By Jacob Uitti (American Songwriter)
Harry Connick Jr. didn’t waste any time. When the New Orleans-born songwriter and performer found out about the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing global lockdown in 2020, he got to work. Thankfully for the award-winning artist who has sold millions of albums, he has his own home studio. It was there that he began playing, recording, and honing tracks for his upcoming Christmas album, Make It Merry, which was announced Friday (November 18) and is set to drop later this month on November 26, exclusively via Apple Music. Connick Jr. is also set to undertake a holiday tour, beginning November 18.
When the world shut down two years ago, the legendary artist fired up his studio equipment and recorded the vast majority of each track, one by one, laying down his own versions of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” “Jingle Bells,” and more with his signature cozy croon.
“I picked one,” Connick Jr. tells American Songwriter. “And went on to the next song. It was either a song I had done before that I had written or a song I had always wanted to do. There are two new songs on the album. But I just didn’t put a lot of thought [ahead of time] into how I was going to build it. I just worked in real-time, recording one song and then another song.”
Before he knew it, he says, he had the whole album—from the jaunty “Papa Noel” to the spacious “Christmas Time Is Here.” Connick Jr. acknowledges that he was fortunate to be able to do so much work from home. At the time, he had just finished recording a gospel album that he did on his own, also in his home studio. He’d enjoyed the process. That, combined with the reality that he couldn’t go anywhere, allowed him to work in free moments and get down what he wanted to when he wanted to.
“It was as simple as playing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and adding 30 tracks of [backing tracks] and thinking, ‘That’s cool! What other songs are there?’ It was really simple in its evolution.”
The result, though, while simple in its origins, is an ornate record. Smooth in parts, modern, and even a touch challenging in others. The 55-year-old Connick Jr.’s Christmas record is likely going to be a favorite of his fans. To test that theory, Connick Jr. is set to undergo a sweeping 29-date United States tour, beginning on November 18 in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and finishing on December 24 in San Francisco, California. In between, there will be shows in Washington D.C., Cleveland, New York City, St. Louis, Denver, and many more. While some might think this an arduous task, to uproot oneself ahead of what should be professional downtime, Connick Jr. says he’s excited to hit the road, see his fans and celebrate the time of year.
“I can’t wait to get back on the road,” he says. “I haven’t seen my fans in a little while and it will be fun to be with them all again. It’s just a happy time of year for the people who choose to come out and hear music for an evening. It’s nice singing tunes that you don’t get to sing other times of the year.”
While Connick Jr. says he’s done holiday tours before, it’s not something he does regularly. So, it will be a treat for him, too. Especially considering he’ll be singing songs that many know and love, songs that were expertly written and have stood the test of time. The six-week tour will also be something of a precursor to his own holiday plans. When the run of shows is completed, Connick Jr. says he will head from San Francisco to Colorado to spend the Christmas holiday with his wife and her dad. Then he’ll have a “couple of days off” before he begins plans for more on his proverbial plate, from a Broadway project he’s working on to new music, television work, film work, and “just a whole wide variety” of interesting projects. For the artist, it’s gratifying to be able to have these opportunities.
“These are all projects that I’m developing and that I’ve set up,” Connick Jr. says of his upcoming undertakings. “To see them come to fruition and watch them materialize—some of them are years in the making—it’s great. It’s what I love to do. I work really hard at making something happen and it’s just nice to be able to do that.”
In the end, for the festive Connick Jr., music is the key to so much of his success and to so much that inspires him. It’s the present under the metaphorical Christmas tree each and every day. But he’s also made the most of it in his years as a professional artist. For Connick Jr., who got his start before the age of 10 recording music and performing live in the Crescent City, songs are the cause for a life well-lived. That’s something to celebrate.
“These holiday songs,” Connick Jr. says, “are some of the best pieces of music this country has to offer. I love them. ”