July 01--In the four years since Harry Connick Jr. last released a studio album, he's starred in a heartwarming family film ("Dolphin Tale"), returned to Broadway (in a revival of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever"), played a prosecutor on a four-episode arc of one of TV's most popular dramas ("Law & Order: SVU") and displayed welcome candidness as a mentor on the recent season of "American Idol."
And you thought you had a busy life.
Last month, Connick released "Every Man Should Know," an album of all original music that is unequivocally his most personal -- at least since 1994's New Orleans-funk experiment, "She."
The ever-suave Connick, 45, recently embarked on a tour to support the new release. He'll bring his eight-piece band to Chastain Park Amphitheatre on Sunday, a venue he calls one of his favorite, despite the ambient chatter that often accompanies shows there.
"I grew up playing in New Orleans. I'm used to people being drunk!" he said with a laugh.
Connick talked last week about the new show (it will probably feature five or six new songs), the personal nature of the CD (he's worked on it for two years) and his happy marriage.
Q: How is the tour going?
A: It's going really well, but it's extremely challenging because I'm the guy who shows the orchestra how to play the songs, so it takes a lot of time, and I've got a lot of lyrics to remember. I'm always tweaking. The shows are never the same.
Q: Because you're such a true musician, do you think you could deal with judging or coaching on "American Idol" and working with kids who don't even understand what they're singing sometimes and not make yourself crazy?
A: I don't know if I'll have that opportunity since no one has ever asked me. But growing up in New Orleans, we played all kinds of music, and all of those genres are different for reasons, and with some music, the lyrics don't matter. Rick James or K.C. & the Sunshine Band, they weren't really about lyrics, but the music is great. Those particular tunes that they were asking me to mentor (on "Idol") were 100 percent about the song itself, but some things aren't. I happen to be well aware of that. If you listened to Cole Porter every day for the rest of your life, it would be really boring.
Q: "Every Man Should Know" is your most personal album. Why go deep now?
A: Part of it is the road I've taken in my personal life, the ways I've dealt with events that have happened to me, from watching my dad get older to being married and having kids to my mom dying. These are all things that all of us deal with. But I've gotten more comfortable in my own skin. The album isn't 100 percent autobiographical, but I think it was time to stop making up stories to sing about.
Q: Tell me about "Love Wins," the song you wrote in memory of Ana Grace (Marquez-Greene), who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. (Ana Grace was the daughter of Jimmy Greene, who played in Connick's band for years.) That had to be heartbreaking to write.
A: It was awful. Ana Grace used to say "love wins." When I was at the funeral, the minister said, regardless of what happens here, God loved her enough to want her to be with him. But to write the song, sing it, perform it, was extremely difficult, but very consoling when you think about what the words are saying. That's all we have, man.
Q: So let's talk about acting. I hear there is going to be a sequel to "Dolphin Tale."
A: I've heard that, too. I read the script and thought it was really well done. At first I was like, "How do you do a sequel?" But Charles Martin Smith (who directed the first film), he's a brilliant director and actor. So I read the script and said, this is pretty special. Now it's just a matter of the mountain of logistics.
Q: So you've done Broadway, films, TV, music. What is left for you to conquer?
A: I haven't conquered any of them. When I go onstage on Broadway, that's hard -- I want to get better at that. I want to do it more and be better than I was the last time I was on stage. It's not, "I've done Broadway -- I want to move on." Right now, it's really about being on the road. I'm in this world right now.
Q: You've been married (to Jill Goodacre) for almost 20 years. What's the secret?
A: I love her. I love her a lot and she loves me. We really dig each other. We love our family. We've been lucky, and that doesn't happen for everyone. People fall out of love and get divorced and die, and I'm well aware of that. I feel very lucky to have gotten this far with her.
For more of the Harry Connick Jr. interview, visit The Music Scene at www.accessatlanta.com.
Harry Connick Jr.
8 p.m. Sunday. $55-$85. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.
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