Imagine you were about to receive a phone call from Harry Connick Jr. You know, the singer (with eight platinum or multiplatinum albums, three Grammy awards, two Emmys, and Tony-nominated work on Broadway) the actor (who has appeared in 22 movies) and the judge from “American Idol.” How would you feel? Nervous? Excited? Wanting to throw up? That pretty much sums up my recent conversation with the man about his current album, “That Would Be Me.” When you see Connick on “American Idol,” he is in his element and very comfortable. He’s always making jokes. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get when we spoke.
In short, Connick Jr. is one class act. No matter how much I fumbled my questions, he assured me that I was doing just fine and to keep going. So, we chatted.
One of the questions I had wished that I had asked was where the title of his album, “That Would Be Me,” came from. Unlike most of his previous works where he did everything from writing the songs to playing the piano, this time around he handled over the reins to two different producers; Eg White (known for his work with Sam Smith and Adele) and Butch Walker (Taylor Swift and Katy Perry), and this gave this album a different sound for Harry.
The album starts off fun with “(I Like It When You) Smile” and finished the same way with “Right Where it Hurts.” They’re bouncy tunes that make you want to dance, but not in a crazy way; more with swagger and attitude. Right smack dab in the center of the album though is the sad song, “Do You Really Need Her,” and turns out, it is a lot sadder than I thought.
“I didn’t write that song,” Connick Jr. says “It was written by a man who had lost his daughter and was mad at God.”
“Wow, that’s a really sad song,” I reply. It was about the only thing I could say. Sample lyrics to the song are:
What gives You the right to take my love?
Was it hard for you? Did you cut me down because I had too much?
Don’t you realize how much this hurts? Are you satisfied?
Cause you know I want to cross this bridge you burned
This is far enough, but I’ll go on, I must go on
Do you really need her? Do you really need her?
Did you take her just for the thrill of it? Did you break my heart for the hell of it?
Do you really need her like I really need her right now?
On a more positive note, Connick Jr. has been getting rave reviews for the song, “(I Do) Like We Do.” Though also not written by Harry (it was written by Jim McCormick) it is a celebration of marriage of a couple who really get each other. McCormick sort of brags talking about how other people’s marriages work but when it comes to him and his wife, “Nobody does “I Do” like we do” and this is something that Connick Jr. can relate to. Harry has been married to former “Victoria’s Secret” model Jill Goodacre since 1994. The couple have three daughters.
I asked Harry if it was hard to let others take the driver’s seat on this project and he admitted that it was, but in a good way. For instance, for one song one the producers went to play the piano and Connick, being a piano player himself, told the man that he usually plays the piano. He was told that that wasn’t going to be the case this time. But, letting go of some of the responsibilities allowed him to grow as a musician.
However, it’s not like Connick just sat around and did nothing either. He is credited on the album for: Brass, Clapping, Composer, Drums, French Horn, Horn Arrangements, Organ, Percussion, Piano, Primary Artist, Producer, Rap, Sax (Baritone), Sax (Tenor), String Arrangements, Trombone, Trumpet, Violin, Vocals and Wurlitzer.
I then changed things up a bit and asked him about his faith. Connick Jr. is known for being quite open about religious matters, but he become a bit more guarded. “My mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic, but I was not baptized as an infant because my mother wanted me to choose my own beliefs” and he explains that he lives his life as a Catholic and attends mass on a regular basis, but he has visited other churches and denominations over the years. I asked him if he was a “hymns guy” or more a “contemporary praise and worship guy.” He tells me that “I’m definitely a hymns guy.”
I asked him if there were any contemporary Christian singers that inspire him. The only name that came to mind was gospel singer Kim Burrell who he thinks is amazing. I then asked if he had ever considered doing a Contemporary Christian Album, but I think he misunderstood because he didn’t think that very many people would be interested into hearing him sing songs of mass. When I pressed again, he did say that he thought that the idea of doing a gospel album might be kind of fun. (You hear that Burrell? He’s open!)
Oh, and in case you’re wondering. Harry told me that yes, he and Keith Urban get along as well as they appear to get along on “American Idol.” See? He’s the real deal.