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This BYU grad got engaged on ‘American Idol.’ She just released a Christmas album

Johanna Jones’ new holiday album features four original songs she wrote for her capstone project

SHARE This BYU grad got engaged on ‘American Idol.’ She just released a Christmas album

Cover art for Johanna Jones’ new holiday album, “It’s Christmastime.”

Johanna Jones

Brigham Young University alumna Johanna Jones has kept busy since her boyfriend Matt Zavoral proposed to her on “American Idol” last year.

The moment was unlike any other. Jones, who thought Zavoral was at BYU finishing a semester of school, was shocked to see him walk onstage after her performance during a solo round of Hollywood Week.

“I haven’t been here all week because of exams, but I couldn’t wait another day,” Zavoral said before getting down on one knee and opening a ring box. “Johanna, you’re the love of my life. Will you marry me?”

The couple have since gotten married and moved to California, where Jones has been working on a new Christmas album.

The recently released “It’s Christmastime,” produced by Utah’s Gavin McMahan, contains five songs, four of which Jones wrote for her capstone project in BYU’s commercial music program.

“I thought a Christmas album would be a great way to showcase my skills and also challenge myself to write something different than what I normally do,” Jones said.

Jones, of Las Vegas, was raised a performer by her mother, a singer and vocal coach, according to Jones’ website. She released a pop EP, “All the Way,” in 2017 and made it to the Top 40 on “American Idol” last year.

Now, she has a holiday album — full of original content. Among the originals is “Warm and Safe (Mary’s Lullaby),” Jones’ favorite of all the songs she has written. She said her inspiration for the song came at 3 a.m. about three weeks before her project was due when she suddenly thought about Michelangelo’s “Pieta” statue, which depicts Mary holding Jesus Christ after his crucifixion.

“It’s a powerful song for me, just because it’s Mary singing to Christ as she would when he’s a baby to when he’s been crucified, and that her love for him is never changing,” Jones said. “I sometimes don’t even feel like I wrote it, just because it happened so suddenly and was a really touching experience for me to write.”

“Follow That Star,” another original on the album, is inspired by the Nativity story, with verses about the wise men and shepherds. Jones said the final verse is about “how we all need to come unto Christ and praise him and realize that he’s the real meaning of Christmas.”

“I wanted to have a good variety of songs about Christmas, but also songs about Christ and what Christmas really is about,” Jones said. “I took the story of the Nativity and started just with this plunking kind of sound on the keys, and this line of, ‘Follow that star,’ came to my head.”

The singer’s goal with the title track, “It’s Christmastime,” was to create a “Christmas standard.”

“I just wanted to really capture the mood and the feel of Christmas and the imagery,” Jones said. “The best way I can describe it is I wanted to sort of have it have the Christmas classic feel.”

Jones wrote the last original on the holiday album, “Santa, You Screwed Up,” two days before her capstone was due.

“I just thought of this quirky song about somebody not getting what they want for Christmas, and the line, ‘Santa, you screwed up,’ popped into my head, and a song came out of it,” Jones said.

The album also features a cover of John Gary’s “Little Snow Girl,” a song Jones grew up listening to.

“That’s a part of my childhood, and as kids hear some of my songs and it becomes part of their childhood too, that would mean the world,” Jones said.

The singer said she hopes people take away “the feeling of Christmas” from her new album.

“I think this is a really hard year for a lot of people, and we need something new,” Jones said.

Her next project is to produce and create a video for a song called “Wonderland” that she wrote with her classmate Garon Brett for anybody who feels helpless.

“We wrote it with the mindset of anyone with any kind of addiction or mental health problem, anything that they feel like is keeping them down, feeling chained,” Jones said. “It’s a song about hope and getting through it together, realizing that we’re not alone, that there’s always somebody to help.”