Meet Eliza Hardy Jones, Vocal Coach for the Eagles Christmas Album
An interview with the West Philly woman hired to make the Eagles players sound amazing on A Philly Special Christmas.
Eliza Hardy Jones is a gifted singer, multi-instrumentalist and song quilter (more on the song quilting later) from West Philadelphia. She’s played with Strand of Oaks, Grace Potter, and Iron & Wine. And she is now a member of the critically-acclaimed Philadelphia band War on Drugs, for whom she plays guitar and keyboards and also adds some harmonies. But her most recent claim to fame? She was the vocal coach for Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata, and Lane Johnson for the new Eagles Christmas album, A Philly Special Christmas, which was produced by War on Drugs drummer Charlie Hall. She sings on the album, too. I caught up with her on a very rainy Tuesday to learn more.
Eliza, I have to ask: You’re a quilter and a songwriter with the voice of an angel. But are you also a Philadelphia Eagles fan? Be honest.
I grew up in Philadelphia and have a deep and abiding love for all Philadelphia sports teams.
C’mon. The Flyers?
OK. I don’t know the first thing about hockey. But I do wear a Flyers shirt from time to time, just to rep them. But with football, I was also into the Eagles as a kid in Philly. I loved Randall Cunningham. I was excited when they went to the Super Bowl in 2004. My husband, Andrew, has season tickets. So I live in a football house. And when Andrew is not at the games, we watch the games at friends’ houses in West Philly. It’s a winter social-connection thing. The Eagles provide a way for us to be connected in the dark pits of a Philadelphia winter.
Spoken like a true songwriter. So. How did you get roped into the new Philadelphia Eagles Christmas album, A Philly Special Christmas?
All through Charlie Hall, the War on Drugs drummer. We’ve been friends for years. And early in the summer, he came to me and said, “I think I’m going to be producing an Eagles Christmas album, and I’m gonna need your help with this.” So I came in as the vocal coach for the Eagles players.
How difficult of a process was this?
We actually built the album backwards. So we had the Eagles guys come in and sing their songs first, kind of over placeholder tracks. Then we had different musicians come in to record the actual tracks. And then the Eagles guys came in to do their final takes. And it was just amazing.
So you’re not performing on the Eagles Christmas album? Just doing coaching?
I actually play piano on the album and sing all kinds of stuff. You’ll hear my voice as the little ghosty ladies on “Blue Christmas.”
So of the three main Eagles players on the album — Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata, and Lane Johnson — who was, shall we say, the biggest challenge to work with?
Honestly, it was so easy. I was shocked at how easy it was. Actually, these three guys are already genuinely talented singers in their own way. Now Jordan, he will be a professional singer one day. He is on another level. But Lane and Jason both have great voices and can carry a tune really well.
I get that their voices were all at a good starting place. But how was it training them. Like, big egos?
No, no. Not at all. I think part of the reason this was so easy is that these are guys who are used to being coached. I have worked as a vocal coach a lot and some people get rather clammy when you try to give them technical tips. But in this case, it was all “Yes ma’am.” Jordan actually took to calling me Coach E. [Laughs]. No ego at all. We had so much fun doing it together.
How quickly did the Eagles Christmas album all come together?
We started early summer talking about it. In the studio by early July. The War on Drugs was on tour, so it was happening around the touring schedule. We’d have a day off from touring and I’d be sitting in a hotel lobby with Charlie Hall. We’d be reaching out to musicians, sending tracks. Charlie was mixing on the tour bus. And then it was all wrapped up and to the presses in September. A quick thing.
I know you’ll hate this question but I’m going to ask it anyway. Favorite song on the album?
Oh. If I’m forced to pick… Oh my gosh. You can’t have a favorite. They are all so wonderful. But there is this moment on one of the songs where at the end, all three guys are singing together. They all come in together in the ultimate joy. I would get chills when they did that. The magic of this album wasn’t that it’s cool that these big sports dudes can sing. It is bearing witness to their friendship and sharing in their love for each other. I was blown away by what beautiful people they are.
These albums have officially become the hardest Christmas gift to find.
And I don’t have one!
Oh, c’mon. You’re sitting on a box. I know you are.
I’m not! There have been so few available, because it is incredibly difficult to press vinyl right now. We were lucky that we were able to find a company who could turn them around quickly for us, and they sold out immediately. And then we were able convince them to do a second run, and they will be released this Friday. And, of course, it will be available digitally.
I saw one autographed Eagles Christmas album on eBay with the high bid currently at $1,000. And somebody is trying to get $4,200.
I hope that the people who resell them recognize the entire purpose was to raise money for the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center. So I hope these people have some Christmas cheer and donate at least some of their money to the CCTC. That would be my Christmas wish: that their Capitalist hearts are melted and they support kids on Christmas.
What’s next for you?
We’re doing the big War on Drugs Christmas fundraiser in December at Johnny Brenda’s. This benefits the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia. The War on Drugs will be back out on tour next year. I’m working on a solo album I hope to release in 2023. Then there are, of course, all my song quilt commissions.
OK, instead of getting into all that song quilting business here, I’m just going to recommend to the reader that they go read this article about the fascinating work you do in quilting, in which you essentially create quilts that are music. How is that biz going?
Very busy. Lots of commissions. And I do a lot of quilting lectures via Zoom. I’ll be on the tour bus doing a Zoom lecture about song quilts. [Laughs] Keeps me busy.
Well, Eliza. I feel like there’s only one question left to ask. How does this Philadelphia Eagles season wind up?
I mean, we’re going all the way. Nothing is stopping the Birds. Super Bowl 2023 winners. Done.
Below, watch Jason Kelce talk about working with Eliza Hardy Jones: