Grammy and Emmy Award-winning artist Harry Connick Jr. chatted with Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos about his new metaverse community The Neutral Ground and Piano Party course.
He is set to debut a slate of upcoming projects and experiences on March 29th with his inaugural online course, Piano Party.
The Neutral Ground
He launched a brand new metaverse community The Neutral Ground, where registration is open to everyone at his official website by clicking here. “It’s a gathering place where I will be able to share some cool ideas, and new projects that I am working on,” he said.
The Neutral Ground is a socially immersive experience that will bring everyone into the metaverse and into Connick Jr.’s world. It is designed as a place to come together to connect, engage and interact around some of his passions, including music, food, and family.
The name comes from the grassy divides (medians) where Connick Jr. would hang out as a kid in New Orleans, which are called “neutral grounds.” “In New Orleans, a neutral ground is what we call an area between two grassy medians. As a kid, I never thought what it meant but I thought it would be a good name for this platform that I wanted to launch because it not only means something to me personally, but it also, has another meaning,” he explained.
“This platform is an immersive experience where people can gather and share ideas and passions, and have fun. They can do so in a safe, immersive way that is kind of new. As we move forward in time, people will become more familiar with this metaverse since they will be able to interact in ways that they haven’t been able to do so before,” he added.
Piano Party is a new online piano course that only Harry Connick Jr. can create. As the course instructor and guide, Harry he makes learning the piano fun as he mixes the basics with personal stories about his own musical journey. Participants will walk away with the ability to showcase their musical side and the fundamentals of the piano – and make a host of new friends and fun memories with Harry around the virtual keyboard.
Speaking of Piano Party, it is the first of many projects and experiences to come on The Neutral Ground, which launches Season 1 on March 29. The series brings his love of piano and music to life in a new online course designed for all ages and ability levels. “Piano Party is this piano course that I put together, which is more about hanging out and having a good time, and making people feel comfortable,” he said.
“I want to demystify things from the very beginning and hold their hand through the process, and teach them a little something about music along the way,” he added.
Regarding his daily motivations, he said, “I was very lucky to be given a strong desire to play music and to entertain. I never really had to search for motivation, it’s a very natural thing for me. Most people can relate to having something in their lives that they are passionate about, whether it’s a hobby or what they do for a living. I feel very fortunate that I have lots of things that I really love to do.”
“When I get up in the morning I get to work right away on all of the things that I am passionate about,” he added.
The digital age
On being an artist in the digital age, he said, “Artistry comes first to me and technology comes in second. I think of technology as a great accessory to that. In many ways, it is right along with it since it expedites the process. There are certain things that I am able to do now that I wasn’t able to do 20 years ago in regard to recording and writing out orchestral scores or transferring information.”
“Things have become more expedited that it actually saves a lot of time and allows me to do more creative things,” he added.
Recording in the studio vs. performing live
For Connick, Jr., he acknowledged that a difference exists when he records in the studio vs. performing live. “I love them both,” he admitted.
“I love being in the studio and everything that’s about, and I love playing on stage because you get to play the music that you worked on in the studio and that takes a life of its own. I am just glad that I can do both,” he added.
As part of his pre-show rituals, he says a “little prayer with the band.” “I do that to express my gratitude for being there,” he said.
Harry Connick Jr.: A man of many talents
Harry Connick, Jr.’s career has exemplified excellence across multiple platforms in the entertainment world over the past 30 years. He has received Grammy and Emmy awards as well as Tony nominations for his live and recorded musical performances, achievements in film and television, and his appearances on Broadway as both an actor and composer.
He continues to establish himself as a best-selling musician, singer, composer, and live performer with millions of recordings sold around the world. He has appeared in 20 feature films (“Hope Floats,” “Dolphin Tale,” “Independence Day,” “Memphis Belle”) and his work on television includes roles on “Will and Grace,” “South Pacific,” “Living Proof,” and “American Idol.”
“Serving as a judge on ‘American Idol’ was really fun,” he said. “I am not the judgmental type but that’s what they hired me to do and I enjoyed it. When I was on the show, there were a lot of talented people and I had a really good time.”
In 2016, he launched “Harry,” a national daytime television show that earned 11 Daytime Emmy nominations, including nominations for “Best Host,” and a Critics’ Choice nomination for “Best Talk Show.”
On Broadway, Connick received Tony nominations as both a lead actor in “The Pajama Game” and as a composer and lyricist for “Thou Shalt Not.” He last performed on Broadway in 2019 in a show he wrote and directed: “Harry Connick, Jr.: A Celebration of Cole Porter.”
‘Alone With My Faith’ album
In the summer of 2020, as the country entered a prolonged pandemic lockdown, he retreated alone to his home studio to “heal himself” in what he called “a musical isolation chamber.”
He wrote songs, played all instruments, sang all voices, recorded it all himself, and emerged with an album of songs of faith and inspiration titled “Alone With My Faith.”
On his “Alone With My Faith” album, he said, “I was at home, I was in my studio and I had time to record. I was thinking about my faith and what that meant to me and what it must mean to people all over the world to express their faith in different ways.”
“I thought this would be a good opportunity to write and record some songs that mean something to me, and they are helping me get through this unusual and confusing time. The recording of the album itself helped me do that, and I heard that it has helped other people too, which is the ultimate honor,” he explained.
The album is presently nominated for “Best Roots Gospel Album” at the upcoming Grammy Awards, and this marks his 16th career Grammy nomination. “I don’t think about those things when I am recording but when it gets recognized, it is a great honor,” he said.
He shared that his daughter, Georgia Connick, filmed the music video for “Amazing Grace.” “My daughter shot that video, she is a really talented photographer, editor, and videographer. I was lucky to have her,” he said.
“Alone With My Faith” is available on digital service providers by clicking here.
Most recently, he brought the role of Oliver’ Daddy’ Warbucks to life on stage in the NBC live musical event, “Annie Live!”
On the title of the current chapter of his life, he responded, “The Neutral Ground.”
He listed Dua Lipa and Tina Turner as his dream female duet choices in the music business. “I think Dua Lipa is great,” he said.
If he were to have any superpower, he revealed that it would be “teleportation.”
On the best advice he was ever given, he disclosed, “My dad told me a long time ago: ‘be nice and be on time.’ I have done those things, and so far so good.”
For Connick Jr., success is the “realization that you are able to accomplish what you set out to accomplish, whether that is family, career, or faith-based.” “Success is knowing that you reached a particular goal,” he said.
“I want the fans to know that ‘Piano Party’ isn’t really about playing the piano as much as it is about playing music and hanging out. I want to teach everybody about music. It’s about being together, having some fun, and sharing stories. I hope the fans can tap into their own creativity and play some music on their own,” he concluded.