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Harry Connick Jr. jazzes up the holidays with a tour and ‘Make It Merry’ album

Singer-songwriter, composer, actor and former “American Idol” judge Harry Connick Jr. loves the Christmas season.

It’s not all about the fancy gifts, twinkling lights and the holiday rush for the Connick family, the 55-year-old performer insists. It’s more about the time spent together, lounging around the house with his wife, Jill, who he says is an “absolutely amazing cook,” and their three adult daughters.

“We just like being together,” he said during a recent phone interview. “We eat some good food and just hang out. We’re thankful for what the holiday actually means, so we’ll go to midnight mass or church in the morning and it’s pretty laid back. We’re just hanging out and talking the whole time — or, let me rephrase that — I’m listening all of the time because there’s so much going on with my daughters and all of their adventures. I sit back and listen to what they have to say and we just have a really good time.”

Connick is closing out 2022 with his first holiday tour in a handful of years, which is in support of his fourth Christmas album, “Make It Merry,” that began streaming exclusively on Apple Music on Nov. 26. Before his family hunkers down at his father-in-law’s house in Colorado to spend Christmas Day this year, Connick will be spreading holiday cheer throughout Southern California. The tour stops at Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage on Dec. 10; Civic Theatre in San Diego Dec. 11; and he has a trio of shows at Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles Dec. 15-17.

The Connick family is also big on Christmas music, though Harry admits that his wife runs the household playlist. It includes classics like Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” This year, Connick said he was able to curate his own playlist via Make It Merry Radio, which can be found on Apple Music. He included some of his favorites, even the ones that yank hard at the heartstrings, like country-pop star Kacey Musgraves’ “Christmas Makes Me Cry.”

Though there’s plenty of upbeat holiday songs on the list, he said that Christmas can be an emotional time, which is why a song like Charles Browns’ “Please Come Home for Christmas” have such an impact.

“I think my dad was telling me that he spent one Christmas without my mother, and that was back in the ’50s, and he was looking out the window and my gosh, you just want to, like the song says, be with the ones you love,” he said. “Those songs do make you cry.”

For the live shows, Connick will be playing selections from his latest album, including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Jingle Bells” and newly-recorded versions of his original songs, “(It Must’ve Been Ol’) Santa Claus” and “When My Heart Finds Christmas.” He also has two new songs: “On This Christmas Morning” and the album title track, “Make It Merry.”

“There are different ways to write these songs,” he said of his holiday songwriting process. “You can write them autobiographically or you can just write like I did with ‘Make It Merry.’ That’s about a guy who’s alone and all he really wants is for this person to consider to come spend the holiday with him and that one’s not from personal experience. But definitely some of them go back to my own childhood.”

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