Q&A: John Lloyd Young
Vegas audiences could never get enough of Jersey Boys, the behind-the-scenes Broadway musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons that ran for eight years. John Lloyd Young originated the role of Valli in Broadway’s Jersey Boys and played the part again in the 2014 Clint Eastwood-directed film version. The actor and singer told me the beloved music from Jersey Boys will always play a part in his performances and he’s onstage in Las Vegas Sept. 14 and 15 at The Space, the upstart arts complex just off the Strip (find it at thespacelv.com).
You’ve been performing different styles of music lately, including the R&B tunes from your album My Turn. What should we expect for your Vegas shows at The Space?
Vegas is a really a distinct place where we can do a more electric set. It’s a more electric city. We’ve done throwback R&B, obviously some doo-wop with my background with Jersey Boys, and a Broadway set is a brand-new thing we’ve been asked to do more in New York City. But I think the Vegas shows continue to be the most exciting. Whether it’s rock and roll or our originals, a lot of the songs still have that retro feeling and they’re just exciting songs. I always have a few of those in every set wherever I play, but I load up on them for these shows.
What kind of music is inspiring you right now?
When I try to describe where I’m going musically, I am finding the songs are taking on a flavor of James Bond movies or spaghetti westerns from Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone. ... The music has a very cinematic feeling. I would say excitement and intrigue are two of the words that get me going when it comes to what kinds of songs I want to do. I’m trying to go for something where there’s a rawness to it and at the same time, a gentleman-ness....
Jersey Boys was truly a star-making turn for you and you’ll always be connected to that show. Do you find yourself moving away from that music intentionally or is it a more natural progression?
I think it’s the natural evolution of things. You know, Frankie Valli is still Frankie Valli. He’s playing shows. It’s been my life’s privilege to play him and so great how that show turned into an international phenomenon. I’ll always be known for that show and I’m happily expected to sing songs from that period, which I do and I’ll never stop doing that. Because of that exposure, I’m in a place where people want to hear me sing, but what do I sing? That’s got to be my decision going forward. Frankie hit a point in his career where he didn’t want to be known just for that falsetto from “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” He felt that sound that put them on the map was in some ways a dead-end street, so when he sang solo it was more the meat of his voice ... At some point you have to diverge from what you’re known for without taking the audience completely out of that world, because that’s what they want.
Before Jersey Boys you were a theater actor. Do you ever get the itch to return to acting?
I steadily worked myself up in New York and then Jersey Boys happened and it was a starring role in a major hit and I got a taste for what that’s like. I’m not as interested in just being an actor in an ensemble show unless it’s a role I really want to do. Being sort of the de facto CEO of my own enterprise, a solo artist singing in concert is an exciting way to have independence and choose the material I want to do. Acting in a film is very exciting and I would like to do more of that if it fits into my schedule of singing, which is really my passion right now.
You’re also a visual artist. Is it difficult to find time for other creative pursuits?
No. A career in the arts has downtime. In fact, I was just moving a large amount of artwork from a storage facility. I have a big inventory always ready for a show. It can be tricky to schedule things but that’s why I like to do things like these shows at The Space, which keeps me out playing somewhere about once a month.