About the Artist
A Multi-Talented Free Spirit
New York singer/songwriter native Bradley Gillis has made Dublin, Ireland his home. When he's not charming intimate venues with his soulful, jazzy tones, he effortlessly works a crowd in larger rock venues. Bradley's on-stage presence is larger than life but yet he maintains a friendly and personable disposition. At his gigs, this artist can seamlessly fuse rock, pop and latin with reggae and a touch of hip hop. Bradley, a seasoned guitarist himself, has his pick of accomplished musicians from which to choose for his live performance sets. His energy and passion for his craft is boundless. He interacts with his audience, them with him and the dance-floor quickly fills. Bradley is a smooth operator and a joy to watch on stage.
The Backstory: The Making of Santa Claus is Rockin'
Simon Shire (Executive Producer / Producer)
“Santa Claus is Rockin’ is a song for kids about kids (and the older variety too!). I had some children’s charities in mind for a yuletide release when conjuring up the crazy notion of producing a Christmas song. Having the good fortune at the time to be studying at the iconic Windmill Lane Studios (Pulse College) in Dublin, I had access to a world-class studio, a Neve desk and a multitude of legendary musicians who have worked the biggest names in the industry (see bio below). Windmill has recorded U2, The Cranberries, Van Morrison, Metallica and The Spice Girls to name but a few, and more recently, the likes of Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Nile Rogers, Snow Patrol, Kodaline, The Script and Hozier.
Being an impoverished mature student, I most certainly did not have the means, however. But if there’s a will, there’s always a way! I called my brother Glen in July to ask would he be interested in writing a Christmas classic - no biggy, right? The very next day Glen had written Santa Claus is Rockin’. The tune had immediate appeal. It was cheerful, memorable and catchy even at the raw vocals-and-acoustic-guitar stage. In my mind I had a clear vision of the end result - you have to - but how to execute it, stay true to the song, and finance a large-scale production was a different matter entirely. After deciding on vocalist Bradley Gillis from New York (who’d long since made Dublin his home) to lend a touch of class with his velvet tones, it was time to assemble the A-team of music’s heavyweights. Windmill backed the project from the outset and facilitated access to some of the very finest musicians one could ever hope to secure for a major recording session.
The next hurdle was the music video. I managed to arrange a meeting with Maurice Linnane who happened to be no stranger to making videos/documentaries for the biggest bands in the world...I hate to name-drop...but I have to! He has worked with U2 and the Foo Fighters. Maurice was the perfect gentleman, saw the appeal and took on the project. The majority of the song and video was recorded and filmed in one, long, exhausting October day. Maurice, his set designer and film crew pulled out all the stops and produced nothing short of a festive miracle. The one-day shoot however meant that a children’s choir, the brass section and backing singers do not appear in the video…but you can’t have it every way.
Now for the bells and whistles. We had lead vocals, piano, bass guitar, drums, electric and acoustic guitars and strings recorded but the vision was far from reality yet in terms of arrangement. The song was intended for kids and the inclusion therefore of a sizeable children’s choir (18-strong together with conductor) was a no-brainer. Piccolo Lasso choir worked their vocal and harmonic wizardry a couple of weeks later, after which we laid down saxophones and trumpets on the same night. Simply stunning. A few nights later, our powerhouse backing singers completed the team and simply nailed it with performances that elevated the song to an anthem. Finally, Gavin, our co-producer, added some bells (literally!) and a sprinkling of sound effects dust before Alan Kelly, Engineer set about the mammoth mix-down process on Pro Tools.
The recording/mixing took over a month and the entire process five months. And then there’s annual promotion of the song...which is a whole other story I will share some day!
Our session musicians demonstrated a master-class on how to record to industry standard. First take! Precious time-saving like this optimised a tight budget. Those guys were top of their game and it was a privilege to watch them in action. I distinctly recall too (after bass, drums, piano and guitars were laid down) the poignant beauty of the strings arrangement by Joe Csibi (bio below) which grace the song with that lush, warm texture. At this point I knew we were on to something special. Another high point in terms of evoking the merriment of Christmas was the addition of two bass/tenor sax and trumpet/piccolo trumpet, which to me became the hook lines of the latter choruses. The horns add a vintage quality to a modern mix and a virtuosity you would expect from the best in the business who have worked with Van the Man.
We have accomplished what we set out to achieve when we bring a smile to children at Christmas…and hopefully Santa Claus is Rockin’ will remain with them forever as a soundtrack to their Decembers.
All going well, Santa Claus is Rockin’ (which saw a collaboration of over 50 like-minded people come together) will take a place in the annals of music history. Being an independent production without the might and resources of a major label, it has not been without its struggles. But if it makes it, I know it has done so wholly on its own merits as a great Christmas tune I had the great honour to create.”
