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Singer and TV host Harry Connick Jr. talks with Kidsday

Harry Connick Jr. on the set of his

Harry Connick Jr. on the set of his TV show, "Harry," with Kidsday reporters Kierstin McNamara, left, Miranda Waters, Adam Piotrowski and Vincent Colagrande. Credit: NBC Universal / Slaven Vlasic

We met talk show host and singer Harry Connick Jr. after sitting in the studio audience at one of his TV shows in Manhattan. After the audience was escorted out, Harry came to talk to us and even sing with us.

You have sold over 28 million albums, starred in movies, performed on Broadway, mentored on “American Idol,” starred on “Will and Grace,” and now in the “Harry” show. What was your favorite?

I think the “Harry” show is my favorite, because you guys just saw it, right? It’s really fun. So, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. But it’s like anything, if you practice really hard, and then, no matter what it is, whether it’s piano, or sports, or whatever, when you are finally able to do it, it’s such a fun feeling, that I love coming out here and performing and meeting everybody. So I think doing this is my favorite thing.

When you were our age, did you ever, in your wildest dreams, imagine you would be here today?

I knew I wanted to be in the business. I wanted to play the piano and sing and entertain. I couldn’t have told you that it was going to be this exact situation. So that’s the interesting thing for me, is that life kind of takes over.

What was it like to perform in the White House?

Oh, man, it was so cool performing in the White House because number one — the honor of being asked to play at the White House is a really big deal. When I got there with my band, we were all sort of — they made us stand in this big semicircle. And right in the middle of this semicircle, there was a space. And they wanted me to stand on one side of that space. And then the president [Barack Obama] walked in, and he came and stood in that other space. And my band and I were like, “Mr. President.” We were like, “Oh, my gosh.” It was really, really cool. Because you think about all of the men and women who have been in that building, of such importance. It was really cool.

What inspired you to be a musician at such a young age? Was it from your parents because they owned a music store?

I think my parents helped me. So, before I was born, my parents owned a record store. You probably never have been to a record store, right? There were these stores that sold these black discs that were records where people would listen to music. So, by the time I was born, they had a lot of those records and they played music around the house. When you add that to growing up in New Orleans, which is where I grew up, and there is sort of music everywhere, and the fact that I like to play piano, it would be like you growing up next door to the Olympic gymnastics training center. Like it was so easy for me to get to be around musicians that I think all of those things kind of led me to it.

You play many instruments: drums, piano, trumpet, vocals. What is your favorite to play?

Piano, for sure. I am a better piano player than any of the other stuff. I also love to sing. I think singing and playing piano are my two things I’m the best at. But I like to mess around on other instruments, too. I’m not so good on them, but I like to have fun with them.

Is it hard for your kids to have a famous dad?

That’s a great question. I think when they got to be your age, it was easier for them because they know what I do for a living, but then it got a little harder when they were like maybe 12, 13, 14, because that’s the age where you guys start watching maybe more TV, or you know what’s going on in the world. I think sometimes people think that my kids get special treatment because I’m well-known. And maybe in some ways, you know, like they get to come to the show, and things like that. But they’re normal kids. My kids just want to go to school and be normal. And sometimes they would say, “Oh, your dad was on ‘American Idol’ or your dad is on ‘The Harry Show.’ ” And I think it took a little getting used to.

What was it like performing your first concert at the age of 5?

It wasn’t really a concert, but it was a performance. My mom really wanted me to play piano because she saw that I liked it. My dad was working and wasn’t as tuned in to me playing as my mom was. So, my dad was running for a political office called the district attorney, right, where you have to be elected. And he opened up his campaign headquarters. And there was a big stage. And my mom said, “I want to put a piano on the stage so Harry Jr. can play the national anthem.” And my dad’s like, “Ah, he’s only 5.” And my mom said, “No, I really want him to do it.” So I went up on stage and I can barely see over the piano. And I played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And when I finished, everyone was clapping. I loved the sound of that applause so much that I thought to myself, “What do I have to do to get that again?” So I kept going back on stage and back on stage. And even today like I love performing — it’s just, it had a very deep impact on me.

What was it like moving to the big city?

New Orleans, even though it’s kind of a big city, it’s very, very different from New York. When I moved to New York, I was 18, and the first thing that crossed my mind was, like, “How am I going to make it here?” Like, “How am I going to make money to eat, and maybe get an apartment?” I would walk up and down the streets, and I would look inside any place that had like a restaurant or whatever, and if they had a piano inside, I would go inside and I’d say, “How are you doing? My name is Harry. I’m from New Orleans. Do you need a piano player?” And nine times out of 10 they would say, “No, no thanks.” But that one time out of 10, they’d say, “Yeah, sure, we’ll pay you, you know, $10 and you can play here.” And that’s how I got started.

What is it like to have a sister in the U.S. Army?

Oh, boy. You guys did a lot of research. My sister is amazing. There’s two of us in the family. She’s the hero in the family. Like I’m really happy to play piano and sing. But she’s a major in the U.S. Army. She speaks like eight or 10 languages. She’s got two medical degrees. One of them is an internist and she’s also a psychiatrist, which is somebody who sort of helps you if you’re sad about something. And she believes that if you have a stomachache, sometimes it might be because you’re sad. So she has both of those types of knowledge. She’s really smart. And if you met her, you would never know it, because she’s just the sweetest, nicest lady. I’m very proud of her.

Do you have any upcoming movies that may be in the works? Which director did you enjoy working with the most?

I don’t have any movies right now because I’m working on this show so much. But do you know who is a really great director? I did a movie with Sandra Bullock. You’ve heard of Sandra Bullock before? She’s a really great actress who did “The Blind Side” and “Miss Congeniality.” She’s a good actress. She did a movie with me. We did one together called “Hope Floats,” and the director is a guy named Forest Whitaker, who is a great actor. The reason I liked working with him is because not only is he a great director, but he also understands what it’s like to be an actor. So, you get the great director and somebody who gets the other thing, too.

Tell us about your experience helping your hometown after Hurricane Katrina.

In 2005 there was Hurricane Katrina. . . . So, what I did was, I went home to try to check on my dad because I couldn’t call him. You ever try to talk to somebody and you get a dropped call? Imagine not being able to find your mom or your dad. Or, I didn’t know anything. So I went home and I tried to do what I could. Many people tried to do the same thing. I wasn’t special for doing that. But to try to go back and help. But you know what, you would all do the same thing, if you saw somebody that was in need or somebody that was in trouble. First thing that you would do is you would try and help them.

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