Harry Connick Jr. joins us to talk about the release of his new album, Alone With My Faith.
Worship Leader: I’d love to hear from you about the process of deciding to create this new album, Alone With My Faith. You’ve got all this stuff going on, then suddenly the world shuts down because of the pandemic and everything is canceled, so now you have all this free time. Take us back to the thought process of figuring out that making this record is how you were going to use that time.
Harry Connick Jr. : I had a lot of free time and I was really concerned with everybody’s welfare at first. It was a few weeks before that weird feeling of not knowing what was going on kind of subsided and we went into lockdown mode. I started thinking about some different things I wanted to do, and among those things was a gospel album, which I knew I was going to record at some point but I just never got around to it. So I said, “well, maybe I can do this. I don’t have any musicians with me or recording engineers, but I’ll just do it at home.” So I started to record some stuff and as I was going through those different tracks, I starting thinking that I wanted to write some things about what I was feeling then, so I started to write some songs. It turned into kind of a different album than what I had anticipated. It turned into more of an album about faith than it was a gospel album. The gospel album would have probably been a selection of songs that was all celebratory and that same types of songs. This one kind of spans the gamut of “God is great” to “I’m questioning my faith a little bit” to “what is my worth in all of this?” and things like that. Despite all of the tragedy that went hand-in-hand with this pandemic, it was a blessing because I got to think about some things I probably would’t have gotten to think about that way.
WL: Something I really love about this album is that you created it all yourself. You wrote, arranged, played and recorded all the parts on your own, which is especially impressive when you hear how full the record sounds. What was that recording process like for you?
Harry: I’ve done things like this in the past. Basically, it’s called overdubbing. You can record something, like a piano track, then you go back and record another instrument. A lot of times I would start with a piano track or a guitar track, I’d record that, then I would go back and add other instruments— bass, drums, trumpet, organ, synthesizer, guitar, whatever it was — and then you keep adding and sculpting it. Then it comes time for the vocals. Sometimes I would double the vocal, which means I would sing it all the way through and then I would go back and sing it all again, and as opposed to both of those vocals being right in the center of your head, you can pan one of them to the right or left and it gives it a cool effect. Then there’s the background vocals, and depending on how many background parts you have, you can add as many as you want. It’s called doubling and tripling. You sing a part, like a really high part, then you go back and sing the exact same thing again, then go back and sing the exact same thing again. So with the imperfections, it sounds kind of like three people together. Then you add the second harmony part and you sing that three times, then the third and the fourth. There were some of these songs that had nine or ten harmony parts, so that adds up to close to thirty background vocals. When you mix the album, you can put those vocals in different parts in your head when you’re listening on headphones. Some of those voices might sound like they’re coming from behind you, or from the right or left, so it really gives the illusion of having a full choir when it’s really just one person.
WL: So looking at this track list, there’s a solid combination of both original songs and classic hymns that you put your own spin on. How did you go about picking the track list for this album?
Harry: For the traditional songs, I just picked the ones that meant something to me. I love “The Old Rugged Cross.” Some of the songs were suggested to me, like “Old Time Religion.” I just never would have thought of that one, but my stepmom suggested that. “Panis Angelicus” was one my dad wanted me to do when I told him what I was working on. The rest of them were just songs that I loved. I could have picked any other songs, but these were the ones that came to mind. For the original songs, I just wrote what I was feeling and took it from there.
WL: Another thing that’s really special about this project is that the album cover and the “Amazing Grace” video were both created by your daughter. What was it like getting to work with family on this album and how did it make the process even sweeter for you?
Harry: Any chance I get to do anything with my family is a thrill, and I’ve been able to work with all of them in different ways. Our oldest daughter Georgia is a photographer and a videographer, so she really knows what she’s doing. We’ve worked together for years on different things and she’s been a photographer on many things that I’ve done, so the album cover was a no-brainer. We couldn’t be around anybody, so I said, “hey, I’m making this album, you want to take a picture?” and she took what is, to this day, my favorite album cover. Then the video came around and I said, “you’re a director — go for it.” So she conceived it, produced it, found the locations, shot it, edited it. I was confident in her leadership skills and her creativity, and it was a joy to do.
WL: You’ve talked a lot about the process of making this album being something that helped you through the uncertainty and chaos of the pandemic because of the lyrical content of these songs. When people listen to this record, what’s the message you want them to walk away with?
Harry: Comfort. I want them to take comfort in it. The album came out today and some of my friends and family have written me and I’ve seen some comments from people online, and it’s been amazing. Some people have said, “I just had a death in the family” or “this was my dad’s favorite song” or “this song really speaks to me.” Alone With My Faith sounds like what we’re going through right now, and it just means the world to me because when I was in here recording, I was by myself, and it’s almost like I never expected anybody to hear it. When I hear people respond favorably to it, it’s really a nice feeling. So I just hope people get some comfort from it.
WL: In talking about this whole concept of being alone with your faith during the last year of the pandemic, what would you personally say that your faith has meant to you during this time?
Harry: It’s gotten me through. That and my family have been ever-present. I’ve thought about my faith in a lot of different ways — it hasn’t always been solid as a rock, sometimes I had some really tough days in there, but it’s always been there and it’s been a source of great comfort. I’m so lucky to be able to exercise that gift of comfort.
Read WL’s review of Alone With My Faith here.
Find out more about Harry Connick Jr. here.