Glen Shire (writer – music and lyrics)
“Santa Claus is Rockin’ is a musical interpretation of the innocence of a child’s limitless imagination at Christmas. It is also an attempt to offer ‘grown-ups’ a magic carpet ride back to that perfect, blissful place in their childhood memories. While the festive season promises to be thrilling for most children who believe in it, it can be an extremely depressing time for some adults and children alike who are not so fortunate. With that in mind, the lyrics offer up pointers and imagery to help reconnect one’s self to a happier version of themselves when life was sweet, innocent and uncomplicated. Everybody has a sweet spot in their memory bank no matter what hardships have befallen them. Therefore, it is important to go back sometimes, particularly if you are feeling low, to revisit that happy memory or safe place and remember what it was like all over again. That for me is the spirit and heart of the song: reflecting, rebooting and rewarding yourself.
Rhythmically, it is intended as a party song, a festive anthem, an ode to Santa Claus and above all, a salutation to children of all ages during the season of goodwill. Musically, it was a dream come true to have a ten-buck guitar track transformed and crafted into something only big record labels could ever make possible. Thanks to my younger brother Simon and his unyielding determination, he allocated all the right people for the job. That was crucial. I was thrilled when New Yorker Bradley Gillis came onboard and sang with the Piccolo Lasso children’s choir from Dublin. They all interpreted the melody and mood perfectly.
It was an honour to have such a calibre of great musicians, vocalists, engineers and top-notch professionals involved, without whose help none of it could have been achievable. It is just amazing to think what teamwork can accomplish when people work together on one unified goal. This is our little Christmas gift to the world and I sincerely hope that at least it brings a sprinkle of joy to all that hear it.”
Maurice Linnane (Music Video Director)
“Working with Gavin (Gavin Murphy, co-producer/piano/choir arrangement) is always a joy musically – getting him in front of the camera this time was a nice bonus.”
“You have no idea how hard it is to source Christmas trees in October – pumpkins no problem but Christmas trees…”
“I think Bradley is going to be a real star…and I’ve worked with a few stars.”
“We shot the piece on a mixture of Canon 5Ds and Panasonic G2s with a bunch of nice primes. And this was the first piece I edited on Final Cut Pro X. I was delighted with how it all panned out.”
Tony Perrey (Director of Windmill Lane Recording Studios)
“We were delighted to be involved with the recording of Santa Claus is Rockin’. We have great hopes for this song. It was recorded here in Windmill Lane Studios with a star-cast team of musicians, great producers and a first-rate engineer. This song joins an extensive list of songs recorded at Windmill by top artists. We wish the whole team the best and can’t wait to hear it on the radio playlists!”
Michael Buckley (bass and tenor sax) - regarded as the most important and influential musician on the Irish jazz scene, saxophonist and composer Michael Buckley has been playing professionally since the age of six when critics hailed him as a child prodigy (playing with legendary George Coleman at only ten!). Michael has made numerous television appearances, regularly works on film and television scores and has collaborated on recordings with Donovan, the Cranberries, The Corrs, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Mathis and Glen Hansard (Once/the Frames). Michael is also renowned as the top session player and arranger in his field.
Ronan Dooney (trumpets) - one of the most sought-after session musicians in Ireland. He has played on films including The Commitments and The General. He has worked with myriad artists including Shirley Bassey, The Corrs, Brian Adams, Oasis and even the immortal Bing Crosby.
Gavin Murphy (co-producer/piano/choir arrangement) – when not arranging music, directing music or conducting orchestras, Gavin has worked with artists as diverse as Van Morrison, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mike Scott (The Waterboys), Sinead O’Connor, Westlife, The Irish Tenors, Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet), Johnny Mathis, The Chieftains, RTE Concert Orchestra, RTE Symphony Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir.
Anthony ‘Anto’ Drennan (guitars) - an Irish guitarist noted for his involvement with Genesis, Mike & The Mechanics, Chris Rea and The Corrs among others.
Keith Duffy (bass) - best known for his long-standing support role in The Corrs. From 1990, he played bass with Commitments’ star Andrew Strong for 4 years and then toured with the Commitments band for a year. He has accompanied The Corrs on all of their tours and played on many of their studio recordings.
Jason Duffy (drums) - considered one of the foremost drummers in Ireland. Artist credits include The Corrs.
Joe Csibi (strings composer/arranger/conductor) - the list is too long! Joe has worked with every folk/country/traditional Irish band and musician of note including internationally celebrated The Chieftains. He is the backbone of the world-renowned Wexford Opera Festival. His music department filmography includes Fame: The Musical, Kubrick By Candlelight and Riverdance: Live à l’Arena de Genève.