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Provided by Stone Angel Music
Pianist Paul Cardall, who grew up in Millcreek and owns a home in Draper, will perform at this year's National Christmas Tree Lighting on Nov. 28.

SALT LAKE CITY — Nashville was never on Paul Cardall’s radar. The classical crossover pianist, who grew up in Millcreek and stayed in Utah, thought of country and bluegrass when he thought of Nashville. It didn’t seem like the place for him.

“But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that it’s better to be led than to be driven to success,” Cardall said.

Bryce Johnson, Provided by Paul Cardall
At the National Christmas Tree Lighting, Cardall will be joined onstage by the U.S. Army Blues for a rendition of “Silent Night” that Cardall arranged for the show.

He and his family have lived in Nashville for two years now, after a road trip through the city prompted him and his wife to make the move. (They still keep a home in Draper.) Their experiences in Music City led to Cardall’s next big gig: performing at this year’s National Christmas Tree Lighting in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 28.

For the event, now in its 96th year, Cardall will be joined by the U.S. Army Blues, a longtime blues brass band composed of U.S. Army members. They’ll perform a special rendition of “Silent Night” that Cardall arranged specifically for the show.

“This is a German piece, a classic from Franz Gruber, but this is very American-sounding,” he said. “I wrote it specifically for the Army band, but integrate my style and my sound. So it’s going to be fun.”

The show comes on the heels of Cardall’s latest album, “Christmas,” which recently debuted on nine different Billboard charts. According to Cardall, “Christmas” was two years in the making. He enlisted Jim Daneker, a longtime composer and producer for Christian artist Michael W. Smith, to helm production duties. The result, Cardall said, is “not what I thought of two years ago. It’s so much more.”

Cardall hopes “Christmas” will break him more fully into the Nashville market. Over the years he’s developed a robust following throughout the United States and abroad, “but the southern United States has always been a challenge, to get my music into the homes of these wonderful people that live here,” he said. “For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to reach into those homes.”

Not that Nashville only cares about country music.

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“There is so much energy here, and it’s not just music,” he explained. “There is a surge of people coming to this city for many reasons. But it’s different from L.A. and it’s different from New York in the sense that there’s a hospitality here. And not everybody is from here. So if you can mentor somebody, you do. And so many people have come in and out of our lives here, it’s unbelievable.”

He recently performed at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, which has been open since 1892 and housed the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, with lauded gospel singer CeCe Winans. Cardall remembers that road trip to Nashville, when he and his wife felt they needed to move there.

“And we weren’t exactly sure why,” he admitted.

Now, it seems, Cardall is starting to find out.