Why Leona Lewis Felt Scared, Nostalgic and Weird When Recording Christmas Album

Season three "The X Factor (U.K.)" winner Leona Lewis admits there is one song on her new holiday album, "Christmas, With Love," that made her nervous.

Track No. 9 is a rendition of the popular, classical, tough-to-sing "Ave Maria."

Though Lewis has one of the best voices in pop music, she sought special vocal training to assure her rendition was great.

"I was really scared to do it, and I wanted to do it right, and I hadn't trained classical for a couple years," Lewis said in an exclusive phone interview with Yahoo Music.

Ironically, Lewis' musical roots are based in classical music. She did not perform contemporary music until she was 16.

"To do this was really going back to the foundation of my training," she said. "The classical audience, the critics of classical music are like no other."

To make her version as authentic as possible, she sang the lyrics in Latin.

The vocal training for opera is much more intense that the prep for pop music, Lewis said.

"With opera, you're not supposed to sing songs right off the bat, you really have to put them into your voice, and if you're a serious opera singer you spend years putting a song into your voice and training on one song for a year is standard in opera," she said.

Lewis didn't feel as much pressure when recording "One More Sleep," the album's first single. The throwback girl group, Motown sound reminded her of the kind of music her family played at home during the holidays.

"When I heard I would be making a Christmas album, I was like, 'That's just what I have to do.' That's what I related to," she said, referring to songs with a Phil Spector-esque vibe.

"One More Sleep" is phrase kids in London say before a special day like Christmas, Lewis said. The saying has even more meaning today for the superstar whose demanding recording and touring schedule keeps her away from home for long periods of time.

"Christmas is the one day I know I'm going to be home and seeing my friends and family," she said. "It's really exciting for me. So, I wanted to capture that in a song."

Lewis still remembers that excitement as a child. Her favorite memory is receiving a pair of ice skates she wanted badly. A 10-year-old Lewis did not like using the rentals, she wanted the fancy skates like the other kids, but her mother could not afford them.

"I remember on Christmas, my mom got them for me," she recalled. "Literally, it's the Christmas that sticks out for me. I lost my mind when I opened the present. I went crazy. My mom didn't know what happened. I was running up and down the house in my skates, messing up the floors. I wouldn't take them off."

On a more somber note, Lewis sings about her late grandmother on the song "Your Hallelujah." The track Lewis co-penned is about comforting a loved one approaching death.

"It's your halleluiah, you're going on home. You're OK. You're fine," she said about the song. "That's the kind of message I wanted to get across that if you lose someone, they're kinda going on to a better place. It's not standard Christmas kinda message in it, but it's heartwarming."

For Lewis, one of the best aspects of the album, is that the recording process lengthened the celebration of one of her favorite holidays.

"It's weird, I've been having Christmas for six months. I started recording in the summer," she said. "It was literally, the sunniest summer ever. It was so hot, so I was totally weirded out, writing Christmas songs when it's [hot] outside."

With Lewis' original songs and covers of classics, "Winter Wonderland," "White Wonderland" and "Silent Night," convincingly captures the holiday spirit.

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