Nice Advice From an Older, Wiser, Hairier Harry

by Richard Jinman
Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April 1997

Hold onto your seats, Harry Connick jnr (aka The New Frank Sinatra) has gone grunge. The man who once melted hearts as a clean-cut, sharp-creased crooner is sporting a beanie, beard, figure-hugging striped shirt and the kind of check pants popularised by chefs and Rupert Bear.

Only one detail undermines Harry's post-Seattle inspired make-over. The brand name on his sneakers is NICE.

And Connick jnr, in Australia yesterday on the eve of a national tour which reaches the Sydney Entertainment Centre next Tuesday, is undeniably nice. This "don't smoke, don't drink" son of New Orleans lawyers just oozes deep fried Southern charm from the moment he seizes your hand in a bone-cracking grip.

Actually, Connick jnr denies he's pulling a Madonna-style image switch. The relaxed dress code simply reflects the "party music" he's playing nowadays, a blend of New Orleans funk, jazz, and rock 'n' roll.

"I like clothes," he said when pressed on his image. "Sometimes I'll be in these kinda clothes, sometimes in jeans and sometimes in a suit. It all depends." Alrighty, then.

Besides nice, the words which best describe Connick jnr are upbeat and confident. He's particularly confident and upbeat, when the subject is Harry Connick jnr's career.

Still a few months short of his 30th birthday, he's added a string of acting credits - a fighter pilot in Independence Day, a psychotic serial killer in Copycat - to his string of hit albums. Connick's most recent performance saw him acting alongside Alicia Silverstone and Christopher Walken in an as-yet unreleased film called Excess Baggage. Connick jnr isn't fazed by acting or big-name actors. No sir. "Ah don't really get nervous," he explains in a syllable-bending New Orleans drawl. "Because they [actors] can't really bring to the table what I can and vice versa."

"Ah'm very confident in my abilities," he adds somewhat unnecessarily.

He cites De Niro, Pacino, and Jeremy Irons as influences, but admits he's never taken formal acting lessons. "I've learned from people, but as far as sitting in a room imitating a tree or something, I never did that."

A practising Catholic, who inserts the odd gospel tune into his act, Connick jnr is conservative in his musical tastes. He doesn't like rap, for example. "I listen to music to learn," he said. "I'm not gonna listen to some guy talkin' over the top of someone else's music because it's a waste of time."

Back on a positive tack, he ponders the future. "I don't know where I'll be next year, but I do know I'll be a lot better than I am now," he said. "Your decision-making as a man becomes more refined as you get older. You get wiser and hopefully your music does too."

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