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RSW Living Magazine

Whitney Wolanin Hit Rendition of 'Run Run Rudolph' Featured in Hallmark's 'Christmas by Starlight'

Whitney Wolanin Official Photo by Tabitha Mariana courtesy of TopNotch® Records- TopNotch® Entertainment Corp

Sanibel songstress and Fort Myers High School graduate Whitney Wolanin received welcome praise for her rendition of "Run Run Rudolph" in Hallmark TV/Crown Media's new holiday film, Christmas by Starlight, which premiered on the Hallmark Network Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

Wolanin's uptempo rendition of the song hit #2 on Billboard after its release in 2013.

With the holiday season still in full swing, there are four more opportunities to catch the movie starring Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell:
  • Saturday, Dec. 19, 6 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 25, 3:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 29, 8 a.m.
  • Saturday, Jan. 2, 3 p.m.
We had a chance to catch up with Wolanin about the exciting opportunity, as well as what she's been up to since we last spoke to her in 2017 and 2014.

How does it feel to hold the honor of having such a high-charting version of an iconic holiday song like this one?

"It’s crazy. It feels like we created something special and the timing was right. I think what connects most for people is how uptempo and fun it is, and also the guitars on it were played by Dave Cleveland, who’s a legendary guitar player, and he just killed it. I think people love to dance to it and it really gets people in the Christmas spirit.

Tell us a little about recording the song. When did you decide to do it, when was it originally recorded, how has your career been impacted as a result of it being produced?

"We basically just thought could we do this in a more modern way, but still do justice to the song. Creating a cover to such an iconic song, you don’t want to do an injustice to it. You want to honor the original, but make it more modern. It was produced by Zach Abend and me (he just got nominated for a Grammy for Ingrid Andress’s album, which is exciting for him). We kind of just dove in on it. We had such incredible players on it that it created magic.

"When we went to radio with it, everyone responded very strongly to it, because it was just so fun and the instrumentation sounded so good. Pretty instantly, we had such a positive reaction. I think we were hopeful that we would get that high on the charts, but having a #2 just behind Kelly Clarkson was the biggest career high for me at that point and it certainly impacted my career for the positive. I think it cemented that an indy artist can play with the big boys if they make great art."

How did you find out about the song being featured in the film? How did you feel when you found out?

"We found out via email. Someone had tracked us down and found an email for us, which is often how these things happen. They basically said they have a really quick turnaround, but they’d love to use our version as a sync license in this movie. It’s so funny how these things happen. It’s unexpected. Things like this come out of nowhere and you don’t know it’s going to happen. It was a really fun day for us. It’s great how Hallmark has cemented themselves in this genre of movies. Some people love to hate them and some people love to love them. I think they’re awesome."

Have you seen the movie? What were your thoughts?

"I have. It’s good! I’m not the kind to watch those kinds of movies often. I did enjoy it a lot. It was written by Kimberley and Paul, the stars of the movie. I think they did a great job on the script. I really enjoyed it. It’s the perfect sync license. The song comes on the radio essentially, and she’s like, 'I love this song!' and starts dancing to it. It’s funny when you get a license like this, they’re not super clear as the context of the scene. You know the basics, but you couldn’t have asked for a better sync license. It’s like a commercial for the song."

What else have you been up to since we last featured you in 2017?

"I have started producing other artists, especially female artists. That has been a really rewarding experience. I worked with Libby Barnes—produced her first single. I’m also working with Bailey Ingle right now and she’s a really promising pop-country artist.

"Additionally, kind of in the last five or six years, I started working in the film industry in a few capacities. This past year, I produced a horror-comedy feature film shot in Nashville starring Tony Todd. That was a really cool experience. My husband and I produce/compose music under the moniker 'OTL.' We also did the score for the movie.

"I also started directing music videos for other artists. I always did my own, but that’s something I’ve started doing over the last three years."

Well, you've been keeping busy then!

"It’s so much. I think the thing about this new chapter in my carer, collaborating with other artists, there’s a lot of work. There’s an element to it that’s really freeing. It’s so collaborative and I have so much fun bringing someone else’s vision to life, as well. It’s nice, because I’m not necessarily in the spotlight, which is great sometimes. I love working with other artists. I really enjoy their art, but really respect them as artists.

"I have a few music videos that are about to come out that I directed, one is for an artist named AJ Smith. He’s a really talented artist from NYC. His song is called 'Confetti' and that dropped Dec. 14. I also directed the music video for an artist named Alee, a Canadian pop-country artist. She's awesome and really big in Canada. I just directed her video for a song called "The Springtime." Not sure the exact date of its release, but it will probably be sometime in January."

Anything else you’d like to add, say to the SWFL audience?

"I would say keep creating and try to focus on the things that you love and the people that you love."