How faith guided Harry Connick Jr. through the pandemic and inspired his new gospel album
From collaboration to isolation, Connick made his latest record, Alone With My Faith, entirely on his own
Grammy-winning musician Harry Connick Jr. grew up in a mixed-faith family, with a Catholic father and a Jewish mother who encouraged him and his sister to choose their own religion. When he was 13, he decided he wanted to be Catholic.
"I wanted to feel like I was part of this community that I was familiar with because I had been going to church with my dad my whole life," he told host Tom Power in an interview on CBC Radio's Q. "It was kind of the first signpost of faith for me. [It's] been a part of my life ever since."
When the pandemic hit, Connick naturally turned to his faith and music for strength. His latest record, Alone With My Faith, is a raw and vulnerable gospel album he recorded entirely by himself over eight months.
"It's called Alone With My Faith because I was literally alone," he explained. "I played all the instruments and did all the singing, background singing, and then I recorded it. And now here we are."
WATCH | Harry Connick Jr.'s full interview with Q's Tom Power:
With a 30-year career in music, Connick has had a lot of experience working both solo and collaboratively, but he had never been his own recording engineer before.
"Normally, somebody is in the control room. They say, 'OK, take one!' And they hit the button, and you play — that didn't exist," he told Power. "So setting up the mics [and] being the engineer was interesting. I had to make sure I came up with a workflow that was conducive to how I like to record."
Beyond working as his own recording engineer, the Grammy-winner said his creative process was completely improvisatory. On his rendition of Amazing Grace, he started with just his voice and a piano. As he recorded each successive verse, he would think of something new to add: a synthesizer, an organ, horns, drums and background vocals.
"There are no sort of GarageBand-style instruments, so it took quite a while," he said. "I think it lends an authenticity to the music that you can't really get with fake instruments."
WATCH | Official video for Amazing Grace:
While some may think religion is incongruent with the lifestyle of a touring musician, Connick said he's never thought of his faith that way — or worried how people would respond to it. For him, it's important not only to stand up for his beliefs, but to "broadcast those beliefs" as well.
"I don't base what I record on the prospect of it being liked or disliked because it's a really slippery slope," he said. "I go into my heart, I make the music that means something to me. And I found over the last 30 years of recording that … people respond more favourably to sincerity."
WATCH | Official video for Alone With My Faith:
Hear Tom Power's full conversation with Harry Connick Jr. near the top of this page.
Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview produced by Mitch Pollock.