Q&A: Harry Connick, Jr. mixes things up on new album

Harry Connick, Jr. is the epitome of a successful artist. As an actor, he’s appeared in several blockbuster films and has won two Emmy awards. As a musician, he’s enjoyed even more success, and is what he’s best known for. He’s sold 28 million albums worldwide and has three Grammy Awards under his belt. He even lent his talents to American Idol as a judge during the 12th and 13th seasons. His discography dates back the late ‘70s, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He dropped his 32nd album this past October, entitled That Would Be Me, and it’s a bit different than what we’re used to hearing from the storied jazz artist. The Denver Catholic caught up with Harry about the new album, his ties to Colorado and his Catholic faith.

That Would Be Me is available to order from iTunes and Amazon.

Q: You’ve got a new album out, and it’s quite different from anything you’ve done before. What makes it different?

A: What’s different about this album is that I worked with two producers, and the function of these producers was to suggest ideas, talk about different ways of recording, give me feedback on what I was doing, how I was singing and playing, what the instrumentation was and all of the stuff, which was a process I’ve never gone through because I’ve always answered all of those questions myself. I’ve always been very definitive in terms of if I sing a song and I like the way the vocals sound, then we move on. I’ve never had somebody say, “Sing it again,” or if I didn’t like the vocals, I didn’t have somebody say, “Oh, it’s perfect, leave it alone.” Working with producers was very different for me but it’s something that I wanted to experience because that’s the norm in my business. Working with producers is actually the way most people work and I wanted to feel what that felt like.

Q: Most musicians start off in the pop world and then as they mature they begin to experiment differently, but it seems like you’re pulling a Benjamin Button on this and turning the clock the other way. You were more of a big band artist early on and now you’re kind of going pop. Tell us about that.

A: First of all, I’m not going pop. These are pop songs, but I’m not really going anywhere. It’s just a snapshot of what I’m feeling at this point in my life. If you go back and listen to my earlier records like She and Starturtle, this record isn’t that different from those and I was in my early to mid-20’s when I did those. I just like making music and I’m not going in a particular direction, intentionally anyway. It’s not like I’m trying to be young. I’m 48 years old, and this is what I’m hearing right now. It doesn’t mean that the next record is going to be similar or dissimilar from this, it’s just where I am. It wasn’t really a calculated move; it’s just what I felt like playing.

Q: What are some of the lyrical themes you touched on with this album?

A: This album is kind of all over the place in terms of theme. Some songs I wrote and some songs I didn’t write. The song “(I Do) Like We Do” was one I did not write about being married and how wonderful that is. One song is about looking at somebody and seeing them smile and it stops you dead in your tracks. One song is about relevance in a relationship and why can’t this guy matter to someone in a relationship. It’s all over the place; there are happy songs and sad songs and angry songs and joyous songs…it’s just a little bit of everything, there’s not really a theme.

Q: It’s pretty well-known that you’re a devout Catholic. Talk a little bit about your faith and its importance to you, and how it informs your art and your music.

A: My faith is very important to me, and it probably does inform my music and art and most things in my life, but I’m just not sure how it does that. I sing “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and “How Great Thou Art” occasionally and I love those songs, but aside from those songs, I’m not sure how it works. I’m not a preacher or someone who does Christian albums; there are people who do that and it’s terrific, but it’s kind of a mystery to me how my faith works its way into my life. All I do is pray that I can be the best person I can be. I know that my faith is intertwined with the decisions that I make, I’m just not sure how it works and I kind of like it like that.

Q: You’ve had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, right?

A: I did sing at the Papal Mass but he wasn’t there. That was at Yankee Stadium and I had the chance to sing in front of a bunch of wonderful people, but that was before Pope Benedict got there. The same thing happened with Pope Francis; I was singing at Madison Square Garden for the Papal Mass but in fact, it was before he got there. It was an honor nonetheless, but I wasn’t able to perform for them.

Q: You’ve performed in Colorado at Red Rocks before and put on a phenomenal show. You also have a little bit of a Colorado connection.

A: I do! My wife grew up in Boulder, and her father and brother and our niece and nephew live there, so we have deep connections to Colorado and we love that connection. It’s a great, great state. We certainly relish the time we get to come out there, it’s always such an amazing time and it’s really not like anyplace else.

Q: How do you balance your artistic career as a musician and as an actor with your family?

A: I have a manager, and I’ve been with her for 30 years, since I was 18 years old. She is very aware of how important my family is to me, and basically it’s as simple as making sure I get enough time with my family and keeping that balance. When I go on the road, I don’t go out for six months, I go out for two weeks and then I’ll come home. Then I’ll go out again and sometimes my family will come with me and we’ll make sure we plan things around times that my kids either individually or as a group can come with me. On paper, it looks like a very, very busy schedule, and it is, but there are all kinds of times when the only thing I have to do is take my kids to school or go to parent-teacher meetings or whatever we’re doing, and ultimately that’s the most important. My career, although it’s very public, it’s very easy to keep the balance between my professional life and my private life.

Q: We appreciate your time so much. Is there anything else you’d like to say to your audience out here in Colorado?

A: First of all, I just want to thank you guys for having me. I absolutely adore your state and I’m just so thrilled to have your support and I hope everybody likes the new record and hopefully I get out there to visit you guys one of these days.

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

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On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 

HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.