The music-editing program GarageBand is pulled up on Nick Shedd's Mac desktop computer. Nick Carreras puts on headphones and listens to the music while the room is silent. He breaks into the lyrics of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," complete with a country twang.
It's another day in the studio. This is the second year a group of college-aged children from Cape Girardeau and surrounding areas have come together to put their own twist on common Christmas songs. They record a collaborative CD of Christmas music and sell them on iTunes for $5. The proceeds go to charity.
The idea to create "The Midwest Christmas CD" formed in 2009. Shedd, a junior graphic design major, and his friends had been looking for a project as an outlet for their musical interests.
"I thought it would be fun to record a Christmas CD," Shedd said. "But I thought, 'Who would just buy a bunch of random, local guys' Christmas CD?' We're not trying to make money; we're just trying to have fun with Christmas music. And then I thought, well what if we sell it for a benefit, for charity?"
It was decided.
"I got ahold of everyone I knew that played music and asked them if they'd be interested in helping out," Shedd said.
Song ideas came rolling in.
"I was so stoked," said Carreras, a senior hospitality management major, "We'd always wanted to do it."
The first year, Carreras recorded "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
"I liked the music to the song, and I thought I could make it sound really cool," Carreras said.
Shedd recorded "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" for the CD's debut, which turned out to be a huge success, he said, because he can sing in a cheesy, theatrical voice.
Catatonic, a Cape Girardeau-based band, provided an original Christmas song. Many artists from both St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, including Andy Tanz of Jailbox and Tim Godlove of Isabella, participated in 2010 as well.
"The Midwest Christmas CD" sold around 200 copies that first year and raised about $1,200 dollars for Toys for Tots, a charity that provides toys for children.
"A lot of kids got a lot of different toys or presents that I never was able to have because my family wasn't very well off, either," Shedd said. "So to me, the idea of a kid having an awesome Christmas present is just something that you, you can't beat. Toys for Tots is obviously an organization that tries to spend as much of their time and effort that they can making sure those families have something for Christmas."
The CD was not able to make a return in 2010 due to lack of band interest, but this year Shedd pulled enough artists together to make a second CD possible. The money from CD and iTunes sales will go toward next year's Toys fo Tots campaign.
Carreras will sing "The Little Drummer Boy," Shedd will sing "White Christmas" and both will contribute to the song "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" with Anthony Trevaskis from St. Louis.
Sean Lightfoot, 22, is new to the project. He planned to record for the first CD, but came down with strep throat. This year he will continue with his original song choice and record "Mary Did You Know." Lightfoot said the song has been his favorite Christmas song since he first heard it on a Kenny Rogers Christmas special he watched with his mother years ago. He has performed the song six times before, with each performance being a little different. For the CD, he plans to sing classically.
"I have a classic voice," Lightfoot said. "I don't do pop very well," he added while laughing.
According to Shedd, giving the artists creative license to generate their own work really helps achieve the goal of creating an interesting compilation of local music and raising as much money for charity as they can.
Shedd hopes to raise between $1,500 and $2,000 this year, with all proceeds going to Toys for Tots.
"This is just a fun project that we do to raise money to give them, so I just make it as an anonymous donation," Shedd said. "It's just kind of cool to be able to help a charity out and also kind of get a feel for what people in the town sound like musically. You get a little more exposure to the local music scene, as well as you're going to help out a good cause."
Carreras added that people should purchase "The Midwest Christmas CD 2" because "you're killing two birds with one stone -- you're learning about the local art, and you're giving to charity. You're doing a good thing. It's your good deed for, like, the month."
Shedd said the CD will be available on iTunes through spring and on CD, which will be available for purchase from the artists until Dec. 31. For more information, visit midwestchristmascd.webs.com.