Levi Kreis is no stranger to Atlanta, but his weekend gig here is something of a change-up for the openly gay artist.
Kreis is appearing Saturday night as part of “The Flying Solo” tour. He promises an intimate evening with just him and a piano.
“It’s almost like an invite-only performance,” he says. “There is no set list. I tell stories about some of the songs I’ve done.”
Originally known as a Christian artist from Tennessee, his audience grew deeper after an appearance on TV’s “The Apprentice” followed by his debut album “One of the Ones” in 2005.
Four more albums followed and he hit the mainstream when his single “I Should Go” was featured on “The Vampire Diaries.” He was also featured in 2010’s Out 100 list.
These days, however, Kreis is perhaps just as well known for his acting. He won a Tony Award playing Jerry Lee Lewis in the musical “Million Dollar Quartet” in 2010. Before that, he had a plum role in the horror film “Frailty” with Matthew McConaughey.
Kreis says that winning a Tony changed his life in that he is almost guaranteed an audition now (“It’s mine to fuck up,” he laughs) but it didn’t necessarily mean his phone rings nonstop. It did, however, give him confidence.
“I think we all go through experiences thinking we are not good enough,” he admits.
Juggling being an actor and a musician is something he is slowly learning how to do, but he is psyched about his new album “Imagine Paradise,” set for release June 20.
As he was debating whether to do it, a friend suggested he use Kickstarter to fund it. He did and found it a rewarding experience. Fans contributed and Billboard called it one of the top three campaigns of all time. Those who backed the album got a special treat – Kreis wrote a custom song for each of the 12 funders.
“The songs were about their dreams and challenges,” he says.
Of all the albums he has made, Kreis thinks this is perhaps his gayest ever. One of the songs, “Four Letter Word,” is based on a soldier’s experience with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“I laugh that this is my coming out album,” he says. “It’s fraught with gay sensibility.”
He thinks he might have been a little homophobic in the past with his recordings, fearing he might not be sexy enough for female listeners or for radio.
The genre is late ‘70s, with an R&B feel.
“It’s period, like stepping back in time, but it fits my voice better than almost everything,” he says. Kreis has played in Atlanta a number of times, including an appearance at Atlanta Pride. “It’s close to home and some family lives here,” he says.
He now lives in Chicago, which he calls close to New York without the craziness of actually living there. Yet he does love getting to return home to the South.
Levi Kreis Saturday, April 13 at 7 p.m. Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta 1730 Northeast Expressway NE, Atlanta, GA 30329 www.slc-atlanta.org/