Elizabeth Chan talks about her career as a Christmas music writer


“This dream I had of writing Christmas music was something that I literally had in my mind and in my heart, ever since I was a kid,” Elizabeth Chan, a composer known for her catalog of Christmas music, tells Yahoo Life. “Even when I think about it now, I cry because it’s just something that’s always been part of who I was. When I was a kid, I used to say how much I wanted to write Christmas music or how much I loved Christmas music. It was cute. And when I grew up it started to be, what are you talking about? It never left, this idea that I could write Christmas music, this need to write Christmas music – it never left my mind or my soul and it was always something that was in my heart.

Chan may be the reigning queen of Christmas music now, but it was a long way to get there. Although the musician has several Christmas albums and holiday tunes that have appeared in movies, TV shows and commercials, she tells Yahoo Life that her life was once “just like everyone else.”

“I had a regular job,” says the former marketing manager. “I had a boss. I had a 9 to 5. I showed up at a desk. I worked really diligently. I was the first in the office, I was the last to leave sometimes. I ate all my meals at the office. I would brush my teeth, go to bed and start over.

As the child of immigrant parents, he was told that markers of success — like financial stability and raising a family — couldn’t come with a musician’s lifestyle. Believing his parents knew what was best, Chan ended his corporate career. Then, in 2011, something changed: Chan’s stressful lifestyle led to heart problems and shingles, and she wondered if that was all life had to offer.

“I had this epiphany where I realized I had spent all these years, rinsed and rehearsed, doing the same thing,” she says. “I felt like something was missing”

Elizabeth Chan talks about her Christmas music career.  (Photo: Elizabeth Chan)

Elizabeth Chan talks about her Christmas music career. (Photo: Elizabeth Chan)

Chan found that missing piece when she reflected on one constant in her life: her passion for Christmas music.

“I started visualizing what my life would look like five years from now,” says Chan. “If I wrote Christmas music, what could I see that could change my life? I know it sounds so silly, but I really sat down and wrote this vision statement about what happiness looks like and how I can achieve it. And that’s when I really didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew I had a vision. I knew my heart never escaped wanting to write Christmas music.

Chan quit his job and poured his energy into recording Christmas music, but it wasn’t easy. She says it took several years for her music career to take off – and they were the “hardest” of her life.

“There were days when I didn’t know how I was going to pay my bills because I had dipped into my savings. My husband and I were eating dollar pizza,” she explains. “Every penny I had I would put back into writing music, recording music back then.”

Her dream led to fights between her and her husband, who pointed out that he had not “married a musician”. Chan says he’s right; she was not a musician when they met, but she became a. Still, she wasn’t sure there was a “place” for her in the industry.

“I didn’t really get to the point where I was sure I was doing the right thing until maybe three years into my journey,” she says. “It’s been three long, hard years.”

Now with several albums to her credit, including her most recent, aptly titled christmas queen — Chan has more than found his niche in the industry. She even qualified for a Grammy nomination in the spoken word category.

“The biggest lesson I’ve ever learned is if you really love something don’t give up because the minute you give up the magic stops,” she says. “It’s not easy to follow your dream, but there is magic.”

—Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove.

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