PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Tony Winner Steve Kazee Picks His Favorite Indie-Rock and Alt-Country Songs

By Michael Gioia
April 9, 2014

Tony Award-winning Once actor Steve Kazee will return to 54 Below April 11-12. In anticipation of the singer-actor-songwriter's return, Kazee picks his favorite indie-rock and alt-country songs as part of this week's Playbill Playlist.



Concerts will be offered April 11 at 8 PM and April 12 at 8 PM and 11 PM.

Here's how 54 Below bills the evening: "After sold out summer and Christmas engagements, Steve brings his original alt-country songs, inspired by his southern upbringing and featured on his debut album, back to the stage. Audiences will also get to hear the songs Steve originated in Once on Broadway, live."

Kazee earned the 2012 Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award for Once. He has also appeared on Broadway in Spamalot as Sir Lancelot, as Starbuck opposite Audra McDonald in 110 in the Shade, as well as in To Be or Not to Be and Edward Albee's Seascape.

Tickets are priced $40-$50. There is a $25 food/beverage minimum. 54 Below is located at 254 W. 54th Street. Tickets and additional information are available at 54Below.com.

"Still Trying" (Nathaniel Rateliff). This song has been a staple in my rotation and in my concerts since I first heard it live at the Greek [Theatre in Los Angeles] last summer. Nathaniel's voice reminds me of a lonesome train longingly calling out to anyone who can hear.

"Silver Katherine" (Damien Jurado). My spirit animal, Damien Jurado, and his newest release, "Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son," is such an impressive work that I find it hard to single out one song off of it to share, but "Silver Katherine" has the most plays and so it shall be. Heartbreaking and hopeful and haunting are just some of the words that come to mind.

"Even If We Try" (Night Beds). Someone I loved very dearly introduced this band/artist to me, and I am eternally grateful for it. Every time I hear it, I am reminded of her. Of love. Of loss. Of life. It pours out of Winston Yellen's mouth like a shot of smooth Kentucky bourbon and keeps you company on the loneliest of nights.

"Love is All" (The Tallest Man on Earth). This song will forever be linked with the last week that I got to spend with my mother. I listened to it on repeat as I drove to see her every day. It was January. It was gray. It was winter. The plaintive poetry that bleeds from TMOE will always match that memory.

"Will You Love Me" (The Vespers). A bit of a throwback here, but a simple, sweet love song. The swell of this song can't help but make your heart beat a little harder and your smile grow a little wider. If ever I need a little pick-me-up or a road-trip playlist, this is a first choice for me.

"Dead Sea" (The Lumineers). Probably the most mainstream on this list, but when I first saw this clip way back in 2012 no one had yet heard the infectious "Ho Hey," so this band and this song were such a little hidden gem back then. I think it's great for popular music that they have found so much success, but sometimes I just like to remember the start. "You'll never sink when you are with me oh lord I'm your dead sea" — what a lyric.

"All Hands and the Cook" (The Walkmen). There is no defining the power of Hamilton Leithauser's voice. Words like raw, powerful, explosive are far too inferior. The keys, the drums, the cackling guitar, The Walkmen. My favorite band by far and the band that I feel is most tied into my DNA. It was nearly impossible to pick a track, but I had to choose. SEE THEM LIVE. It's the only way to truly understand.

"Lonesome" (Dr. Dog). This song by Philly collective Dr. Dog is a wild rumination on how easy it is to be lonely. I saw them live recently, and I don't know if I have ever seen a performance so full of life. It's hard to capture it in a studio environment, but this gives an idea. Dr. Dog feels to me like boxcar rock, cold beer on a back porch band. Perfect listening as spring starts to rise.

"Michigan Girls" (Califone). I saw this band open for Wilco at one of my first-ever NYC concerts back in 2002. I was blown away when I walked in and saw what looked like my dad's friends setting up on stage. Once they started playing though, I was transported back to growing up in a place full of music and musicians who were mysteries to the rest of the world crowing, picking and playing until the sun comes up. It came on as I was making this list, and fate felt they deserved a place on it. I was happy to oblige.

"Jim Cain" (Bill Callahan). Callahan deserves a whole playlist to himself, but of this reclusive singer-songwriter's catalog, this is my favorite. It's the first song on the accompanying video. Lyrically, it's as if Callahan is speaking only to you. The deep tone of his voice only furthers that feeling. "I started out in search of ordinary things. How much of a tree bends in the wind? I started telling the story without knowing the end." Great start to a great song.