Leslie Odom Jr. was barely on tour when he had to start postponing dates due to coronavirus concerns.
The Tony-winning actor and singer, who became a star playing Aaron Burr in Hamilton, released his first album of original music, Mr, late last year. He was looking forward to performing those songs, along with his self-titled debut, which featured jazz standards and selections from musical theater, on his Stronger Magic Tour. It would be the continuation of a quick ascension that also found him acting in movies like Murder on the Orient Express and Harriet. But now he’s found himself at home with plenty of time on his hands.
“It’s been almost four years straight of barely being at home — I’ve been ‘grinding,'” he tells Rolling Stone via email of how he’s using his time off. “So now I’m taking the time to read to my kid, getting better at ‘make believe’ each day — even as a professional, my daughter’s improv skills put me to shame — and taking walks around the neighborhood with my wife. We’ve been having family dinners each night.”
Odom has also been enjoying the time to enjoy reading and listening to music. “There’s always a list of incredible unread fiction for me,” he says. “I’ve only read three of the great Toni Morrison’s novels. In her honor and for my enjoyment, I am making my way through all the rest.” As for his musical tastes, he says he’s been turning to what he calls “music with meaning.” “I’m drawn to the soulful stuff — the stuff scratching at those ageless and universal truths,” he says. “I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Jay Z, as well as Big Maybelle, Bill Withers, and Moses Sumney. We could be here awhile, so we’ll see how deep in the crates this all takes all of us.”
Despite the uncertainty of the current situation, he hopes the world gets stronger because of it. “Adversity is a teacher,” he says. “Let’s try to learn the lesson(s) well and quickly if we can. A little kindness goes a long way right now.”