Award-winning US pianist, crooner and actor Harry Connick Jr. turned to his faith and music amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He shares his experience in his latest album, Alone With My Faith, writes Nick Benson.
With the Covid-19 pandemic casting a long shadow in 2020, Grammy and Emmy Award winning multi-instrumentalist Harry Connick Jr. retreated to his home studio during the lockdown and emerged with an album of new music.
Long regarded as one of America’s finest vocalists and pianists, the sheer breadth of Connick’s talents has never been more on display than with the forthcoming album, Alone With My Faith.
Connick, a practising Catholic, wrote and arranged all of the songs, played every instrument and sang every part – both lead and background vocals. Both the album cover and the first video from the record, Amazing Grace, were conceived and directed by Harry’s daughter Georgia Connick.
“In March 2020, right after news of the pandemic hit, when my tour was cancelled and I headed home for however long it would last, I decided to record some music. Not only because I wanted to, but because I needed to,” said Connick.
“With no tour dates in sight, and with everyone’s realities upended and futures uncertain, recording was what was necessary for me to help guide me through the uncharted odyssey in which we all unexpectedly found ourselves.
“I found myself alone (with my faith!) in my home studio, surrounded by instruments and gear, bursting with an abundance of ideas. I was able to go deep within myself as a musician and a man, uninterrupted by the normalcies of collaboration or human interaction.
“It was a sort of ‘musical isolation chamber’, a silent retreat, the silence only broken by the sound of my own voice, the instruments I played and the occasional microphone I inadvertently knocked over, as I’m not the most graceful recording engineer that ever lived!”
The album features Connick’s take on many popular faith-based tracks, including the aforementioned popular Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, as well as How Great Thou Art and the very timely Be Not Afraid.
The record also features a number of original songs, such as the uplifting, folksy Benevolent Man and the contemplative All These Miracles.
Connick edited the tracks using Logic and when he was playing an immovable instrument, like drums or organ, he used Logic Remote, using his iPad as the controller.
In addition to all of the acoustic instruments, Connick used many electric instruments, including basses, guitars and synthesizers. However, there are no ‘soft synths’ on this recording – all synthesizers, keyboards and organs are real. No instruments were ‘in the box’.
After all of the edits were made and all of the tracks consolidated, he sent the files to his good friend, Tracey Freeman, to mix. A couple of weeks later, Connick rented an RV and drove to New Orleans to finish the mixing process with Freeman at his home studio.
Months later, after countless tracks and edits, Connick said it was not only the secluded nature of the recording process, but the content of the songs themselves that helped him through the strange period.
“This was the first time that I found this level of comfort, peace and truth throughout the process of making music,” he said. “Because the lyrics are all about the spectrum of faith, I found myself interpreting them in real time – they were allowing me to heal as much as I wanted them to help heal others. I didn’t have to pretend or put myself in another place or time, as one often does as a singer or actor.”
Connick recently opened up about the devastating losses he experienced amid the Covid-19 pandemic, revealing that 14 people in his life had died during this time. The Catholic Universe reported last year how a “heartbroken” Connick had paid tribute to Mgr Richard Guastella the priest who gave him his first job in New York City and who married Connick and his wife, actress Jill Goodacre. Mgr Guastella died on 9th April 2020 after battling Covid-19 symptoms for about a week.
The pandemic has played a major role in Alone With My Faith, with Connick admitting that much of the original music tells the story of his experience during the lockdown.
“I, like most of us, felt joy, sadness, doubt, conviction, melancholy and inspiration – all the emotions that faith, or lack thereof, can elicit,” he said.
“Even though many of the songs are Christian, my hope is that they will resonate with people of all faiths, as it gives me great comfort to know that faith is an immeasurably beautiful gift that, with its universal spirit, can help bring us together in the most arduous of times.”
Alone With My Faith by Harry Connick Jr. is out now on Universal Music’s Verve and Capitol CMG.
Picture: Alone With My Faith by Harry Connick Jr. album cover.