Leslie Odom Jr. walked through the door with unassuming confidence and a big smile that brightened the room. Later, during his Tiny Desk performance, he recalled advice he'd received from a friend: "You have to get used to it — you are part of a cultural phenomenon in New York City," Odom said, before quipping, "I feel so blessed to be a part of Law & Order: SVU for three magnificent seasons."
A Tony- and Grammy-winning star, Odom has added a slew of achievements to his portfolio since 2016, when he left his role playing Aaron Burr in Broadway's Hamilton. He's continued his work in television and film, written a book and released jazz and Christmas albums. He co-wrote most of the songs on his latest project, Mr; out earlier this month, it's his first album of original material.
While Mr features a range of genres, Odom brought three R&B songs to the desk. The first, "Cold," is a hopeful ballad with a beautiful melody and a hint of contemporary musical theater. "Foggy," which he describes as the album's most personal piece, is a love song filled with the regret of failed good intentions. Odom calls his set-closer, "Hummingbird," an "odd little bop," but really it's a happy song that's light and fun — it's his 2-year-old daughter's favorite.
A love of music runs through Odom's family. His wife, Nicolette Robinson, is one of the background singers here, and this isn't the first time the two have worked together. In 2018, they dropped a single called "What Are We Waiting For." Another notable performer here, Theron "Neff-U" Feemster, plays keys, piano and xylophone. One of the record's co-producers and co-writers, Feemster is a well-respected songwriter, producer and composer who's worked mostly in R&B for almost two decades. After working together on Mr for the last two years, Odom joked, "I'm sure he's so ready for me to be out of his studio. It's taken us longer than we expected, but we're so proud of it."
Leslie Odom Jr.: vocals; Theron "Neff-U" Feemster: keys; Tommy King: keys; Garrison "G-Beats" Brown: drums; Jeremy Ting: guitar; Christine Noel Smit: vocals; Nicolette Robinson: vocals; Astyn Turr: vocals; Andrew Joslyn: violin
Producers: Suraya Mohamed, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, CJ Riculan, Jeremiah Rhodes, Kara Frame; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Ben De La Cruz/NPR