(Billboard) Go ahead and call Seth MacFarlane a renaissance man because no one fits the description better than he does.
With both an Oscar and Grammy nomination under his belt, the writer/singer/actor/producer/ director has recently completed his first-ever Christmas album, which includes collaborations with Norah Jones and Sara Bareilles.
The release, which will come out in time for the holiday season on Republic Records, follows his critically acclaimed 2011 debut, ‘Music Is Better Than Words’, and his 2013 Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song for co-writing “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from his smash movie, Ted.
Once again, MacFarlane teamed up with composer, arranger and producer Joel McNeely and a 52-piece orchestra recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios, featuring a bevy of London’s premier players. During these sessions, McNeely took over Studio 2, made famous by The Beatles. Among the musicians in the orchestra were jazz legend Peter Erskine on the drums and former Frank Sinatra bassist Chuck Berghoffer.
MacFarlane and McNeely cherry-picked both timeless holiday songs and lesser-known gems. MacFarlane tackles such chestnuts as “Let It Snow”, and brings a new interpretation to the Lee Gordon rarity “Christmas Dreaming.” Norah Jones joins him for Seger Ellis and Al Stillman’s “Little Jack Frost Get Lost”, while Sara Bareilles lends her pipes to Frank Loesser’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
MacFarlane, the creator of the animated series “Family Guy” and “American Dad!,” was the executive producer of “Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey,” the 13-part successor to Carl Sagan’s original scientific exploration of the universe. He made his feature directorial debut in 2012 with Ted, the highest-grossing original R-rated comedy of all time. A sequel is in the works and is set for release June 26, 2015. His latest feature, A Million Ways to Die in the West, comes out May 30, which he co-wrote, produced, directed and stars in. MacFarlane’s debut music album, ‘Music Is Better Than Words,’ entered the iTunes jazz charts at No 1, receiving a pair of Grammy nominations, including “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.” He hosted the 85th Academy Awards, where he was also a nominee.
McNeely is an Emmy Award-winning composer and conductor with more than 100 motion picture and television credits, having produced and arranged songs for such artists as Norah Jones, Sara Bareilles, Burt Bacharach, Natasha Bedingfield, The All-American Rejects, The Goo Goo Dolls,Mika, Carly Simon, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Linda Ronstadt, Rosemary Clooney and Jonathan Brooke. McNeely received a Grammy nomination for Outstanding Classical Crossover Album for ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’.
McNeely most recently composed the music for MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West. McNeely and MacFarlane wrote the original song “A Million Ways to Die” for the movie, which is performed by country music superstar Alan Jackson.