Interview: Harry Connick, Jr., His Daughter, and Their ‘American Girl’ Collaboration

I recently had the chance to sit down with singer and actor Harry Connick, Jr. and his 13-year-old daughter Kate to talk about their partnership with American Girl as well as Harry’s parenting experience. American Girl’s newest dolls, Cécile and Marie-Grace, are from New Orleans circa 1853.  Despite their different appearances and backgrounds, the girls become best friends. To accompany the release of the dolls, Harry wrote a song about friendship, “A Lot Like Me,” and Kate recorded it. All proceeds from downloads of the song benefit the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, a performance space and center for music education in New Orleans.

Harry and Kate

How did you become involved in this partnership with American Girl?
Harry: American Girl was interested in two New Orleans–themed dolls, and I’m from New Orleans, so they wanted to see what I had to offer. We thought it would be cool to have Kate be a part of it too. We like working together anyway, so I couldn’t think of anybody better to sing a song that I wrote. Kate truly lives the message of, ‘It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside, it’s all about what’s on the inside.’

The song is aimed at young girls. What was it like to write for a younger audience?
Harry: It’s just a matter of writing what feels best for me. I read the stories and thought they were great. The message was so clear, it wasn’t difficult to come up with a way to try to express that with a piece of music.

What do you hope girls take away from this song?
Kate: I hope they learn, as my dad said, that it’s what’s on the inside, not on the outside [that matters]. I’ve been able to travel the world and see the different backgrounds that people come from and the different religions that they follow. I’ve realized that it’s not about what they look like.

What’s important in your friendships? What do you look for in your friends?
Kate: I look for trust, loyalty, and kindness. I think if you have those three things then you have something special.

You two share an interest in music. Do you plan to collaborate in the future?
Harry: I hope we get to do something again. My life is spontaneous and things just kind of happen. I look forward to years and years of working with Kate in different capacities.

How do you teach your daughters the value of volunteering and charity work?
Harry: My dad and mom believed that you do what you have to do in private and don’t make a big deal out of it. Just try to help people as much as you can. We would be at a grocery store when I was a kid and there’d be a woman unloading her groceries. My dad would stop the car and say, “Go help that woman.”

Kate: It’s important to look out for others and help ease their suffering.

Harry: Especially now, you see people in situations around the world who don’t have anything. I think Kate and her sisters are good at wanting to help people who are less fortunate.

What are some lessons your dad has taught you?
Kate: He’s taught me so much. Just never give up and keep trying.

As a family, how do you stay connected?
Harry: Kate is going into eighth grade and I’m going to be home for her entire eighth grade year. I’ll take her to school every day because we’re in the New York area. We also enjoy doing stuff together. We love hangin’. Even doing this today, interviews over and over again, I’d do a hundred of them with Kate just because we have a great time.

What are some challenges you face as a parent?
Harry: We’ve been blessed with three healthy, amazing kids and each of them is completely different. Each of them presents challenges in completely different ways. But Jill and I pride ourselves on how we have extremely communicative relationships with our kids. Kate is an exceptional communicator. If there’s something that’s bothering her or something that she’s having a problem with, we don’t have to pull it out of her. She’ll say, “Mom, Dad, I need to talk to you about x, y, or z,” and we’ll talk about it.

What are the more rewarding aspects of parenting?
Harry: I’m looking at her right now. To think that I’m her dad is the greatest honor in the world. She’s an amazing kid. We have a great relationship and she is one of my closest friends. I seek her advice. I like to know what she thinks about things, and she’s helped me through some really tough times. I just look forward to years of developing that relationship.

Kate: I’m able to share so much with him that I wouldn’t be able to share with my friends, which is so cool.

That’s nice to hear because a lot of teenage girls have difficulty with that, especially with their dads.
Harry: I think it’s a matter of establishing that precedent early. I think a dad has to make his daughter feel that he’s genuinely interested in what she’s going through. I could never be a teenage girl and I certainly couldn’t do it now. It’s unbelievably difficult. My childhood was a breeze. Being 13 in 2011? If all you had to do was academic stuff that would be a lot. But with the social stuff, the physical changes that are taking place, and relationships, nothing is off-limits to us. We talk about all of it.

What are some lessons that your kids have taught you?
Harry: I respect what Kate has to say and she’s very honest with me, so if I do a recording or a show and I don’t feel particularly good about it, she’ll say, “I really like that, I thought it was great.” I learn a lot from Kate about being able to sit back and observe. Kate is a grounded, observant type of person. She’s hyper-creative artistically, but she’s also able to compartmentalize and organize it. I can’t do that. She’s good at that; it’s a rare combination.

Do you have any advice for other parents?
Harry: No, I don’t have any advice. I hate when people give me advice because everybody’s got such different situations. Nobody has Kate Connick as a daughter so they wouldn’t know how to raise her. And I don’t have “whoever” as a kid. Everybody’s got different stuff that works. We found something that works and we’ll stick with it.

Kate: Yeah, just do the best you can and stay with it.

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  1. by I Smell Poop

    On November 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    For those of you who are not entirely stupid, I’ve got some wonderful news. Harry Connick Jr is a total fraud. He’s not from New Orleans! He’s from Weston, CT, where he attended public school from 1970-1982. His real father is one of the big wheels at Sony Music and a stockholder in Sony Pictures, hence he’s even known to the public. For a really good laugh, listen to the daughter’s singing!