September 12, 2011

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Musical Director Ron Melrose & ‘Season’s Greetings: A Jersey Boys Christmas’ Album Special Sneak Peek!

September 12th, 2011

JB Christmas Album

As recently reported, Santa Claus will be making a very special delivery to Jersey Boys and Four Seasons’ fans across the globe earlier than usual this year! On October 4, Rhino will release SEASON’S GREETINGS: A JERSEY BOYS CHRISTMAS!

The Jersey Boys Christmas album hit the “trifecta,” to quote Tommy DeVito, with three Grammy Award-winning musical geniuses behind it: Bob Gaudio was the producer; Ron Melrose was musical director and arranger; and Pete Karam was the engineer.

It was a marvelous pleasure to speak with Jersey Boys’ musical director and vocal arranger Ron Melrose, who was so gracious with his time as he shared an exciting preview of the upcoming Christmas recording! Ron chatted about how the idea for this amazing holiday recording happened; the handpicked vocal trio who will be heard throughout the album; the seven guest star ‘Frankies’ from all over the world; the new technologies used in this recording; and the creative process behind this very special upcoming release. We are thrilled to share this interview with Jersey Boys Blog readers!

Jersey Boys Blog: Thank you so much, Ron, for taking the time to chat about ‘Season’s Greetings: A Jersey Boys Christmas’ album. Jersey Boys and Four Seasons fans are so excited and are counting down for the October 4th release date from Rhino! How did the idea for the Christmas album come about?

Ron Melrose: As you know, I go around to all of the Jersey Boys Companies, all over the world, watching performances, making sure that the sound and performances are staying fresh. Last spring, in March, I was watching the show in Las Vegas. In between Act One and Act Two, ushers were in the theatre selling the Original Broadway Cast CD.

At that time, I was thinking, ‘How do you follow up a platinum album?’

I was wishing there could be a follow-up album, because enough people loved the first one to turn it platinum, and it would be nice to reward those listeners with a brand-new ‘companion’ to the first album. The light bulb went on and I thought, ‘How about a Jersey Boys Christmas record?’ that would include both sacred and secular favorites.

Over the years, as you know, cast members have done some holiday songs at events in cities such as at Union Square in San Francisco, in Chicago, in Toronto, and in New York.

So, I talked to Bob Gaudio, who thought it was a great idea, and obviously, the only person to produce it would be Bob! We checked with Michael David, to see if we could do this follow-up. He agreed that it was a great idea as well, so we took it to Rhino, and they also thought it was a fantastic idea.

JBB: With everyone in agreement that the Jersey Boys Christmas recording was an awesome idea, what happened next? I’m curious–with many thousands of holiday songs, how tough was it to come up with just the right ones for such a Jersey Boys-specific project?

RM: After the idea was accepted, I flew to Nashville, and Bob & I came up with 15-20 Christmas song titles and talked about the way we would do them. It was Bob’s idea to include the Frankie Valli from every company—so there are five companies, and in Vegas, they have two Frankies who play equal shows, and we included the original Broadway Frankie who won the Tony Award–John Lloyd Young—so we had seven Frankies total.

We decided that each Frankie would be featured on two tracks, and we’d end with a song featuring all seven of them.

JBB: I love hearing how you came up with the idea, and then you and Bob Gaudio immediately collaborated on so many great plans from the very beginning. What is it about Bob that makes him such a great collaborator and producer?

RM: Bob is a certified studio genius — the record may have started as my idea, but he was in there slugging on every creative decision every step of the way, from conception to final mix — and working with him was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from a master. These songs could not have had a better producer than Bob, and I honestly doubt that there is a better producer than Bob. If that sounds like a bad case of hero worship, so be it.

JBB: Did all of the Frankies come in at once to a studio, or did you & Bob travel to see them, considering they’re literally all over the globe?

