Saxo Claus – A Special Xperience Interview

Written by on November 28, 2023

Saxo Claus – A Special Xperience Interview – by Liam Sweeny.

When bells jingle and eyes twinkle in the holiday season of the Capital Region, we may be privy to hot chocolate and holly sprigs, fresh snowfall and ‘Seasons Greetings’ signs done up in elaborate typefaces. But if our special privy is happening on the streets of the Troy Victorian Stroll or any of the countless holiday street walks in the Capital Region, we might encounter Santa Claus. Or rather, a roaming sax player they call Saxo Claus.

I connect with Luke McNamee, better known as Saxo Claus.

RRX: You are Luke McNamee, mild mannered musician who upon being fed at midnight during the holiday season becomes Saxo Claus. When did you first don the red suit? Was it something sort of on the moment, doing some holiday gig, or was it an idea you had to officially become Saxo Claus?

LM: So the idea for Saxo Claus came to me in October of 1997. It was an autumn day just like today, and I was just sitting contemplating, you know, what I’m gonna do. Blue Hand Luke was also coincidentally starting at the same time, I think I had done one Blue Hand Luke gig already and I was thinking about how that was gonna fit into my future. And I was just thinking – at that time I would occasionally, and by occasionally, I mean, maybe once every two years or three years, I would get asked to play some sort of a Christmas party and they’d say just come dressed as you are and play a couple of Christmas tunes. I knew a few Christmas tunes and like I said, that happened maybe every other year or every third year. And I was over there sitting; I’ll never forget I was sitting on my porch and I thought to myself, what would happen if I bought myself or rented or borrowed a Santa Claus suit and a beard. and approached it that way? And so I went to the Costumer and I got myself a standard Santa Claus suit and a beard and a matching wig and the hat and the whole shebang. And funny thing is, is that, that first year I did it in 1997.

The first gig ever I played was the Greens Party, uh which is a, a pre- Troy Victorian Stroll party uh right there on 2nd street. And I played that. and they really liked me and somebody was there from the Troy Victorian Stroll, and they asked me if I wanted to be part of that year’s Stroll. And I said, sure. And before the day was over, Hudson Winter Walk was already in touch with me. And uh they wanted to know if I would like to play their Winter Walk, which is the night before the Troy Victorian Stroll. So that I was only a week going in this thing. And already I had two of the biggest Victorian street events in the capital district wanting me and I did them both that year. And I’m proud to say that um I’m starting to lose track of how many years this has been. But I think I’m starting my 26th or 27th season. I’m gonna have to count that sometime.

RRX: So I first saw you, I mean, Saxo Claus, at the Victorian Stroll in Troy, is that your favorite event? If so why? And if not, where has Saxo Claus been that has given him the warmest of fuzzies?

LM: Uh, another good question. Well, you know, unfortunately I promised everybody who hires me, especially with the Victorian street walks that theirs is my favorite. So, if I say any one of theirs is my favorite and the other ones are reading it, they’re gonna get mad. So I, I love them all. They all actually have a unique flavor to each one. Besides doing Troy and the Hudson Strolls. I also do the Saratoga Victorian Street Walk, the Hudson Winter Walk and also the Kinderhook Candlelight Night and other things like the Speedo Rally and the Troy Farmers Market and the Albany International Airport. I’ve been playing every year since the first year and they’re all very unique. They really are and the little interactions that happen while you’re, you’re out there being Santa Claus, like children coming up to me giving me their Christmas list thinking it’s a good idea to hand it to me personally rather than risk putting it in the mail and having it get lost in the mail. So some very smart Children hand it to me personally and I commend them for that

I love it when, when they hand me their list and the big smiles on their faces. So I don’t have one that’s a favorite over the other. I really love them all and my favorite thing is the interaction with the people because when you’re playing with a band, you’re up on a stage and there’s kind of a invisible barrier between. you and your audience. And with being Saxo Claus playing on the street, which I do so much of as Saxo Claus, there’s no barrier.

RRX: I’ll ask a pretty heavy question here. Why do we need Saxo Claus? Uh We have Mariah Carey and we’re out there avoiding waged and convenience stores and supermarkets. What does Saxo Claus offer us that the usual usual Christmas ear worms don’t?

LM: That’s a good question. Um Another one you’re asking very good questions today, Liam. See, what does Saxo Claus offer that the Mariah Careys and everybody else doesn’t offer? Uh. For me, it’s this. every artist who becomes popular from Mariah Carey to Taylor Swift to Vince Gill. I mean, I could just keep naming people after they become famous. They put out a Christmas album. and that’s a good thing; they’re famous now, they can put out an album. I give Christmas music without being famous. No, that doesn’t mean I don’t wanna be famous. and that doesn’t mean that I spend some amount of time in every day of my life purposely trying to configure my world so that I’ll be famous because I wanna be famous. I’m gonna go on record as saying, I wanna be famous. And even though I’m well past the age that most people, for example, the two people that we just mentioned, Mariah Carey, Vince Gill and add Taylor Swift, all achieved fame and were world famous when they were much younger than me. I still have that dream alive in my heart. that I wanna make great music. I wanna be Saxo Claus and yes, I would love to be world famous for being Saxo Claus someday where you would think of me when you think of a Mariah Carey or any of them, your next thought would be. Oh yeah. And that Saxo Claus guy, he does some really cool music.


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