For some people, being the frontman of a pop-punk band for 20-plus years would be a full-time job and then some. But for Alan Day of Four Year Strong, that still leaves him enough space to follow his other real passion: Christmas.
But while others might just deck out their house with lights or visit every mall Santa, Day turned his passion into a business. He and his wife bought a farm in his native Massachusetts with the specific goal of selling Christmas trees (and other farm things too), and the singer/guitarist suddenly found himself living a very different lifestyle when he wasn’t on the road with Four Year Strong. Now, the annual Four Year Strong Christmas show (which happens after the holiday itself) marks the end of one busy season for Day just before he goes back to his main job.
SPIN spoke with Day about the story behind his festive business, what it means to be a farmer, and how splitting duties with his wife has brought about a successful farmstead.
SPIN: Alright, so maybe this is the obvious question, but why Christmas trees?
Alan Day: Honestly, it’s just because I like Christmas a lot. Years ago, there was this weird lull in the band where we all kind of hated each other and broke up unofficially. It was this weird time in my life where I was looking for other things to be excited about, because I’d been so submerged in the band for my whole life. I was living with my wife, and every day when she would come home from work, I’d have this new hobby idea — like golf or painting or doing this or doing that. Then one day, I was like “What if we start selling Christmas trees?” And that’s the one she thought sounded awesome. We started doing that 8 or 9 years ago, and we would buy a truckload of Christmas trees and just sell them in a parking lot. Then about 6 years ago, we bought a farm and started to grow our own.
Even though I assume you’re really only selling Christmas trees in the winter, it probably requires year-round work. How do you balance that with the band?
Well, it’s because I have a wife who’s good at it. It’s also relatively low maintenance compared to some other farming crops, because they take upwards of 8-10 years to grow. You still have to mow down the weeds and fertilize and shape them and make them look nice — so there is some maintenance — but they take so long to grow that you’re just doing a little bit every year as opposed to tending to them every day like you would other crops. We also grow flowers, and my wife is out there all day, every day working on those. Christmas trees are relatively low maintenance, so it’s easier to fit into my crazy schedule. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, because it ain’t.
Is there anything you’ve learned from the band that you can apply to farming or vice versa?
The only thing I’ve learned is that I don’t know anything and that my skills as a musician don’t apply anywhere else. I’ve been touring with this band since I was in high school, so dealing with frickin’ time management and things that are alive and can die… well that’s a whole new skill I’ve had to learn and still haven’t perfected. We started planting our Christmas trees when we bought our property 6 years ago, and you plant 500-1000 every year, so that as they grow, you have these different sizes by the time you start selling your own trees. We probably have another 3-4 years until we actually sell our own trees. We still order trees from other farms and sell them at our farm, so they’re pre-cut. But the fun part for me is that my wife’s totally the farmer who understands soil sciences and pH balances and how to fertilize. She’s a genius with all that stuff. Me? I’m the salesman. I just like Christmas trees and the whole season. I like dealing with people and helping people take the Christmas tree home. That’s where I come in.
I realize this is a ridiculous thing to ask, but do you have any tips for other musicians looking to get into the Christmas tree business?
Get ready for the long haul. There is a lot of investment with buying or leasing land, clearing the land, buying stock to plant — and it takes time and energy to do all of it. As I said, that lasts about 8-10 years before you actually make any money off of it. I joined the Massachusetts Christmas Tree Association 3 years ago — right before COVID — and I went to my first meeting, and I was the youngest one there by like 40 years. I realized why a lot of farmers do it in retirement is because you do all this prep work when you’re younger, so by the time they’re all ready to grow and cut, it’s a little bit more low maintenance.
Is there anything else you’d want to share about the intersection of Christmas trees and music that people might not realize?
I don’t know that they intersect at all. They’re so polar opposites as far as the actual day-to-day of what you do with each one. But the reason I was able to get started was because we’re always around for the holidays — we’re never on tour. That’s why every year I’ve been able to continue doing it and realize that my wife and I like doing it. My schedule as a musician allows me to do both, because even though it’s hectic, it’s also kind of flexible. We can decide not to go on a tour at a certain point or something. Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky and it’s just worked out where we just plant like 600 trees right before I leave for tour. Maybe I just get lucky that it happens that way every year.