RM: It was quite the process to record the Frankies. I’ll get to that story soon, but first, I want to tell you about the trio we selected for vocal support. We handpicked these vocalists: Erik Bates (Hank Majewski on Broadway), Michael Ingersoll (Nick Massi for the entire run in Chicago), and Kristofer McNeeley (who recently ended playing Hank in Vegas) as our Tommy, Bob, and Nick. Not every single song on the recording is a four-part harmony of The Four Seasons; there are some songs that have a choir sound, and some solos, but these three guys did an incredible job throughout the recording! Erik and Michael have feature moments on the recording, and although Kristofer does not have a feature, he too, was spectacular! So, we spent four days recording with these guys in Nashville.

I’m telling you–if you ever need a trio, these guys are the ones for the job (chuckles)!

JBB: What about the Frankies? How tough was it to arrange their recording sessions with their demanding schedules?

RM: Well, of course we’re in cahoots with the stage managers regarding the schedules. We had four Frankies come to Nashville within a seven-day period. Travis Cloer, Rick Faugno, and John Lloyd Young all came on separate days, then Joe Bwarie came into town when he was in between locations. Jarrod Spector was working on a new piece in Poughkeepsie, New York, and he came in for his recordings close to the time we were ready to mix.

JBB: So, what about the London and Australian Frankies? Did they visit Nashville, or did you travel to their locations?

RM: Both Ryan Molloy and Bobby Fox have great music directors in each of their companies, so it was all done via Skype. We listened to the recording on the phone! It’s a weird world, if you think about it. Here I was in LA, negotiating phrasing with Bob in Nashville, while Ryan and London music director Nick Finlow were listening from a recording studio in London! I didn’t go to bed that night, so the recording began at 4AM my time, while Bob got up early at 6AM, and Ryan and Nick did the recording during normal hours.

This was the first time we had used Skype in a recording session and we were transported to another place. We hung up and Bob and I were on the phone saying, ‘Okay, I thought that was great!’—from what were heard through the telephone!

For the Sydney recording, Bob and I were together at his NYC apartment, eating Chinese food while we worked with Bobby and his musical director Luke Hunter.

It all worked out so great—four of my favorite tracks were done via Skype and we were able to do a grand finale, even though we never had these voices together in the same place at one time. It was so much fun as we were watching an artist work, snapping something into focus, and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.

JBB: Speaking of all the Frankies, how did you and Bob Gaudio decide which ‘Frankie’ would sing which song? Was it a gut instinct, such as, ‘Ryan would do a great job singing ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Joe’s voice was made to sing ‘Jingle Bell Rock’? Or, did the Frankies have a say-so in which tracks they’d be singing?

RM: Bob and I assigned the songs to the seven ‘Frankies’ based on what we perceived were the biggest strengths of each of them, although in all honesty, they are all extraordinary musicians of solo caliber, and I’m sure each one of them could make any track on the record his own. Since the ‘math’ worked out that each of them would sing lead on two tracks, we also tried to make sure each Frankie’s two tracks were different enough from one another, to allow each of them to dazzle us with two different performance styles.

JBB: Upon hearing the news of ‘Season’s Greetings: A Jersey Boys Christmas’ album release, I immediately thought about ‘The Four Seasons Greetings’ album that I have loved listening to every holiday season for a lifetime! I have a feeling the new Jersey Boys holiday recording will bring that kind of joy to fans as well!

RM: These arrangements were designed to include moments of special ‘Christmas ear candy’ for fans of Jersey Boys and The Four Seasons. You’ll be listening and you’ll catch yourself saying, ‘Wait a minute, that’s ‘Moody’s Mood for Love’!’ Then, you’ll hear traces of ‘Bye, Bye Baby.’ Then, there’s the ‘Big 3’ Santa Claus medley! The new recording is like a love letter to the previous recordings and fans will be getting a big surprise under the tree!

JBB: What was the biggest challenge and the most exciting part of being musical director and arranger of the Jersey Boys Christmas album? What was the most exciting part?

