An interview with
Harry Connick, Jr.
The Big Easy
By Will Fifield
HARRY CONNICK, JR.’S easygoing manner and
seemingly effortless charisma account for his nickname, the Big Easy. But Connick’s refined musicianship reflects the other Big Easy, New Orleans, the city
from which he hails. As a jazz pianist, he can hold his
own with world-class jazz musicians, but he also leads
his own big band and is a composer with many successful pop tunes, a Broadway musical score and songs
for movies under his belt.
Over the last two decades Connick has released
20 CDs, which have sold more than 25 million
copies and earned him three Grammy Awards.
During the same time period, he’s portrayed a wide
range of characters in film and television, earning
him an Emmy Award and a Tony nomination. At
the time this article was written, the cast of The
Pajama Game, a Broadway musical in which Connick
performed for five moths last year, had been nominated for a Grammy.
The Connection recently spoke with Connick
about Oh, My Nola, his new CD, which is a tribute to
the diverse culture and music of New Orleans.
Connick also told us about his philanthropic work
on the New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village
( www.habitat-nola.org), a project conceived by
Connick and his longtime friend Branford Marsalis,
which will consist of single-family homes and elder-friendly duplexes as well as the Ellis Marsalis Center
Costco Connection: How has growing up in
New Orleans shaped you as a person?
Harry Connick, Jr.: Well, New Orleans is a
strong place culturally. There are many things that
you’ll find there—the food, the music … the people,
really—that you won’t find anywhere else. As a
result, I like certain kinds of food, and part of the
way I act comes from the time I spent there. There’s
just a certain lifestyle there that you end up taking
with you. It’s kind of hard to shake it.
CC: How do you feel about New
Orleans since hurricanes Katrina and
Rita hit the area? Are you hopeful?
HC: I’m hopeful, but it’s very
hard to go down there and see all
the destruction. It’s slowly improving, but there’s still so much work
to be done. It’s a little disheartening that after this much time there
are still so many people without
The Costco Connection
Oh, My Nola, Harry Connick, Jr.’s new album, is
available at your local Costco warehouse now.
houses. The city is pretty screwed up. It’s very disappointing, but hopefully it will get better in time.
CC: How do you feel about the Musicians’ Village?
HC: Oh, it’s going great. We have 165 families
who have applied for houses, and we’re about to
break ground on an art center, the Ellis Marsalis
Center for Music. So I’m pleased with it.
CC: You studied music with [noted jazz
pianists] Ellis Marsalis and James Booker.
How have they shaped you?
HC: Ellis taught me everything I
know about contemporary jazz, and
James Booker was sort of an informal
teacher who showed me a lot about
New Orleans piano playing, you know,
the way he played it. They were both
very different types of people and
taught me in very different ways,
but I learned huge amounts from
both of them—things that I carry
with me to this day.
CC: Your new album, Oh, My
Nola, is a tribute to New Orleans.
How did you select the songs for
HC: All the older songs [such as
“Jambalaya,” “Working in a Coal
Mine,” “Somethin’ You Got,” “Let
Them Talk,” “Won’t You Come Home,
Bill Bailey,” “Careless Love,” “Lazy
Bones,” “Hello, Dolly” and “Elijah
Rock”] are tunes long associated with
New Orleans, tunes that I’ve wanted to
do for years but just haven’t gotten
around to doing. Others are songs that I
wrote for the album.
CC: Such as “All These People”?
Singer, songwirter, musician,
actor and philanthropist
Harry Connick, Jr.
HC: Yeah, I wrote “All These People”
after I visited the convention cen-
ter right after Katrina. It was
a very powerful time in my
life. When I saw all the things
going on down there I wrote the
song to sort of document what I
saw in the way I document things. I
recorded the album with the same big
band I always play with. We’ve been
together probably 15 years now, more
PALMA KOLANSK Y
CC: Oh, My Nola has just been
released and Bug, a movie in which you
play, is coming out soon. Do you consider
yourself a musician first, then an actor?
HC: I’m a musician and I’m an actor. Which one