late Joe Cocker). Anyway, “Please Come Home” is a blues-rock song about reconciliation and redemption. For someone with a lot of stubborn pride, the most excruciating thing can be to admit when I’m wrong. I’m a very passionate person, so it’s not easy to hold back what I’m feeling - whether it’s the good, warm fuzzy stuff, or the bad stuff. I’m not a passive-aggressive person - I’m just up front and honest about all of it, which can be really constructive at times, and incredibly destructive on occasion. I’ve known people who live lives of pride, with big foolish walls - and no room for error is offered to others - and I’ve never wanted to live that way. There wasn’t a specific scenario that this song was written about, but I have certainly felt the painful tug of war between pride and reconciliation. The holidays provide space for self reflection - but it can be so hard to pick up that phone and call that person who deserves an apology from you. It’s a brave act to make that call - without pride, without expectation. You give that person a gift of compassion when you yield to taking the initiative. Even if there isn’t immediate forgiveness, the planting of the seed being intentional - provides healing on some level. Christmas can be so many things. Not all of them feel fruitful or look like a holiday spread from Better Home & Gardens. Every year is different. Some years feel like failure seasons. Some years feel like a total blur. Sometimes, the holidays are messy, because we’ve been messy and careless or experienced painful losses. This song provides a space for confession, extending the olive branch, and hopefully, forgiveness and mercy. I hope it encourages someone to give up their pride, and wear their heart on their sleeve a bit.

MB: OK – one more. Please tell us about “Santa Won’t You Hurry.”

RS: This song features the awesome Amy Keys on background vocals! I was so happy that she was in town and available! She tours with Phil Collins every year, but due to the pandemic, she was in town - and I was so glad to have her sing on this track. I love her voice. It’s like rich, velvety butter. On sax, is my friend George Shelby, who killed the solo on this song! Every time I hear his solo, it makes me smile. Tom produced the track - and gave it a classic 60’s feel. I love the tight rhythm section, those big piano glisses and the modulation at the end- it’s all very big, festive and fun.

From a songwriting perspective, it’s about longing and waiting to be with the one you love at Christmas time. Not even the highest octane holiday celebrations can take the place of being with the one you love during the holiday season. I’ve had a few broken hearts, but the one I channeled for this song was my first heartbreak as a 14 year old freshman in high school. There was this really cute guy - a senior at my school who had been leaving insanely romantic letters in my locker. I had never received that kind of attention before, and it was completely intoxicating. Sometimes, his letters were written in Spanish, so on one occasion, I asked my Spanish teacher to translate one of his letters for me. Oh, man, My face turned so red while he read that letter. It was beyond embarrassing! Anyway, I wasn’t allowed to date yet. I was only permitted to talk to this guy on the phone. So, for 2 months, we talked every single night for hours – and I was head over heels! I begged my Dad to let me go out with him, but there was no budging. On the last day of school before winter break, while packing up my locker - I saw my crush kissing another girl quite passionately in the hallway. I was devastated - frozen in place, but I said nothing. I dragged myself home, and barely came out of my room for 2 weeks. I called him up over the holidays, but he told me that he had moved on. I went to the mall a few times over the holiday break with my older sister, desperately hoping I might run into him. It was an absolutely excruciating first heartbreak. 

I’m so glad to have had that experience to pull from for this song - because I wanted it to have a youthful, teenager vibe. The listener might never know there was a broken heart involved, because the song is not sad at all - it’s a blast! It’s got that spirit of, “Hey! It’s Christmas! Anything can happen!” It’s that faithful optimism that flips the vibe and makes it fun. I think people will relate to this song because we all want to be with the ones we love at Christmas. This song isn’t just ‘fun’ Christmas - it’s real Christmas, and it comes from a real experience that most people have had at least once in their lives.

MB: You recorded some standards on ‘Tis the Season, including a beautiful rendition of “All Through the Night.” Are these some of your personal favorites? They blend so well with your original songs.

RS: I’m so happy to hear that! Yes, these standards are a few personal favorites. The first time I heard “Santa Baby,” I think I was 9 years old. I thought, “Who is this awful good girl? Does anyone actually give her ALL of this stuff?!” As a writer, I admire the craftsmanship so much. It’s such a cool song - there’s no other like it. Hats off to the songwriters, Joan Javits and Phil Springer! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during those writing sessions. Anyway, it was so much fun to arrange the background vocals - and I loved developing the character voice for the lead vocal. She makes me laugh, but I’m sure this song frightens every man to death.

