First Steps in the Spotlight
Leslie Odom Jr is most commonly recognized from his stellar Grammy and Tony winning role as Aaron Burr in the Broadway musical Hamilton, but he had actually already been known in Broadway and Off-Broadway circles, as well as being highly awarded for his solo music. He debuted as Paul in Rent, and also had roles in Dreamgirls, Leap of Faith, Venice, and other shows. During his period as a Broadway musician, he stood out for his distinct tenor voice, smooth sometimes smoky tone, soulful deliverance of lyrics, and incredible ability to infuse power emotion with beautiful singing. There’s no wonder why his solo song in Hamilton is one of the most popular in the whole soundtrack, based on Spotify streams.
Since Hamilton, he has come out with four jazz albums, including two Christmas albums. Mr. is his first album of entirely original music. He writes from a deeply personal place, and many of his songs start out as entries in his journal. However, he feels like always sharing the inspiration behind lyrics can sometimes lessen the listeners ability to apply them to their own lives, so he’s pretty close lipped about some of the deeper roots.
Though he’s classified as a jazz musician, he likes experimenting with different genres. From his album Mr., “Cold”, “Foggy”, and “Hummingbird” are classified as R&B songs. On the topic of how he ended up in jazz, he said the question of where his music best fits was a difficult one as he was trained in just about everything. He called it “a bit of an identity crisis”, but “the music kept leaning in this jazz direction, and so we just decided not to fight it”. As a concert artist, he performs with a jazz quintet that includes a drummer, percussionist, bassist, guitarist, and pianist.
Leslie Odom Jr. was born in Queens, New York City in 1981 and grew up in Philadelphia. Much of his musical inspiration is influenced by church music, as he was a frequent soloist in his church’s choir, but he enjoys music across multiple genres. When asked about the music from his childhood, he answers, “I grew up listening to all kinds of music: R&B, pop, gospel, soul, folk, alternative music.” Many of his favorite jazz records come from female vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan. It wasn’t really until college that he started listening to contemporary jazz artists. Though he is predominantly a jazz musician, he considers Christmas music to be its own genre. His favorite Christmas records span multiple categories, including those by Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Boyz II Men.
Awards and Big Accomplishments
He received a Grammy for his role in Hamilton. His first album, Leslie Odom Jr., charted No. 1 on Billboard Jazz. His second album, Simply Christmas, also hit #1 on iTunes and the Billboard Jazz charts. He performed the national anthem at the 2018 Super Bowl.
Leslie Odom Jr isn’t a completely open book when it comes to his personal life, but he is very publicly proud of his family and proclaims himself to be a family man. One of the most heartwarming stories about him comes from his time as Aaron Burr during Hamilton. During Lin Manuel Miranda’s part in “Dear Theodosia” Odom Jr would bow his head and pray for his daughter, who at the time hadn’t been born yet. He did this during every show. By the time she was born, her father had prayed for her over 500 times. December 1st this year, 2022, will be his tenth wedding anniversary with his wife Nicolette Robinson. In addition to their older daughter Lucille they also have a son named Able.