Harry Holidays

by Jason MacNeil

HARRY CONNICK JR. – one of the more prolific musicians in the last 25 years – seems like one of those talents who rarely makes a misstep. From his noted charity work in helping New Orleans get back on its feet post-Katrina to never seeming to be over his head on the small or big screen, Connick can pretty much do it all.

What the singer didn’t truly do until 2013 was create an album as stylistically diverse as his latest Every Man Should Know. It’s something Connick says was in keeping with his motto of “no rules, no limits.”

“This one was all over the place,” the singer says during a phone interview. “I don’t think I have many rules but there usually are some guidelines and I usually try to work within the particular framework. But this one I didn’t at all. It really kind of started with the songwriting and then everything followed after that.”

In fact, Connick did a lot of songwriting, so much so he had enough songs for a possible two-disc effort. His label however thought best to release two different albums, hence Smokey Mary was released a few months before Every Man Should Know.

“They’re totally different, Smokey Mary was much more groove based, Every Man Should Know is much more lyrics and melody based,” he says. “You know there are grooves on it, but this album is more about the lyrics I think than the other one is. Although I’m proud of those lyrics, a lot of them are a little bit sillier and just more accommodating to the type of music underneath it.”

Connick says the title track of his new CD was inspired by working with a carpenter friend and watching him create a work bench from scratch.

“He was a pro and I didn’t know anything about it,” he says. “I kept thinking about how fortunate we all are to have people like that. To have people do what they do, to have experts in any field really. Although I don’t know how to do those things he may not know how to do what I do.”

One song garnering attention is the country-leaning ‘Greatest Love Story,’ a tune Connick says was inspired by his wife Jill Goodacre.

“I just sit down and start writing tunes and then the groove comes second,” he says of the song. “The country flavor to it, it just seemed that would be the style most suited to the lyrics and the melody. I was just thinking about my wife and how lucky I am to have her.”

One thing Connick hasn’t had a problem with is knowing when a song is finished and not trying to over-think things.

“I’m pretty good about that,” he says. “A lot of the stuff that I do – a lot of the work comes before the performing. The arranging and the orchestrating are pretty finite parts of the process. So when I go in and perform it a lot of the music has been pretty much thought out. Not the solos and not the way I sing it, but the song itself. Especially on these more produced numbers, I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to sound like.”

The singer made bigger headlines earlier this year while being a mentor on ‘American Idol.’ Clearly perplexed at the contestants and their lack of knowledge regarding the songs, Connick took judge Randy Jackson to task over the contestants’ interpretations. He says he hasn’t been asked to be a judge but enjoyed the mentoring aspect.

“I had a good time mentoring, I never really judged on the show and I think they really are two different things,” he says. “My job when they asked me to be on the show was to just help out and lend some opinions as opposed to the judging which is, you know, far from from being supportive and nurturing.”

He also feels if he began his career today as a young talent he might not be as successful but would still have a career.

“It’s really hard to say,” Connick says. “I think it still goes down to luck and how prepared you are. I would think so only because I mean the way I started selling records it would be different than the way they’re selling them now. But I think if you persevere and you’re prepared, especially when you play the kind of stuff that I play, I think I would do okay.”

Perhaps Connick’s biggest charitable work recently – aside from his continuing effort with New Orleans which he says “is fully up and running and it’s been for many years now” — was ‘Love Wins,’ a beautiful but terribly bittersweet song inspired by the death of Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, one of the victims in the Newtown, Connecticut shooting last December. The girl, just six

years old, was the daughter of Jimmy Greene, a longtime member of Connick’s touring group.

“I wanted to do something for him and his family so I wrote the tune and all the money is going to his daughter’s foundation,” he says. “I don’t know if any song really writes itself but the idea was certainly there and it was written very quickly because I wanted to get it out there as soon as possible.”

Connick is touring this fall in support of his album. He will be appearing at Artis-Naples in Naples on November 6. •

November-December 2013

Connick’s ‘Love Wins,’ is
a beautiful but bittersweet
song inspired by the
death of Ana Grace
one of the victims
in the Newtown,
Connecticut shooting
last December.
Just six years old,
she was the daughter
of Jimmy Greene,
a longtime member of
Connick’s touring group.