Not Throwing Away His Shot

On his way to Eugene, Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. discusses his new music, tour and upcoming films

Photo by Jimmy Fontaine

Aaron Burr may be the main antagonist in the musical Hamilton, known for his lack of conviction and cutting ambition.

But unlike Burr, Leslie Odom Jr. is following his passion and embarking on a variety of projects, and none of them involve dueling with Alexander Hamilton.

The Tony and Grammy winner will perform with the Eugene Symphony Saturday, Feb. 29, on an “unconventional” tour singing with symphonies in venues around the country. 

“We’ve been on sort of a really wonderful, crazy de facto symphony and orchestra tour,” Odom says in a phone interview with Eugene Weekly. “We haven’t planned it much. We just keep getting invited places.”

The songs he performs also evolve as his new music comes out, he says. Attendees can expect to hear a variety of jazz numbers, songs off of his new album Mr and some Broadway numbers — including favorites from the musical phenomenon Hamilton.

In the musical, Odom played the role of the complicated villain Burr from the show’s off-Broadway opening in the beginning of 2015 through its Broadway opening in July of that year. He left the show in 2016, when he stepped down to pursue different opportunities. He won a Best Actor Tony for the role in 2015 and a Grammy in 2016, alongside the Hamilton cast, for best musical album.

Since his Hamilton days, Odom has gone on to star in several movies, including Murder on the Orient Express and Harriet, the latter of which was nominated for two Academy Awards. 

This year he also released Mr, which soulfully combines jazz, R&B and Broadway influences. The songs on the album are complemented by instrumental interludes. 

“We’ve been saying for a long time we wanted to make the music Nat King Cole would make today. Cab Calloway, Billy Eckstine — the great crooners of the ’30s and ’40s,” he says. “That was really our inspiration, but we wanted to make it contemporary.”

In March, Odom is embarking on his Stronger Magic tour to promote and play the album in smaller clubs around the country. He hopes to expose more people to the album, and to celebrate with those who already know of the music.

Previously, Odom released a self-titled album mixed of his own music and song covers and a Christmas album. Mr is the first album where he sings all his own songs. 

In addition to touring with his new music, Odom is working on several films, including a movie based on the TV show The Sopranos, a musical film, Music with Kate Hudson and Maddie Ziegler, directed by Sia.

Odom’s Burr will return to the big screen when Hamilton comes to cinemas in October 2021. The film is a recording of the original Broadway cast performing the show.

“I’m excited to see what everybody else experienced,” he says. His daughter hadn’t yet been born while he was performing in the show, Odom says, but he will take her to see it and will be sitting right there with her.

“I’m excited to sit in the theater and have her meet this piece of art that’s so impactful on her mom and her.”

Footage for the film was shot a long time ago, he says, early in the show’s run, which will let Odom see Hamilton with new eyes.

Even with all the music, tours and films in the works, Odom says he doesn’t take his success for granted. He is exploring what works and what audiences are receptive to.

“Right now, I’m following my heart and following my passion,” he says. “I’m saying ‘yes’ to projects that are special and will be worth it to me.”

Leslie Odom Jr. performs with the Eugene Symphony 5 pm Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Hult Center. Tickets $56-$113 at