“Santa Claus is Comin to Town” is irresistible to me. There was no question that we needed to do a version of it. Even though the song is naturally chock-full of kid appeal, I wanted to bring out the child-like fun of the song just a little bit more. That’s where the inspiration for the background vocals came from, “So you better be good because Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and all the “Doot - Doots.” There’s a little ‘Dolly-ism’ at the end as well (Dolly Parton is a huge influence in my life). I couldn’t help myself. I pictured her talking to a gaggle of kids with her hands on her hips saying, “So, you better be reeeeeaaaal nice… ‘Cuz Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town!” And just like that, I picture the kids scrambling to pick up their toys, brush their teeth, get into their jammies and put themselves to bed. Jon Kubis produced the track, and I think it’s just perfect — I’m so glad he was up for it and available. It came out so well!

“All through the Night/The Holly & the Ivy” was recorded in late March of 2020, a week after we were put on stay-at-home orders. All that week, from March 13th on, I woke up with “All Through the Night” running through my head. I had heard the song many times over the years, but the most powerful connection I made with it was during a scene from “The Sopranos” where Meadow is singing the song in the choir. Simultaneously, Chris has hell to pay in a torturous scene out on the dock. It’s so haunting. It had been a few years since I’d seen the show, so it seemed odd that the song and that particular scene were on the front burner in my mind. I thought I should take it seriously, so I decided to record a guitar/vocal version of it. I arranged a piano/vocal that wove in “the Holly & the Ivy” (I’ve always loved the melody), and called my friend Michael NOMAD Ripoll to play guitars. I asked him to put a little Italian flair on it (he happens to be Italian) and man - did he deliver! He sent the guitar parts a few days later, and I must have played it 10 times - in awe of what he’d done. It’s stunning! As the album developed, I wondered where this song would fit — it’s so different from the other tracks in the collection. It wasn’t until I listened to it as the final track, that it made perfect sense. Symbolically, the chaos of the last few years was ‘the night’ ie., Chris out on the doc. The angel singing in the church aka “Meadow” is the more compassionate nature in all of us, if we’re willing to yield to it. In context, the timing and content of this album is like the big festive party after a long war - and “All Through the Night” is like the angels watching over us saying, “Whew! That was rough. Peace, children. All is well. Let this feeling of belonging settle in your hearts, and keep you civilized - all through the night.”

MB: Are you playing any shows through the holidays, so the lucky SoCal folks can hear you sing these live?

RS: I’m performing live, but mostly for private events this year. My hope is that by next year I’ll be able to book a holiday tour or do a series of holiday shows here in California with the guys who played on both Christmas records. Hopefully we’ll be out of the ‘Covid woods’ in 2022. I am hopeful.

MB: Did you have any ‘co-workers’ at home with you during the pandemic? My canine co-worker buddy Whitley has recently been joined by Miss Millie, a tiny little mini-doxie. They are great company, and I swear that Whitley is learning to speak English. Any co-workers at your place?

RS: Yes! My beloved cat, Sebastian. He is very needy, and sooooo cute! He’s the kind of cat you could love on all day, all night - and it still wouldn’t be enough for him. He really needs a mommy. I’m sure his meow is on some of the vocal tracks. He’s very vocal, and expressive. I don’t mind, except for when he yells at 4 in the morning. Sing on the records all you want Batchie, but don’t wake me up!

MB: Rehya, you should be very proud of this album. You’ve captured the spirit of Christmas with your music, and it makes me so happy when I listen to it. I’ll close this by repeating back your own words from a message to your fans, “Let’s celebrate and love one another”. Words we need in these times. Thank you Rehya!

RS: Amen! Thank you, Aaron. Happy holidays to you & yours:)

-Aaron Henton (of Merry And Bright!)





What is your name? 
Rehya Stevens 

What is your genre of music?
I’m  a mish-mash of a lot of things; Pop, Soul, Dance, Gospel, Jazz and occasionally, folk. I just released a Christmas album called ‘Tis the Season – of 8 originals and 3 classics, that incorporates almost all of those genres. That’s part of the fun of making holiday music – you’re not boxed in. It’s all welcome to the festive table.

Give us a little bio about you for those new to your music.
I’m an artist, singer-songwriter by nature and a happy studio rat who loves production. I make music from the heart, whether it’s for my own self expression, or for other artists. I’ve released 3 LP’s –  two are Christmas albums (Celebrate and ‘Tis the Season), and one is a non-seasonal album called Vintage Love. I released a 6-song debut EP years ago, called Rehya Stevens that’s still floating around out there. I’ve been fortunate to have placed many songs in movies, tv shows and ads, and I thoroughly enjoy the connections with my listeners/friends who I’ve met at live shows and releases over the years. We keep in touch through Friends of Rehya at You get 3 free tracks when you sign up and fun, interactive updates about music, life and much more. It’s a fun space to be in.

What made you go into music?
From the time I was a toddler, my parents say I was ‘studying’ music. I’d sit in my rocking chair, and listen to the same records over and over and over again. I’ve always found music to be endlessly entertaining and therapeutic. I believe that great songs are great healers, so I’m compelled to contribute to the vast musical conversation for mankind – as lofty as that may sound. I love the way music heals us, moves us, teaches us – like no other medium. I think it’s the language my soul understands the best, so it’s the most natural way to communicate the yearnings and struggles in my own life. It’s also a fabulous escape from all the ‘life’ stuff.

