Harry Connick, Jr
Amanda Shaw Gaby
His voice draws you in. His personality wins you over. His talent shines brighter than all the Christmas lights in our neighborhoods combined. Montgomery is in for a real holiday treat to start the season with one of the most accomplished entertainers of our generation, as Harry Connick, Jr. takes the stage at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre on Thursday, December 13th. This showcase pays homage to Connick’s deep southern roots, in tribute to his New Orleans boyhood on the bayou, with a holiday twist. So before you hang the stockings or top your tree, gift yourself with tickets to an evening of musical merriment: A New Orleans Tricentennial Celebration, Holiday Edition, featuring Harry Connick, Jr. and his amazing band.
RSVP Montgomery was charmed to interview this multiple Grammy and Emmy Award winner by phone as he shared about his personal life, as well as what we as audience members can expect in his upcoming performance. His ultimate goal is for the audience to “feel better when they leave than when they came in.” Harry humbly continued, “We respect the fact that people are paying money to come see us and we really try to give one hundred percent every night and try to give the people something they can continue to remember for a long time.” The style of music will vary from traditional to contemporary jazz, all kinds of R&B gospel, as well as New Orleans parade music. Some of the holiday songs that bring special meaning to Harry are ones he wrote, like “When My Heart Finds Christmas,” and the hand-clapping, toe-tapping, liveliest of tunes “It Must’ve Been Old Santa.”
Whenever you brush with celebrity, you hope to find their off-screen persona in sync with who you perceive them to be. Harry Connick, Jr.’s warmth proved beyond genuine during our conversation, just shy of thirty minutes. He’s a crooner who can tickle the ivory and connect with people across screens both small and large, yet he is able to make you feel as though he is less Hollywood and more neighborly. You may doubt Santa is real, but we can tell you that Harry Connick, Jr. is as real as they come. He is a phenomenal talent, a family man, and a lover of people.
When asked what he loves most about the South, without hesitation, Connick answered, “The essence of the people is like nowhere else. People take the time to listen to you and to greet you and it’s a hospitable warm part of the world and that goes for all of the South. I think you can see it in Louisiana and Alabama, of course in other states, too. It’s just a certain way that people act and a certain type of warmth that people in the South have. It’s hard to articulate it, but I would say the people for sure.”
Harry Connick, Jr. is a native of New Orleans who performed his first solo at the tender age of five. In 1986, he made the decision to move to New York to pursue his career, and then married Victoria’s Secret Model Jill Goodacre in 1994. The couple felt it best to move to Connecticut to raise their family, which includes three daughters. While they remain in New England, they have a home in New Orleans and with Harry’s schedule that often brings him home to Louisiana, he feels ever southern.
We asked him what allows him to remain so accomplished, yet likeable, and he openly shared with us a Jesuit philosophy he learned as a boy - “It’s really not about you.” He believes his mission is to let his light shine, while focusing on the small things that would benefit others. It’s with that outward focus that he believes you can be humble, achieve greatness, and yet still remain in perfect balance.
For the holidays, Harry plans to “hang at home.” With his touring schedule and daughters who are 16, 21 and 22, this time of year allows them the chance to all stop for a brief moment and “basically chill out.” Harry further shared, “We’re pretty easy like that, we don’t have a lot of traditions, other than sometimes we go to Midnight Mass, we have a tree, it’s all basic, we like it like that.”
Connick’s other traditions are to cook and watch movies as his family enjoys time together. He cooks mainly New Orleans-style meals and speaks of his wife, Jill, in a way that makes you feel like she’s your best friend. Jill is the family chef and makes incredible, diverse meals year-round. We were very excited to learn of a supermodel who likes to fill the table and eat, to which Harry replied, “The first time I met her, this was back in 1990, we had lunch together and she ordered a beer. I think it was a Budweiser, and I said, ‘Man, this girl is alright.’”
Jill is also a breast cancer survivor, and her grace and courage beautifully complement the man who won our hearts in the movie Hope Floats. If you ask him about the movie, he will quickly begin to tell you about his and Jill’s very good friend, Sandra Bullock. Sandra was the first guest on his daytime talk show, “Harry.” Interestingly, Connick’s syndicated show, which saw its end this spring after the initial two year contract, celebrated women in a way that no other male-hosted show can claim. As what now only feels ahead of its time, he shared with us that he intentionally invited female trailblazers as his first guests because he wanted to provide an outlet to broadcast their message and inspire others. Although we did not dwell on the subject, we couldn’t help but wonder how his show might continue a message of hope in light of the #metoo movement.
If you doubt Harry’s humility, just ask him where he keeps his multiple Grammy and Emmy Awards. He sheepishly told us that as fast as he hides them, Jill displays them. For now, they are in full view on the kitchen island. Perhaps Jill’s delicious holiday spread will soon upstage his “embarrassing” awards.
Join RSVP as we welcome the season and Harry Connick, Jr. His star will always point north.
Harry on the Holidays (sidebar)
1. Christmas Tree – Before or after Thanksgiving? After
2. Fake Tree of Real Tree? Real tree until last year when they had a fake, snow-capped, environmentally-friendly tree. Harry was surprised at its beauty and confessed they will probably use the same tree this year.
3. Colored or White Lights? White; Harry likes to keep his décor simple.
4. Gifts on Christmas Eve or Morning? One gift on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas Morning
5. Wrap or Display? Harry admits he’s not the best at assembling large toys, like trampolines, and preferred to throw a sheet over those types of gifts when his girls were younger. But he always assembled them himself without relying on outside help.