RM: I’d say the biggest challenge of making any record, and certainly this record, is the fact that you pretty much have to hear it in your head in complete form before anyone walks into a studio and actually sings or plays anything. In the case of this album, after Bob and I discussed each track on that Nashville weekend, I sketched out each track as a fully fleshed-out arrangement, from intro to ending. The next step was synthesizer sequencing, which turned the on-paper sketches into (very incomplete) audio files. After the synthesizer tracks were recorded, I wrote “on-paper” parts for the live guitarist, live drummer, myself on keyboards, and (on one song) a flugelhorn soloist. Those parts were what we were reading, and those audio files were what we were playing in sync to, when we laid down the live instruments in New York in the middle of June. Then, we put down the background vocals, then the soloists, and finally we did editing and mixing with Pete. So there was never a “big day” with a grand recording session with a band playing, a background trio singing, and seven Frankies each with his own mic. In fact, no two Frankies were ever in the room on the same day!

But if that step-by-step layering process was the biggest challenge, it was also the most exciting part — like building a cathedral in your head, then watching it actually rise to the sky using real stones and real spires…

JBB: As a big fan of both The Four Seasons and Jersey Boys, the idea of the Jersey Boys Christmas album and how it all came together sounds magical! Do you have one or two personal favorite tracks from the album, or is it too tough to pick just one or two?

RM: As for trying to pick favorite tracks — every track is on the album for a reason, and every track is an important piece of the puzzle. A couple of the tracks make me giggle, and a couple make me cry…How could I choose? I will, however, be really interested in which tracks become favorites of JERSEY BOYS fans, and will be constantly checking the “comments” section of the Blog once the recording is released on October 4th!


  1. I was excited to hear the news about the JB Christmas Album a few weeks ago, but after reading this great interview with Ron Melrose and how it all came together, I’m even more excited for “Santa” ( to deliver this CD!

    Comment by TeresaJ — September 12, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

  2. I’ve missed your JBB Exclusive interviews. Your interview with Ron Melrose was excellent! Looking so forward to this recording.

    Comment by JC — September 12, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  3. Great behind the scenes reporting on how an album comes to fruition! It really sounds like a special recording and not just another Christmas compilation. I love how it pulls in Moody’s and Four Seasons’ songs!

    Comment by Caroline Smith — September 12, 2011 @ 6:20 pm

  4. Fantastic interview with Mr. Melrose! Loved reading about the entire creative process.

    Congratulations to Ron Melrose, Bob Gaudio, all of the talented vocalists, and everyone else who worked on this album. It’s definitely going to make this holiday season a merrier one.

    Comment by Jan — September 13, 2011 @ 6:29 am

  5. I go way back with the “4 Seasons Greetings” album that I loved & shared with my kids as they grew up. Looking forward to sharing the new “Season’s Greetings” recording with my kids (and grandkids!) this year.

    Comment by Phil — September 13, 2011 @ 6:34 am

  6. To paraphrase Norm Waxman: “Fabulous…article – [the Jersey Boys Blog] gets better and better.”

    Comment by David Cace — September 13, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  7. This is so wonderful to hear JBs are coming out with the Christmas CD. I’ve already got my CD pre-ordered. Can’t wait to get it.

    Comment by Lenora Antunes — September 13, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

  8. This was not just an interview; it was a true “Behind the Music” story. Wonderful reporting & really nice to hear about how the idea became a reality with such an incredibly creative team of musical geniuses and talented vocalists. My CD can’t come soon enough!

    Any chance you might be interviewing Bob Gaudio or any of the “Frankies”?

    Comment by Jerry — September 14, 2011 @ 10:34 pm

  9. As a lifelong FV4S fan this is exciting. The original Christmas album originally on VJ sounds as good today as it did when it got released in 1962. I wonder if Bob Crewe who produced the original and Frankie himself had any influence on this wonderful project?
    Hopefully Rhino and Warner Brothers will heavily promote it.

    Comment by Marty Hoffer — September 16, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

  10. Loved reading all the details from Ron Melrose from the concept to the finished product! I just listened to the preview clips on Amazon and just like all the other readers, I’m looking so forward to Christmas coming early! You guys really need to check out the audio clips!

    Comment by Lori Greene — September 27, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

  11. Thanks to everyone for your kind words about the JBB Exclusive Interview with Ron Melrose! It was a wonderful treat to speak w/Ron and we appreciate him sharing the “behind the music” story of this amazing recording!

    Comment by Susie — September 27, 2011 @ 10:30 pm

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