As part of a new mission of the American Tradition Vocal Competition (ATC) to host intimate concert showcases of their competition vocalists, Nat Zegree will return to the Savannah area for a very entertaining and high-energy concert.
The ATC on Tybee presents “Fly More than You Fall meets Sun Records: Nat Zegree in Concert” will beat the Tybee Post Theater on Dec. 16.
The event is billed as “Rockabilly on the keys.” For those not familiar with Zegree, he’s been nominated for two Broadway World Awards for his performance as Jerry Lee Lewis in the Ogunquit Playhouse production of “Million Dollar Quartet” for Best Lead Actor and Best Vocal Performance. He also performed in “Dear Evan Hansen” at the Arena Theater in Washington, D.C., and has recently released his debut album, “Fly More than You Fall.”
DO Savannah met up with this busy young musician to learn more about his upcoming performance on the island, his musical background and how he was drawn to the music and high-energy performance of Jerry Lee Lewis.
DO: You started playing piano at an early age and you're from a musical family, so it must seem like a no-brainer to some that you would become a musician. Was the process something you embraced or did you consider other career options?
Zegree: It was always something I embraced. Music was the easiest thing to embrace in my life. Being surrounded by musicians, we didn’t really have a choice. The process was always something I embraced. Other than consistently waking up two hours before school to practice piano in the morning, it was a blast because I was discovering what talents I had that went beyond simply classical piano training.
However, I was super interested in a bunch of careers. I was the one in my family that realized more than just playing, I enjoyed adding that component to being on stage and performing as both a pianist and an actor and singer. And then came my desire to create original materia,l and I was fortunate to use my knowledge of musicality and piano playing as the base of my composing and writing, which I also found through my training.
Overall, no. I wouldn’t choose anything else to do. The joy I get from entertaining others is simply unmatched, and I’m endlessly thankful for my parents not letting me give up on it.
DO: What can our readers expect to see at the "Fly More Than You Fall meets Sun Records" concert on Tybee.
Zegree: My shows are never the same! That’s one thing I love about my style of performance. I want the audience to feel like we are all just sitting together, all on the same team, just having a good time with each other.
But one of my greatest joys is bringing in an element of education to my shows. Letting people know the background and the history of a song or style, or show the complex and simple connectivities that music can supply us with.
So, at this concert, we will explore my own musical mind from my own original material, like “Fly More Than You Fall” to the classic rock and roll we all love from Sun Records, maybe even to the original rock and rollers of the 18th century. Showing how they all connect and relating them to the modern ear. Not to mention some fun games along the way.
DO: When did you first feel drawn to take on the music of Jerry Lee Lewis and what was the process like for you to portray him on stage?
Zegree: Jerry Lee Lewis didn’t come into my life until I was in high school, and once he did, things certainly changed. JLL did so much for modern piano playing, it inspired me to explore every inch and corner of the instrument.
Having mostly played classical music at that time in my life, getting to expand my stylistic appreciation was so exciting. Nobody played like him. Nobody. And so, for me, my process was not to challenge that.
Through the direction of Hunter Foster, he and I never wanted to feel like I was doing an "impersonation" of Jerry Lee, but rather channel his soul and style through myself.
From there, I get to play like JLL, while also adding some flavor of what I can bring to the table, as well. So, for me, it’s most important to carry on his legacy, rather than try and replace it. If you can’t beat 'em — and why would you want to? — then join 'em!
DO: You have a single out, "Imagine This Season," and the video has some cute video clips of you as a child. What do you look forward to during the holidays?
Zegree: My single "Imagine This Season" came out in 2015, and it has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Every year I revel in knowing that the song is giving joy, laughter, happiness and perhaps even peace and solace to people all over the world.
For me? It’s the music! That’s what the holidays are for me. You just can’t beat this music that we can for a month or two every year. It brings back so many memories and feelings and that power is so special and endearing to me.
Yes, yes, yes, I’m down for the presents, the candy, the feasting and the family … but the music is always my favorite part. And "A Charlie Brown Christmas," of course. #snoopyforever.
DO: What are you looking forward to when you return to the Savannah area?
Zegree: Having gotten to visit Savannah now a couple of times, I’m truly falling in love with the place! My mother and stepfather now live here and so it’s quickly becoming a version of home for me. The feel of the city is so cool, and I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve come down.
A good Southern home cooked meal simple can’t be beat, so get me to that Pink House for a delicious meal!
I’ve very much enjoyed getting to meet so many wonderful kinds people, as well, and look forward to meeting many more.