It took Caitlin Quisenberry five single releases in 2020 to catapult herself onto the radar of country music fans. In 2021, it took Quisenberry five single releases to have herself a career year and cement her as one of the premiere artists to watch as 2022 quickly approaches. The fruits of her 2021 labor have culminated in a modernized cover of “O Holy Night,” where Quisenberry not only adds a new bridge to the song, but also gets to put her classically-trained vocal skills on full display, adding a three-key change to the Christmas classic.
As “O Holy Night” quickly becomes her top-streamed single on Spotify, we caught up with Quisenberry to talk all about the song, as well as trusting herself musically, breaking industry norms and more!
Pro Country: There are plenty of holiday favorites that are played during this time of year. Can you talk about the significance of “O Holy Night” to you and why you decided to record the song?
Caitlin Quisenberry: The significance of this song is huge for me, as it’s completely woven into my life from a very early age. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know every word of this song. With my papaw being a Southern Baptist Minister, I grew up singing this in church during candlelight Christmas Eve services. Later, as a Pepperdine University vocal performance student, I performed this song with my choir. It is my favorite Christmas song because of its rich history and that it perfectly represents why we celebrate this time of year. I wanted to record this song to give my listeners a Christmas song from me, but more specifically, I wanted a digital representation of me singing my favorite song, so that one day when I’m long gone, my great-grandchildren can have a snippet of who I was, what I believed and what I was like as an artist.
PC: Is there a level of nerves or pressure that you feel as you were recording a song like “O Holy Night,” which has been a holiday staple and recorded by some of the biggest artists in music?
CQ: Absolutely! But my pressure came more from within than looking at others who have recorded it. I have great appreciation and admiration for those who have nailed this song, but I try not to compare myself, and know there is always room for another great version of an amazing song. I worried more about making sure the production was exactly how I wanted it to be than how people might compare me to other artists who have done this song.
PC: You added a new bridge to “O Holy Night” that helps to modernize the song. Can you talk about the challenge of adding a new element to a classic song and how much you enjoyed that process?
CQ: I had so much fun taking a classic and putting my own flair on it. It was crucially important to me to keep its original form and not to omit a single word; so my additions, like adding a new bridge, would become a modernization of the song or the icing on the cake, but in no way would it compromise the 200 year-old song.
PC: “O Holy Night” has quickly become your second most-streamed song on Spotify. What has the quick ascent of the song been like for you to see, especially as you made the song your own with the addition of your new bridge and how listeners have responded to it?
CQ: In all honesty, I am totally shocked. I never imagined it would garner that many streams.
The analytics I can see are crazy; at any given moment, I can see how many people are listening to the song in real time. I can see what states and countries it’s being streamed from. When the song got picked up on Spotify’s Country Christmas playlist, it really started to go crazy! I’m honored to be on that and so happy that so many people are enjoying it.
PC: You also added a three-key change in your version of “O Holy Night.” How much do you enjoy that kind of vocal challenge and showcasing your vocal range?
CQ: I loved it! I was able to really bring in my classical training. For years, the only music I sang was all about my vocal range: classical, acapella and opera were what I studied and performed while I was a student at Pepperdine. I thought it was important to show another side to my artistry, and I really enjoyed it!
PC: 2021 has been a breakout year for you as an artist. What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself as an artist this year, and what has been your favorite thing about this year?
CQ: I’ve really learned to trust myself. Everyone has opinions and I respect and listen to all of them, but at the end of the day, it’s my name on the music. For example, I was told to not put out a song much over three minutes because it won’t get the streams. “O Holy Night” is over five minutes and it’s becoming my most streamed song. Granted, it’s a Christmas cover so the typical rules may not apply as they would normally. Many told me that I was crazy for dropping a new single every three weeks and I should space it out more. At the time, I didn’t know if it was or not, but I went for it and the plan for building my monthly listeners went way up, so it worked. I started out at the beginning of September with 82 monthly listeners on Spotify and today I’m just shy of 56,000.
My favorite thing about this year was that I spent the past year preparing for all these releases: writing and recording a ton of music, and now I’m getting so see the results of all my work.
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
CQ: I’d like to finish our interview by thanking you, Justin, for always giving me your time, asking me such thought-provoking questions, and sharing our interviews and my music on Pro Country. t’s one of my favorite country music outlets to follow and it’s where I go to get up to date news on other artists and see who’s up and coming. You truly have a gift for journalism, and I’m thrilled that I get to be a part of it.
*”O Holy Night” is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*