Levi Kreis had started making and producing his own music since 2005. "I started the Broadway gigs mainly because I needed groceries and was tired of eating Ramen every night," Kreis told Windy City Times.
However, by 2010, Kreis was not only no longer eating Ramen but was also looking for a place to put his 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a musical for his portrayal of Jerry lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet. Since then, Kreis' music could be heard on NBC, CBS, FX and the CW. But this year, Kreis is releasing a new compilation of music that was ranked by Billboard magazine in the top three of fan-funded music.
Windy City Times: Hi Levi! Are you excited about your new album? I believe it's dropping June 20, no?
Levi Kreis: I am very excited for the release of "Imagine Paradise" and, yes, it's set to release on June 20. Some tracks will be made available earlier on iTunes, though.
WCT: Now, I had the chance to listen to some of the tracks before speaking with you and I'd describe it as funk/disco/ gospel. Is that an accurate description or would you add to that?
Levi Kreis: No, I think that's a very accurate description of my sound. People have always struggled about where to place my music. Some people have also called it "new disco" and thought the sounds were more reminiscent of the late '70s and early '80s. I also like to consider some of the work to be like classic R&B. I borrowed from the sounds of the LGBT communitythose sounds that propelled our earliest movement for equality.
WCT: What about the inspiration for the tracks? Where did all of that come from? You have some complex lyric combinations on your album.
Levi Kreis: Nearly the entire album is an amalgamation or an homage to my fans that funded this album with my own sound. Billboard ranked Imagine Paradise in the top three fan-funded albums of the year. Each track is nearly a custom-written theme song for one or more of the major donors who helped get my album off the ground through the Kickstart Campaign.
The lyrics as well as the themes are more intimate. I got the opportunity to speak directly to my fans and from their stories of love, heartbreak and struggle; I developed 12 tracks that are absolutely a deliberate nod to the LGBT community and those individuals' stories.
WCT: I'm not familiar with the Kickstart Campaign. Does it work like Indiegogo?
Levi Kreis: It's almost exactly like Indiegogo. There are some differences but I'm not sure what they are. This method of self-funding gave me a unique opportunity to go beyond what a signed artist might get to do. I had to think about connecting the donors' experiences to my own. I found myself getting to speak with my mentors who were there in the '60s, '70s and '80s and finding out what they were faced withwhat they were fighting for. With many LGBT people today, we have lost our roots and I got to not only find them but also define them.
WCT: Did you learn anything from your experiences with your mentors?
Levi Kreis: The brilliance of hearing one another's stories is that we find, or at least I find, that my story and their story may unfold differently but they are still the same story. We are all connected by that same human conditionby those same narratives.
WCT: You're sounding more metaphysical and spiritual in your philosophy toward music.
Levi Kreis: I've been a metaphysical practitioner for a number of years now and I found that as my spirituality has grown I am able to more deeply look at the intention of language and find that as an album passes through me, it also deepens. I wouldn't say I want to move into a "spiritual genre" but my music is becoming deeper. The trouble then that others have is "where to put Levi." I'm not a gay dance diva. I don't sing "let's get soaking wet."
WCT: When does your first single drop here in the United States?
Levi Kreis: "So Much Better" will be available on March 4. It's already all over the UK right now. The story behind that song is really based on accepting that which one cannot change. It was dedicated to one of my backers. This was not so much words to a fan but words between friends.
WCT: So if I want to see you in action, when and where can I do that? You must have a tour coming up.
Levi Kreis: I do! I actually open the tour right here in Chicago on March 2 at Davenport's on North Milwaukee. I have a number of other shows booked but another big one is March 30, when I play my hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. This is my first time being in my hometown performing as myself. It scares me a bit to know that my family will be seeing me as I am, with no pretense. I think it scares many people to just be themselves, especially in front of their oldest friends and family.
For more information on Levi Kreis, his new album and his upcoming tour, visit www.levikreis.com .