Who are your influences?
I have many! Stevie Wonder, Sade, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Mariah Carey, Shania Twain, Amy Grant, George Michael, Bing Crosby, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Carole King, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Michael Buble, Dua Lipa, Kacey Musgraves, Leonard Cohen, Gwen Stefani, John Prine … any so many more. Did I mention I’m a mish-mash?

You released your Christmas album ‘Tis The Season this year. Tell us more about why you chose to release a Christmas album.
Through the dreariness of the past few years, I was compelled to make music with a universal, welcoming message. Nothing does that quite like Christmas music. Everyone wants to feel welcome. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone needs a joyful reprieve from the relentless pace of day to day life. We’ve been so divided politically, and so isolated by the pandemic. All I know is,  in the wake of such a harrowing time, the more of this seasonal music I made, the better I felt. It was a welcome escape from reality,  and comforting to hold a positive vision for the future – that we might commune one day with more joy, compassion and gratitude for each other. I hope these songs provide a reminder of the common ground we share, and that they bring smiles to many, many faces.

Describe each track in two words?

‘Tis the Season: High octane
Wonderland of Winter: Enchanting, panoramic
The Old Red Sleigh: Buoyant, fantastical
Marry me for Christmas: Romantic, melting
Christmas in my Heart: Gentle, elegant
Christmas is Coming Soon: Charming, engaging
Santa, Won’t You Hurry?: Passionate, festive
Please Come Home: Raw, soulful
Santa Baby: Coquettish, extravagant
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town: Infectiously joyful 
All Through the Night/The Holly & the Ivy: Soul soothing

Who did you work with for the writing and production?

On the writing front, here’s the scoop:

Tom Keane and I wrote “Wonderland of Winter” and “Santa Won’t You Hurry.” 
Jon Kubis and I wrote “‘Tis the Season,”
Gene Black and I wrote “Please Come Home” 
NOMAD and I arranged and produced “All Through the Night/The Holly & the Ivy.” 
I wrote “The Old Red Sleigh,” “Marry Me for Christmas,” “Christmas in My Heart” and “Christmas is Coming Soon.” 

At the helm of production, Tom Keane produced “The Old Red Sleigh,” “Christmas is Coming Soon,” “Wonderland of Winter,” “Santa Won’t You Hurry” and “Christmas in my Heart” (which he co-produced with Jon Kubis).

Jon Kubis produced “‘Tis the Season,” “Marry Me for Christmas,”  “Christmas in my Heart,” “Please Come Home” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”

Gardner Cole produced “Santa Baby” and NOMAD and I produced “All Through the Night/The Holly & the Ivy.”

I recorded and produced the lead vocals for all the songs on the album. I recorded and arranged the background vocals for “‘Tis the Season,” “Marry Me for Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” “Santa Baby” and “Please Come Home” in my home studio as well.

Will we see an EP, Album or Single in 2022  and if so what can we expect from it?
There will definitely be at least one single from an artist I wrote a song for recently, and if all goes as planned, I’ll release a new album in late summer of 2022.

Do you have any collaborations in the works for 2022?
I do! Well, plans are loosely lined up. In December it’s, ‘hey, let’s make plans in the new year’ – then January comes, and everyone is more realistically prioritising  their new projects – so things usually take shape in February. I have a few producers and artists in mind who I’d love to work with early in the year. If all goes well, that will inform the rest of 2022. I don’t want to name names just yet, but I will as soon as we’re rolling.

Will we see any live shows and if so where can we find the ticket links.
I hope to have more news on the performing front come spring of 2022. Until then, I’ll be in the studio until we’re out of the ‘covid woods’ – hopefully we won’t be in them indefinitely.

What else can we expect at the end of 2021/ Early 2022?
I’m still fresh on the heels of releasing ‘Tis the Season, but I’m excited to make another album, and write for other artists. I would love to have a new album out by late summer of 2022, and release a few singles with other artists before then. We’ll see how the work flows, but that’s my current plan

Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
I’d love to be living in the country with a bunch of animals, and have a beautiful studio – perhaps in a she-shed (I’m obsessed with she-sheds). I’d love to be living closer to my family, and be able to employ my niece and nephew to hold down my little homestead while I’m on tour. To have a successful holiday Broadway musical would be a dream come true. I’d  love to be writing songs for future classic movies and working with some of the composers I admire so much. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are just a few. 

What quote or saying do you always stick by?
Oh! Do I just get one? Ok, I’ll go with, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, or say nothing at all.”

When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget? 

  1. Flip flops for trekking back to the car after hours in high heels
  2. In-ear monitors if they’re not already provided
  3. Bare minerals original mineral veil powder
  4. My phone and charger
  5. Lipstick & lipliner