By David Pearce
Tony Award winning artist Levi Kreis is set for a one-night performance in Nashville that will fill your heart with love and the warmth that only this Tennessee native can bring.
Kreis grew up in Oliver Springs, Tenn., just outside of Oak Ridge. From a young age, it was evident he was headed for greatness. He remembers fondly his mother calling Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University and holding the phone over him as he played original classical music on the piano for a music professor — something any good Southern mama would do. This led to him traveling to Nashville several times a week during his sophomore through senior years of high school to earn college credits in music. Kreis recently went back to school and will soon graduate with a degree from the prestigious Belmont University Music Department.
As a child, Kreis did the church circuit. He says there isn’t a church in East Tennessee where he didn’t perform. That sweet Southern church sound is still evident in his music today. Even in his latest album, Broadway at the Keys, his version of Disney’s Friend Like Me has that strong Southern Baptist rockabilly swing, he joked.
After leaving the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Kreis headed to Los Angeles to pursue his dream.
It was at this time he did his first cattle call. He recalls being number 169 in line to audition with his boots and pearl-studded button-up shirt. After five call backs, he landed the role of Roger in the touring cast of RENT.
That was the beginning of a theatrical career that took Kreis on a rollercoaster ride that culminated with the 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet.
You may also remember him opening the 2010 Tonys playing piano alongside Will & Grace star Sean Hayes, that year’s host. After his win, he went on to have roles in Pump Boys and Dinettes. In 2014, he starred with Sutton Foster on Broadway in Violet, one of his most memorable roles.
Kreis’ movie credits include Del Shores’ hit A Very Sordid Wedding staring Leslie Jordan, Whoopi Goldberg, Caroline Rhea and Alec Mappa.
Levi is an accomplished singer-songwriter. He now has a discography of six released albums. His most recent, Broadway At The Keys, harkens back to his love for theater and the stage with songs such as Corner of the Sky, No One’s Going to Hurt You, and songs from shows he has performed in such as One Song Glory, Kansas City and Whole Lot of Shakin’. He plans to release new music in 2018.
As a songwriter and performer, Levi looks for authenticity, transparency and to offer healing to a marginalized community. As a Southern Christian gay man, he knows of pain, struggle, heartache and hurt. But he also knows of love, victory, hope and passion. All of these themes can be felt through the lyrics and melodies of his music and each song has a way of reaching into your soul.
My personal favorite album, One of the Ones, is the one that most greatly affects me. This album will shatter my heart into a million pieces due to the raw pain it makes me recall of lost love and heartache and then uplifts me with songs that speak to my own confidence and fight. It truly is a soundtrack that fits the story of my life. It is this album that led Levi to become the voice of my soul and the musician who has most greatly shaped and molded me into who I am today. As a gay man, it is not often that you hear a songwriter speak openly and honestly about the struggles of being gay and dealing with not only dating and love but also their spiritual battles and finding a peace inside themselves.
Levi has many stories to tell through his music and words. You will hear all these types of stories in his Home for the Holidays concert at City Winery. Levi doesn’t believe in set lists — instead, he invites his audience into his home — the stage — and listens to them and plays from his heart. This makes each performance a unique and different experience, and guarantees you will leave with a heart full of love and memories of a night filled with wonderful music and entertainment.
LEVI KREIS: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
WHEN: Doors open at 6:30 and the concert begins at 8pm on Dec. 11
WHERE: The lounge on the upper floor, City Winery
TICKETS: $20 in advance; $25 at the door. Seating is limited.