Alone With My Faith
When the COVID-19 pandemic halted touring in 2020, Harry Connick, Jr., found himself with a lot of extra time on his hands. His mind turned to a long-simmering desire to record a gospel album, channeling the complicated emotions wrought by the pandemic into a collection of spiritual, deeply personal songs. “A lot of people I knew got sick and it was tough,” Connick tells Apple Music. “I started writing about that, and then sometimes I would feel like writing something jubilant and celebratory. But it turned into an album of faith rather than a pure gospel album, because I wanted it to sort of transcend Christianity. I'm Christian, but I wanted it to be something that people of any faith could find some comfort in.” Connick played every instrument on the album himself (including singing his own background and harmony vocals) and wrote and recorded the entire project alone in his studio. The album includes a number of original songs, like “Benevolent Man,” which poses existential questions over percussive strings and layered vocals, and the yearning, contemplative title track. He also puts his own spin on spiritual favorites like “Amazing Grace” and “Old Time Religion,” both of which nod sonically to his New Orleans roots. Below, Connick walks Apple Music through several of Alone With My Faith’s key tracks.
Alone With My Faith “I've been with the same manager for probably 35 years now. Her name is Ann Marie Wilkins, and she's from Jamaica and she is part manager, part friend, part sister, part mom. I always play the music for her whenever I do a record, just because I like to get her thoughts. And she called me up and she said, ‘This is really a faith album. I think you should call it Alone With My Faith,’ which is unusual for her, because she normally doesn't stick her toes in that pool. So I quickly started to write the song.”
Benevolent Man “I just want to try to be better. I'm driven to be better. And I have yet to get to the end of the day where I say, ‘You know what? You were perfect today.’ I just haven't gotten there. And I just wonder sometimes, when you think about God and if God is all-knowing, then he must know everything about everything at all times, which must mean he knows about me. And does it matter? Is what I'm trying to do, is it irrelevant in God's eyes?”
Amazing Grace “It’s so structurally sound and so familiar that you can rip it to shreds and you'd still know it was ‘Amazing Grace.’ I mean, AC/DC could play that and you'd know what song that was. I'm the kind of person who will say ‘amazing grace’ 500 times in my head before I get to the next line. I look at it from every possible angle, and then I get to the next line. I'm like, ‘Well, whatever it is, it saved me and I am a wretch.’ And that felt like me sitting at a piano playing; it didn't feel like anything else. And then the next verse comes and then the next verse comes and they start to build. Out of the blue, it goes through New Orleans and horns come in. Makes no sense. But I think it was coming from such a truthful place.”
The Old Rugged Cross “I started thinking about the cross and crucifixion, and this is one of the ones that could possibly transcend Christianity, in the sense that if you see someone that's being tortured, I don't care what you believe in—you could be an atheist and your heart breaks, because nobody wants to see that. So, that said, you have to approach this song with great caution; at least I did. And even before I got to the melody, it was about painting as close to a kind of a cinematic sonic landscape as I could. I wanted it to sound arid and hot and familiar in the sense that we know what the scene is, but unfamiliar in the sense that that topography is foreign to me. I've been there, but it's not a part of the world that I know, and I wanted it to feel uncomfortable but familiar at the same time.”
Old Time Religion “My stepmom said, ‘Are you going to record “Old Time Religion”?’ I had no intention of doing that. I mean, it's fine, but it's one of those songs they played on that show Hee Haw. I never even thought twice about it, but I'm like, ‘You know what, I'm going to do this for my stepmom.’ So I started thinking, ‘Wow, this kind of sounded like a New Orleans number.’ I started off with a mallet and a bass drum, and then I added a snare drum. Then I added another one. Then I added a cymbal, which you play with a coat hanger, by the way. I have a tuba and I have trombone, saxophones, trumpet. And I just started having fun with it and then mixed it so it sounded like it was coming from the left. Like you're standing on a corner and a parade is coming down the street.”
All These Miracles “Not to sound corny, but we all did kind of slow down in a lot of ways during this pandemic. This hummingbird can stop in midair and hover and fly backwards. And its wings are moving. And it's really miraculous. I thought it would be appropriate to write a song about that and do something musically that was a little bit fun. It's melodic, but it's also a little bit more harmonically challenging. I like those juxtapositions.”