HomeGrown: Levi Kreis

11:48 PM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
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From his award winning Broadway debut in "Million Dollar Quartet" to musical hits in the "Vampire Diaries," "Sons of Anarchy" and "The Apprentice," Levi Kreis is an accomplished singer-songwriter, musician and actor.

"It's a challenge because it's a lot of plates to spin at one time, but I love it," Kreis said.

And, to think, it all started after his kindergarten graduation at Mt. Pisgah Christian Academy in Oliver Springs.

"We got home and I started playing 'Pomp and Circumstance' with both hands and immediately my mom's reaction was, she goes and gets a Jerry Lee 45, right!"

But gospel music was and continues to be Levi's first love..

"The first record I ever re-called hearing was a Mahalia Jackson record that my granddaddy played on the stereo," Kreis said. "And, I remember that made such a huge impact on me."

Levi practiced music three hours a day and won youth competitions from Opryland to Dollywood.  By high school, Levi had created his first composition.

"I was like, I've landed. This is what I want to do."

He focused on music at Pellissippi State and then Belmont University.

"I wanted to be a recording artist."

So, he left Nashville for Hollywood.

"When I first moved to L.A., I had been courted or signed to a total 8 major record labels and every time, they really didn't know what to do with me," Kreis said.

Levi decided to self produce and market his music independently.  Unexpectedly, he found himself on a national tour as a stage actor.

"I go to this cattle call and I'm 169th in line. Five call backs later, I'm doing the role of Roger in the West coast 'Rent.'"

A small independent film followed and then, a co-starring role with one of Hollywood's A-listers.

"My very next film was playing Matthew McConaughey's brother in a movie called, 'Frailty.' So, sitting next to Matthew McConaughey all of sudden was really intimidating because I'm like how did I get in this circle of these people."

Levi really found purpose in his next role portraying a Vietnam soldier in "One Red Flower."

"The musical revolved around these 5 guys and their one year tour of duty. It was an incredible piece... still probably my favorite role as an actor."

In between acting gigs, Levi always had his music. And, in 2005, it got him national attention thanks to XM Radio's special edition of "The Apprentice."

"Not only was I chosen, my team won. And, XM radio all of a sudden is presenting my first debut album to the world."

Even though Levi never dreamed of Broadway, he stole the show with a role he'd been perfecting since childhood-a young Jerry Lee Lewis in the musical "Million Dollar Quarter."

Not only did he win over Mr. Lewis himself, but also the Broadway community.

"I was like, did I fool everybody? I really, really was shocked."

It was a big finish for Levi. Off stage, he was celebrating 9 months of sobriety.

"It really didn't mean anything about a trophy for me. It meant the accomplishment of finding who I was, giving myself permission to be the best that I can be and letting go of all the baggage."

These days, Levi is embracing his East Tennessee roots more than ever.

"We are a people of faith. We are a people of conviction. We are a people of tight bonds and I find that I need that more than ever."

Levi Kreis. Born in Oliver Springs. HomeGrown in Tennessee.

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