"It’s like being a painter and having literally every colour in the rainbow to paint with..." Harry Connick Jr talks honouring Cole Porter on new LP True Love
Cole Porter was one of the 20th century's most iconic and prolific songwriters.
Working from 1915 until his death in 1964, he penned hundreds of classics, many of which would become the staples of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and so many more.
He wrote hits like 'Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love', 'I've Got You Under My Skin' and 'Night And Day' as well as the music for hit musicals Kiss Me Kate and High Society.
It's a career well worth celebrating, which is exactly what hugely successful crooner Harry Connick Jr has done. For his new album True Love, he's recorded 13 of Porter's songs with a full orchestra.
True Love is out now in hmv stores and we spoke to Connick Jr about why he decided to honour Porter's life and work with this new album...
Where did the idea to do an album of Cole Porter tracks come from?
"When I signed with Verve, I offered them different options for various recordings I wanted to do. I’ve always loved Cole Porter, and when I mentioned that I wanted to do an entire album of his music, they loved the idea!"
Have you been a fan of his for a long time?
"I’ve loved Cole Porter’s music even before I knew that they were his songs. We’d play songs like 'Love For Sale' at gigs. It wasn’t until later that I realised that he wrote many of the songs that I had been playing for years."
Porter wrote hundreds of songs, how did you decide on the 13 songs that are on the record?
"This was tough! I wanted to pick songs that might seem relevant today. Almost every song on the record has lyrics that could’ve been written yesterday. Because he wrote a lot for shows and films, some lyrics were very plot specific, so I tried to avoid those and just record what I like to call “stand-alone” songs. But there are dozens more I had to leave off just because it would have been a 10-hour record."
What was the hardest song to get right? Were there any you tried and decided you couldn’t make it work?
"It’s funny. They were all easy to arrange, orchestrate and sing because they are so impeccably composed. But if I had to pick one, it would be 'True Love'. It’s a short song, so I needed to become creative with the arrangement to make it last more than around 90 seconds. But again, with Cole Porter’s music, it’s a joy to search and discover new ways to play the songs."
You worked with horns and a full string section as well as your regular band, it must have been a great experience?
"I love working with a big orchestra. There are things I can write with a full group that I’m unable to do with a smaller configuration. It’s like being a painter and having literally every colour in the rainbow to paint with. And as a singer, to have that fullness supporting you is a mind-blowing feeling. It's so powerful."
When did you decide on True Love for the album title? Were any other titles in contention?
"I tossed around a few ideas for the title, but True Love seemed to say everything I wanted to say. It’s so simple, but so powerful as well. It just felt right, you know?"
You’re taking the album to Broadway in December, do you have plans to take it to the rest of the world in 2020?
"I can’t wait to take this show around the world! I hope to bring the Broadway show to London at some point in the future - it all depends on the availability of the West End Theatres..."
What will the set be like? Will you be throwing in a few old favourites too alongside the songs from True Love?
"Come see the show – I want the set to surprise you! But there will be a little - very little - other music besides Cole Porter. I thought about including other songs, but it felt strange as this show is all about him and his music. But, believe me, with Cole Porter songs, you don’t really need anything else!"
Finally, your last album of new material was in 2015, are you back writing again? Or are you focused on True Love for the time being?
"Because this show is such a big production, I’m really just focused on this right now. But I love songwriting, and I’m sure future recordings will include my own songs. Songwriting is such a big part of who I am as an artist. The pressure’s really on now, though - Cole is a very tough act to follow!"
Harry Connick Jr's new album True Love is out now in hmv stores.