Harry Connick Jr Q&A: “I can’t get enough of David Brent”

The musician talks the British Office, Tim Cook, and America in the 1400s.

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Harry Connick Jr, born in New Orleans in 1967, is a jazz singer, actor and TV host. In 1999 he invented a digitised sheet music system for use in orchestras and big bands.

What’s your earliest memory?

Playing the piano when I was about three. We had a little piano in the house in Lakeview, New Orleans and I was very attracted to it. I remember looking eye- level at the keys, pressing some down and being fascinated with how the sound would come out of this big box.

Who are your heroes?

My dad. He’s 93 now and we talk every day. I still seek his counsel about everything from religion to his experience as a Second World War veteran, or life with my mother before I was born. He says, “I wonder sometimes why I’m still here” and I say, “Because I’m not done with you yet.”

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level. Cook seems an unlikely choice to run the biggest company in the world, so why did Jobs choose him? For his unorthodox ways and for applying his own life experience to Apple. He is a kind man with his head and heart in the right place.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

I’m not an expert on anything. I like not knowing, so I can use my own experience to drive my performance, to a degree.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

America in the 1400s when it was just the Native Americans – I’d love to see the place I live now, back then.

What TV show could you not live without?

The British Office is the funniest show in the history of television. I just binge-watched it again. I can’t get enough of David Brent. How did Ricky Gervais get us to root for this guy who is reprehensible? So hard to watch, and so brilliantly done.

Who would paint your portrait?

The Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum. I’d have to not react when he revealed the painting. He takes things pretty out there.

What’s your theme tune?

The theme from The Six Million Dollar Man is my ringtone. If I could have that playing everywhere I went, I’d feel empowered.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My dad told me to be on time and be nice to people. Sometimes I’m not nice and sometimes I’m late – but I try.

What’s currently bugging you?

I hate it when you walk into a hotel room and they’ve left background music for you. I search for the remote immediately.

What single thing would make your life better?

I could be better at a lot of things – a better listener, more patient, more empathic – so I’m not going to cast any stones.

When were you happiest?

Now. I’ve been with my wife long enough to feel as close as you can be to another human being. I have three daughters and I’m at a point in my career where I can do pretty much what I want.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

A professional football player in the NFL. I love the sport and the men that play it.

Are we all doomed?

I’m a fatalist but I wouldn’t say doomed. I’d say blessed, with all the sadness that accompanies life. 

“True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter” is out now on Verve Records

This article appears in the 06 November 2019 issue of the New Statesman, What went wrong

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