John Lloyd Young finds his own voice

10/02/2015 by America Hernandez for

He’s best known for playing Frankie Valli on Broadway in 2005’s “Jersey Boys” and the summer 2014 movie of the same name directed by Clint Eastwood.

But when John Lloyd Young arrives at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for a three-day engagement beginning Thursday, “that voice” will sound very different. And that’s exactly how Young likes it.

“For the last 10 years, I’ve played Frankie Valli every way you can do him: Broadway, London, I did the movie…there’s nowhere else to go with Frankie Valli,” he said, laughing.

With his debut record “My Turn,” Young peels off the Jersey accent and Four Seasons falsetto to reveal his own true voice – and taste.

The album is made up of what he calls “the best R&B songs of the ’60s treated as jazz standards,’’ recorded live with little to no sound treatment.

Designed to please audiences who first fell in love with him as Valli, it is a bridge that Young hopes will eventually lead to success singing his own original songs in the same classic style.

Among the covers are longtime favorites of Young’s, like Mel Carter’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” “Hey There Lonely Girl” by Eddie Holman, and Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” for good measure.

Other songs from the era took some convincing on the part of Young’s managers before making it onto the album. “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers and the Platters’ “Only You” are two examples. The singer’s trepidation didn’t stem from dislike, but rather a fear that his covers would pale in comparison to the originals.

Young’s love for jazz crooners dates back to his childhood as a military brat, he said, when he developed a close bond with his grandparents, whose household soundtrack of choice was Frank Sinatra.

“I always believed Sinatra sounds like he’s singing directly to you, Sinatra makes a personal connection, and those were my values when I got to New York and began to have a career,” said Young.

A brief stint living in Montgomery, Ala., also heavily influenced his appetite for singing soul, as friends passed along mixtapes of Thomas Whitfield and other gospel singers.

“Once you’re swept away by all these fantastic church singers at age 14, that’s it, you’re going to gravitate toward that,” he said, citing Little Anthony’s “Hurt So Bad,” which is also on the album.

Looking to the future, Young expressed the desire to write his own soulful hits that keep to the old-style focus on narrative lyrics and emotional truth. He is optimistic about there being a market for such music.

“The fact is, if you can sing R&B really well there are a lot of possibilities,” Young said. “Adele has got the modern Dusty Springfield soul, and not all her songs are old songs; but when she covers Bob Dylan’s ‘To Make You Feel My Love,’ you are just heartbroken.”

Reflecting on his career as an actor singing and speaking the words of others, Young expressed both fear and excitement at the thought of producing his own material.

“Part of the reason I became an actor is wanting to live in a fantasy, and be somebody else. When you take that mask away and are yourself onstage, deciding to write about personal feelings that are usually only in your diary … .” He trailed off. “It’s a vulnerable but also exciting horizon.”