Local musicians team up for a holiday album that raises money for rural Alaska crisis shelters

Anchorage musician Andy Tholberg hated holiday music.

“I used to work in retail and I hated it,” joked Thorberg.

But that didn’t stop Tolberg, along with other local songwriters, from turning December’s ubiquitous soundtrack into a project to raise money for a crisis shelter in rural Alaska.

“Bright Lights” began in the winter of 2020 when Tholberg’s friend and fellow musician Chad Reynvaan suggested creating original holiday music as a genre-specific writing exercise.Ideas to culminate the effort A fundraising album arrived shortly after the project was launched.

It’s now a staple of the holiday season. “Bright Lights Vol. 3” is out this month and features 9 holiday songs by 10 local artists.

“It didn’t make much money in the first year, but it seems to be growing every year,” says Tholberg. “I want to make it a little staple every year.”

Most of the modern Christmas canon was recorded decades ago, and it can be difficult for new holiday songs to find an audience. But Anchorage musician and engineer James Glaves (who helped organize much of this year’s compilation) is pleasantly surprised by the quality of the album’s songs.

“Recording and writing Christmas songs is not easy,” said Graves. “It’s really, really hard to write something that isn’t funny and mundane.”

Graves collaborated as a performer on two tracks this year, “Bright Lights,” and has also mastered all of his previous albums.

“These are Christmas songs, but they’re generally really good songs,” he said. I am overwhelmed with.”

album cover of "Bright Lights Vol. 3" Designed by Stephanie Miller.

Songs across three albums cover a range of styles and sounds, from hilarious holiday prototypes to downbeat meditations.

“Some people write about really sad experiences, some aren’t sad, some are just happy Christmas songs,” he said.

Tholberg, Reynvaan and Glaves all have a long history as musicians in Alaska. Solberg recently played synth-heavy dark with his pop group, Hazia, and was in guitar-driven rock with his band, Ghost Hands with Glaves. Graves has medium experience with his builds and is one of the state’s top audio engineers. Reynvaan has played in numerous rock bands, including the Chromies and Jangle Bees, and also runs Wattage Studio.

Its long history has helped attract participation from the state’s top musicians.

SunDog frontwoman Abi Sparkman contributed to the first album. Fairbanks rockers The Casey Smith Project are regulars on this album. Alaskan music veterans Emma Hill and Matt Hopper recorded the song for Volume 2. Behind the scenes, local musician Matthew Witthoft helped organize his first two albums, along with Solberg and Rainvan.

“It’s very easy to get local artists involved in charity,” says Tholberg. “I think that helped her attend all three of them.”

Newcomers to Volume 3 include Dreamcat and Strawberry Friend, as well as Pepper Kit.

All proceeds from the album will go to the Tundra Women’s Coalition (Bethel), Hooper Bay Haven Shelter (Hooper Bay), Emmonak Women’s Shelter (Emonak), Bering Sea Women’s Shelter (Nome) and the Maniilaq Family Crisis Center (Kotzebue).

The “Bright Lights” album is $7 a copy and is available on bandcamp.com. Any additional donations made at the time of purchase will go to the shelter as well.

The album has corporate support from Ryan Air, where Tholberg works. Stefanie Miller, who designed her art for all three album covers, is a Ryan Air employee.

The song offers an opportunity for local artists to push their limits — Just as Reynvaan envisioned it at the beginning of the project.

“You don’t have to be yourself. You can use a disguise,” said Graves. “I think it gives people a chance to just put their heads down and try something different. Please do more of it.”

Graves said he was happy to be a part of “Bright Lights” and said it was also raising awareness of the very serious problem of domestic violence in Alaska.

“It’s not something big like six figures,” says Graves. “It’s a little money, but the fact that it will help at least a handful of people is (encouraging).”

Glaves and Tholberg notice that the purchase is still in Some of the previous albums hope this trend continues with the upcoming holidays.

“It’s a very serious issue that we’re trying to support, but at the end of the day, it’s also fun,” Graves said. “I’m so happy to be a part of it and I don’t see why it would stop.”

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