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The Long Winters' John Roderick Talks Christmas Music, Becoming Mayor of Seattle

Back in 2006, The Long Winters released Putting the Days to Bed, one of that year's best efforts, but various personal issues resulted in frontman John Roderick taking an extended leave of absence. Since then, he's appeared as a sideman on efforts by Death Cab for Cutie and Nada Surf, but a new Long Winters album has continued to be just a rumor.

Thankfully, a Christmas project co-written with singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton seems to have re-energized Roderick. Speaking from a tour stop in Tulsa and in anticipation of Sunday night's show at the Granada Theater, Roderick spoke about his new Christmas album and what has kept him from releasing another record with the Long Winters for so long.

What was the genesis of the new Christmas album by you and Jonathan Coulton? Jonathan and I have been friends for a long time. We were just sitting around earlier this year, in the spring, and just joking about collaborating on an Easter record and a children's record. We both said "Christmas record" at the same time and we laughed and laughed. Then, we realized that was a pretty good idea. It was very spontaneous and, at first, tongue in cheek, but we got into it.

Did you originally think to do all new Christmas-themed songs or perhaps mix in some traditional holiday fare? We never intended to do any new songs. We were going to do the David Bowie/Bing Crosby album. We were going to cover "White Christmas" and go the traditional route. But when we started listening to traditional Christmas music, we realized that we didn't like most of it. Redoing those songs, even sitting and talking about it, we both got bored. Even so, we still didn't think we were going to record our own tunes. We decided to try and write a couple of songs and then get to the covers. Once we started writing, it grew out of control.

It seems like it's been decades since anyone wrote a decent Christmas song. Yes, that's true. And once we started going at it, songs just poured out of us. There was definitely a need in the world for new, modern, Christmas songs. We weren't being ironic. Neither one of us hates Christmas. We weren't being tongue and cheek about it. It was all pretty earnest.

How does the show with Jonathan work? Are you doing a whole night of Christmas music? I am playing a set of my own tunes and then Jonathan gets up and plays a set of his normal music. About halfway through, I come back and we do a little Christmas set in the middle of the show. We have a little something for everybody.

It's been a while since you've released a Long Winters record. Do you have a backlog of songs to work with on this tour? Most of the stuff I've been working on at home has not made it into the set. I have two new songs. New music from the Long Winters is still in the pipeline. I haven't finished a new record yet, but I am still working at it every day.

Any idea when the new album might see the light of day? After the last series of Long Winters show in 2008, I kind of went off the map for a couple of years. It's nice to get back out on the road. These shows are inspiring me. There is a big difference between being a musician at home staring at your computer and a musician that is out playing shows every night. The total experience has been good for me. It's going to get me back in the studio. I've had a lot of people helping me out. Let's hope the new album comes out in 2013. That seems like a good target for me.

Your father was in the Washington state legislature. Will you go into politics? My father died a couple of years ago and that was one of the things that threw me off. We had finished with the last Long Winters record and were touring and he got sick right after. That whole process was one of the things that derailed me in terms of knowing what to write about anymore and knowing what my place in the world was. He and I were really close. He was a good dad. That was just a couple of years where I was trying to sort out where I belonged. Politics does run in my family. My great uncle was a politician. My uncle was the mayor of Anchorage and my dad was in the Washington state legislature. People come to me all the time and tell me that I should run for office. I have been told that I am going to be the mayor of Seattle.

Mayor Roderick does have a nice ring to it. It does, but I have said a lot of fairly controversial things over the years. If I really ran a political campaign, my opponent would not have a hard time finding interesting quotes that I would have to defend. I would never disavow anything that I have said. One of the things that I hate about politicians is that they are so wiggly when it comes to standing their ground. My political campaign would be run on the premise that I stand by every word I have said.

I read where, back in 2006, you were named Seattle's third sexiest man. Could that be true? That's one of those possible stories. The first time I heard of that was in an interview years ago. They asked if it was true and I asked where did they read that. They said they saw it in a magazine. I have read that and heard that, but I have never seen the magazine. Now, it's not impossible that I was on tour and missed it.

Who could have been number one and two? I think that is the main reason why I think it could be a false story. Who possibly could be sexier than me in Seattle?

John Roderick performs with Jonathan Coulton on Sunday, December 2, at the Granada Theater.

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers

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