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Adam Weiner's New Song, 'Christmas Makes Me Cry,' Channels Holiday Loneliness

Adam Weiner's new track for <em>Morning Edition</em>'s Song Project is for people who feel isolated around the holidays, especially this year.
Gab Bonghi
Courtesy of the artist
Adam Weiner's new track for Morning Edition's Song Project is for people who feel isolated around the holidays, especially this year.

Adam Weiner sings and plays piano like an old school rock and roller in the band Low Cut Connie. Like so many musicians this year, Weiner saw all his gigs go up in smoke.

The first week of pandemic-related lockdowns, Weiner was depressed. Wondering what was going to happen next, he felt like he needed to make himself useful — and with that, essentially reimagined his job. It began with a single livestreamed performance, which turned into a twice-weekly variety show from his apartment. People tuned in to watch Weiner perform with his guitarist, and he started to realize he was providing a real service.

"We had nurses that were working right on the frontlines of a COVID-19 unit in New Jersey, and they started watching the show every Saturday and streaming it for the patients. They would send us pictures of the patients watching and the nurses dancing," he says. "It was like, 'Oh my God! We are reaching people!' And lifting their spirits during a time when they're totally isolated, 'cause that's what we are right now."

Weiner spoke with NPR's David Greene about translating holiday isolation into a new song, "Christmas Makes Me Cry." Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

David Greene: I know when our producer first talked to you about this project, one of the ideas floated was a Christmas song. You were not sold on that idea, initially.

Weiner:No, I wasn't. Because I never thought I would write a Christmas song.

You've never done it before?

No, and I had all kinds of mixed feelings about the Christmas season. [But] once he started talking about having me write about what it's like at Christmastime during a global pandemic, I knew what I had to do.

You said the title actually comes from a journal entry you wrote nearly 20 years ago: You were home on break from college, working as a perfume spritzer at a local mall.

It was just, like, soul-crushing. I'm covered with perfume, having all these weird interactions with people. And then, of course, I'm back in my parents' house. I would always get sad, very sad. I think a lot of people struggle with the holidays. It's very triggering for some people. So I wrote in my notebook, 20 years ago, "Christmas makes me cry."

It feels like it fits so well with what so many people are going through right now. They can't be together for Christmas, or they might be mourning the loss of someone who died or who's sick, or they've lost a job. There's a lot to cry about.

Absolutely. To me, the good aspect of the holidays is increased sympathy. It's a time when, suddenly, people become more altruistic, more neighborly. And then it fades. That always bothered me. But, here we are, during a global pandemic. Everybody is going through something, and everybody is feeling isolated, and everybody has experienced some form of grief. We all have neighbors and friends and relatives who have lost jobs and lost loved ones. We're all in the same boat. I thought that idea, that this is a time of year for sympathy and connectivity, it was important to highlight that.

You really pull off a lot of different emotions in the song. There are some funny lines, but you're certainly not joking. There's some edge, there's definitely some sympathy, and some sad. It's all in there.

I appreciate that. I wanted to write something that was dark and soulful, but with some lightness and humor shot through. Isn't that life? It's never all one thing. I'm fascinated by those emotional layers. Christmas is a day of many emotional layers: The feelings that one is feeling about the joy of the season, for somebody else it might be the saddest day of the year. We just have to have that sense of sympathy for each other, that everybody's feeling a lot of things on that day.

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David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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