Back in December 2020, while stumbling through the interwebs, this writer came across a music video titled, “Uncle Carl (Came Out On Christmas).” The video, by country music artist Aaron LaCombe, was shared on his Twitter account whose bio reads, “I write the songs that make most people mildly uncomfortable.” I figured I was probably going to like this.
As the title suggests – so this isn’t a spoiler – ‘Uncle Carl’ comes out during a Christmas Day dinner right before the Cowboys game. And it turns out that, while the younger family members knew the what’s what, Carl’s brother is caught totally flat-footed by the news. The song has an oh-so-comfortable hook, LaCombe’s vocals are confident and on-point, and the lyrics offer a touch of humor amid the song’s musical journey.
Mom and grandma got up next and cleared the plates without a sound
And us remaining, we said ‘We love y’all both and dad will come around’
One by one we filled the TV room spilling out into the hall
The Cowboys lost, of course, which didn’t help at all…
It turns out the video was released in 2019, but LaCombe just hadn’t been able to get the song and video out to the right folks. Charmed by the video and its down-home heart, I wrote about the video and the artist for Instinct Magazine and the response was over the top. A lot of people discovered the song/video. And they shared it as well. The response made my Grinchy little heart grow three sizes.
We revisited the music video again last year, and the response was the same. So, it’s become a bit of a tradition here at Instinct to share this terrific, countryfied coming-out story that touches so many at the holidays. Hit the play button and you’ll see why.
Instinct reached out to LaCombe this week to ask how his audiences respond to the song: “In the years since ‘Uncle Carl’ came out, I’ve played the song hundreds of times at shows and I’m always amazed at what a great reaction it gets. It’s by far my most requested song, and I end up playing it all year round. Every year around this time, I watch the views tick up a bit on YouTube and I start to get really heartwarming, sweet messages and comments from people who are seeing it for the first time. It’s honestly become my favorite part of the holidays.“
This writer grew up in Texas, so I know a little something about country music. You can’t fake it when it comes to country – either the heart and soul are there or they aren’t. And speaking of heart and soul, when a promotions company told LaCombe they couldn’t work with him on “Uncle Carl” due to their ‘faith-based’ views, the LGBTQ ally clapped back in no uncertain terms. “If the contents of this video violate the principles of your faith, then doing business with you violates the principles of mine,” LaCombe responded.
Since this is what it's like to put a song about a gay couple out into the world, I can't imagine what my @LGBTQ friends go through on a daily basis. #Unclecarlcameoutonchristmas pic.twitter.com/okK4xSuuK5
— Aaron LaCombe (@AaronLaCombe1) December 5, 2020
In addition to revisiting the song, here’s my Q&A with LaCombe from 2020 where he shares the origin of the song, as well as the inspiration behind many of the visual touches in the video.
Instinct Magazine: I just discovered your song “Uncle Carl Came Out On Christmas.” What a perfect balance of catchy melody, pitch perfect vocals, and lyrics that land with authenticity. What inspired the song?
Aaron LaCombe: Thank you very much! A couple of years ago I was invited to participate in a Christmas Songwriting Contest. I maybe take myself a little too seriously as a songwriter, so the idea of writing a Christmas song just seemed cliché to me, and I wanted to sort of see if there was a way to make it catch people off guard.
I took cues from some experiences some close friends and family have had, and once I got started, I found myself on a tightrope of making it a little bit funny, a little sad, and a little sweet. It came in dead last at the contest, which is when I started to think I might really have something.
IM: I totally appreciated the visuals in the music video. From the home’s holiday decor to the band’s on-point Christmas sweaters and the dad’s red hat, it all rings so true. I also love that the boyfriend is the most properly dressed for the occasion. How did the video come together?
AL: We can thank countless hours of watching Roseanne for all the visuals. The way that first shot circles the dining room table as everyone is sitting down is no accident. A friend’s media company called NMCO out of Las Cruces, NM shot it, and the characters are a mix of paid actors and friends.
Joshua, who played ‘Uncle Carl,’ was hired and I’d just met him that day, but the part he was playing was very close to home for him. He told me that doing take after take of that dinner scene brought him right back to his own coming out. I think that authenticity is what makes the video feel so real. The whole cast and crew were in tears shooting that last scene, myself included.
IM: Your Twitter profile reads, “I write the songs that make most people mildly uncomfortable,” which I love. Can you expand on that a bit?
AL: I’m a big fan of getting to the point of things in my songs, and I think people just aren’t used to that, particularly in modern country music. The people that like my stuff seem to really like it, but it’s not for everyone. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a lot of joy from playing “Uncle Carl” in front of some of these rural Texas audiences.
IM: What are three things you can’t live without?
AL: Coffee, a certain amount of time to myself, and my girl who is somehow understanding of that and very supportive all at once.
IM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“The truth is the shortcut to everything.” Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to live by, but it’s a real time saver in the end.
LaCombe is currently on the radio with his latest single, “Dream Along With Me.” Check it out below and find more of his music on Spotify here. You can follow the talented artist (and his awesome Great Dane) on Instagram here.