MUSIC

Hillary Jones leads Columbus musicians in celebrating a second ‘Quarantine Christmas’

The free compilation posts to Bandcamp on Christmas Day

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
"A Very Merry Quarantine Christmas: Vol. 2"

On Christmas Eve, when the children are nestled all snug in their beds, one person will continue working late into the night, assuring a delivery meant to bring holiday cheer to all, as has become tradition. 

That person is Hillary Jones (aka Rusty Bones of Nothin’), who spearheaded the creation and curation of A Very Merry Quarantine Christmas: Vol. 2, which posts free to Bandcamp on Christmas Day and features a number of artists who contributed to last year’s offering (The Pink Owl, Brian Baker), along with new additions such as Corey Landis and the Finer Things.

“The deadline [for musicians to submit songs] is pretty much Christmas Eve, so I’m working pretty hard that night to get it all up on Bandcamp,” Jones said. “I’ve got maybe half of the tracks already, but there’s a handful I’m still waiting on, so I had to do some check-ins today where it was like, ‘I’m sending it tomorrow!'"

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Jones initially conceived of the project in the fall of 2020, following months in which the ongoing pandemic had sapped her of her creative drive. “Around that time was when we were really inside and locked down. I was working remotely and kind of stuck in my room and I had all of the tools in front of me, so it was like, ‘All right, I can either look out my window and be sad or I can record something,’ and so I started doing little things, and that changed everything,” said Jones, who focused some of that early energy on covering a handful of the Christmas songs she grew up with, tapping into the spirits of joy and community inherent in the music. “I was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is helping me feel better and I’m checking things off of my to-do list that have been on there for years,’ so this project really helped get that ball rolling.”

The Christmas compilation, which Jones hopes can become an annual affair (minus the pandemic-driven “quarantine” aspect, of course), arrived as part of a larger reawakening to the spirit of the season, with the musician describing her evolution from a child infatuated with the simple pleasures of the holiday to a teen jaded by the rampant consumerism that can infect the season and make everything feel plastic and hollow.

“And so, at some point in my late college years I was like, ‘I’m taking it back,’ and I decided I was going to make it all about happiness and snow globes and sparkles,” said Jones, who recalled the magic of snowy early Christmases, before global warming reduced the December weather in Ohio to a warmer, wetter affair. “I was so tired of being bitter and mad about the money aspect, and I was like, ‘I’m going to start making presents and making art.’ … It’s nice to have these songs to fall back on, and it helps with nostalgia a bit, and makes everything feel a little more magical.”

Jones views A Very Merry Quarantine Christmas as a free gift available to anyone who wants to listen, offering a mix of covers alongside at least a couple of originals, courtesy Joe Camerlengo and the Pink Owl, respectively. While the track list is still in flux, Jones said that Nothin’ recorded a rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” a song that captures “that kind of silliness and fun that comes with being a kid” around the holidays.

With the second compilation nearly complete, Jones already has an eye on future installments, with one obvious caveat. 

“I’m really hoping I don’t have to call it ‘Quarantine Christmas’ next year,” she said. “But hopefully the compilation happens again, because it’s still a lot of fun and I think it’d be cool to be like, ‘Oh, this thing started as a weird pandemic project and now it’s just a regular project that’s a part of the community.’ There could be volume five or six. It could be like Now That’s What I Call Music where there’s a volume 98 someday.”