Chan Poling on the New Standards Holiday Show: I have the best job in the world

John Munson, Steve Roehm, Chan Poling
John Munson, Steve Roehm, Chan Poling
Photo by Travis Anderson

The New Standards have taken storytelling to a, well, new standard. The trio will be hosting their annual holiday show, now in its seventh year, at the State Theatre this weekend and bring the holidays a little early to the Cities. Holiday songs will be given a New Standards flavor, and the show will bring a huge cast of 30 people, including special guests that bring along dancing and joy. You can expect laughter, tears, and wonderful stories told through songs in an ode to the Minnesota winter.

Before their shows at the State, Chan Poling of the New Standards spoke with Gimme Noise about what went into the show production and what Christmas tunes didn't make the cut.

Gimme Noise: How many shows are you doing this year?

Chan Poling: We are doing two shows.

Gimme Noise: Why is it at the State this year?

Chan Poling: We were at a point where the last three years we were selling out the Fitzgerald [Theater], so we decided to find a place that could house more people. Plus, it's hard to get all of these people together; it's a cast of 30 people, and it was made for the State. Basically, we thought we could do one show, and this is a much more convenient, bigger space.

Gimme Noise: A lot of the show is visual. Do you, yourself, put a lot of work into the production?

Chan Poling: It's funny you say that, because we spent yesterday shooting and working out visuals for the show. We're working with Pixel Farm, and they've been editing projections with film, and we have an animation photographer, Travis Anderson, who is shooting some of the visuals. There's all sorts of visual elements; we've been planning it out for a long time.

Gimme Noise: With such a big production, how do you know when to do the work yourself and when to leave it in the hands of someone else?

Chan Poling: Sometimes you just have to trust others. Steve [Roehm] and I like to hang out and riff on ideas; it makes us smile and laugh. We come up with most of the show ourselves, but the whole show is a huge collaborative effort.

Gimme Noise: What is the theme this year?

Chan Poling: Last year we had a cowboy theme; that was really fun. I think we realize that the theme this year is just going to be us. It's a fact that the New Standards are a voice of this kind of freewheeling event. That's the theme. Santa may come out sometime during the show.

Gimme Noise: How did you know what holiday songs to include in the show, and how do you turn it into a New Standards song?

Chan Poling: I have the best job in the world, because I'm just trying to influence things that I find are interesting. I can walk into a bookstore, and I'll hear the muzak or hear something on YouTube. These songs will pop into your head, and you think, "Oh, there's really no rhyme or reason for this."

How we choose the songs for each show is really just what inspires us. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. I really wanted to include the Annie Lennox song "There Must Be an Angel" and thought it would be perfect this year, but it just didn't fit. The gauge is often, "Are we happy? Is it amusing to us?"

Gimme Noise: Sometimes that's all it has to be.

Chan Poling: That's the only gauge you can really use.

City of Music: The New Standards perform "Snow Days" (at The New Standards Holiday Show presented by 89.3 The Current) from MPLS.TV on Vimeo.

Gimme Noise: You have a lot of quality musicians and artists involved in this project. How do you choose who to work with?

Chan Poling: It's a mix of professionalism and quality. These musicians are tasteful and have a great sense of pop and rock. Then again, we have some great classical players with us on harp and strings and readers. Everyone has a improvisational looseness to them -- the ability to go with the flow.

Gimme Noise: Do you look for these qualities in your other projects?

Chan Poling: I like people who are in the moment. They can be in the moment and have a sense of humor enough to be able to laugh. My favorite players don't overplay and can have a good time.

Gimme Noise: How do you find time for all of your projects?

Chan Poling: I figure we got one go at life, and I have a lot of stuff I want to do. It can be exhausting. [laughs] I try to stay healthy, walk the dog, and eat right. It's hard.

Gimme Noise: So with such a busy schedule, what is it about this holiday show that you feel is still important that you find time for it each year?

Chan Poling: I'm not strictly Christian. It's not part of my larger world view, but I do love the season. I love the feel of it, and I definitely feed off that. I love the camaraderie, the company, and the great musicians. The fact that we can still do the show is good. Music will keep me busy until New Year's Eve. Maybe then I'll take a nap.

The New Standards will host their holiday show at the State Theatre on:
Saturday, December 7, 2013, 8 pm
Sunday, December 8, 2013, 6:30 pm
AA, $35-$100
Click here for tickets.

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