BY Duane Wells
September 17 2009 11:00 AM ET
Levi Kreis isn’t merely a run-of-the-mill hit-chasing troubadour -- he's s a pop-soul evangelist whose pulpit is the stage and whose songs are his sermons. Whether he’s crooning about the end of a love affair, lamenting a sexy backroom encounter, or lifting his voice in praise to the high heavens, Levi Kreis doesn’t just sing a song... he embodies it.
It stands to reason then that Levi’s junior album, Where I Belong, is as much a joyously, soulful collection of contemporary standards that traverse the musical spectrum as it is the heartfelt testimony of a boy from a small town in Tennessee who grew up preaching the gospel in fundamentalist Baptist churches across the South and then spent years in "reparative" therapy attempting to pray away the fact that he's gay. Ultimately, he found himself abandoned, denied, and betrayed by elements of the very Christian community he had once so desperately fought to be accepted by.
As it was with his previous albums, One of the Ones and The Gospel According to Levi, each of the tracks on Kreis’s latest release help to bring more vividly into focus the autobiographical portrait of a singer who refused to be "repaired" by the Christian community that raised him to think he was broken or bullied into playing it “straight” by the mainstream community of major music labels that courted him along the way. Just like the words of his new single from Where I Belong suggest, Levi Kreis clearly wants “everything or nothing at all.” And with a busy career that currently combines touring with a new album and a critically acclaimed starring turn as Jerry Lee Lewis in the hit musical Million Dollar Quartet, it seems as though Levi is getting exactly what he asked for.
As he celebrates the exclusive debut of the video for his new single “Nothing at All” here at Advocate.com, I sat down with Levi for a conversation about the very personal spiritual journey that inspired his new album, what it means to reconcile faith with sexuality, and how the last few years have brought little change for gay and lesbian Americans from less urbanized parts of the country who still struggle to simply be accepted as the “God-created” human beings they know themselves to be.
Advocate.com: With your third album, Where I Belong, it genuinely seems that you’ve finally found your voice and that you’re actually presenting Levi Kreis’s naked, unbridled truth in song. Would you say that’s an accurate assessment?
Levi Kreis: I’m glad you feel that way, Duane, because I absolutely feel that. I feel like it took me being on the road for over 300 dates and doing two studio albums to sort of be able to very specifically define the truest representation of who I am musically. And it’s no surprise that brought me back to the church and my gospel roots with a little bit of a Southern flair [added] to it.
[This album] just feels more accurate and honest from a musical standpoint. I’ve always been pretty open and willing to be vulnerable... but it feels nice to have both the musical aspect and the lyrical aspect come together in a way that I feel is really a true reflection of who I am.