Brandon Leake, champion of “America’s Got Talent”, on poetry and Las Vegas
Brandon Leake sits in a seat at the Luxor Theater, talking about his career as a talker, and stops. He hears something the interviewer cannot hear, namely voices coming from the aisle several feet away. “Wait, I’ll wait for this to stop.”
Moments later, he sees that the nearby smartphone screen, used to capture his words on a digital audio recorder, has gone blank. He takes the device, checks it and says, âLet’s make sure it’s still recording.
Leake is a gentleman who is aware not only of his surroundings, but of yours as well. The Season 15 champion “America’s Got Talent” is the first and only spoken word artist in the series’ 15-year history.
Leake won the title in September 2020, after Judge Howie Mandel pitched him to the semi-finals with his Golden Buzzer during the show’s TV auditions. Leake is in the cast of “America’s Got Talent: Live!” in Luxor. The show is performing an indefinite residency, featuring several of the show’s former champions and finalists.
Leake sat down to chat after a presentation of some of these acts at the Luxor Theater.
Johnny Kats: I’ve covered entertainment in Las Vegas for a long time, and I’ve never seen anyone do exactly what you do on stage on the Strip. It’s incredible. How does it feel for you to be on stage in a theater in Las Vegas as opposed to, say, a cafe, little club, or a street corner?
Brandon’s escape: It is an honor to be in a revolutionary position, to be the first spoken word artist to not only win the show, but also to be part of a Vegas residency in this way. It’s humbling to know that I have the chance to not only spread my art form, but hopefully spread some hope and joy in people’s lives.
What was the catalyst that made you pursue “AGT”, since there has never been a similar artist in the series?
There was no other show to go to. I mean, singers can go to “The Voice or” American Idol “or several other different shows, dancers can find shows, magicians can go to Penn & Teller (” Fool Us “). But oral creations have, like, cafes, as of now. So “AGT” was the only place I could find a home.
When you think of what’s going on in Las Vegas, the full-scale production shows and all-star headliners, how is that artistically going for you?
I think Vegas, in the eyes of a lot of people, is not for what I do. I think consumers, often they don’t know what they, in quotes, came up with. But once they receive something unexpected, they can choose to back down or really embrace it. And according to our previews, it’s a popular art form.
So, they might not cite âoral poetryâ as one of the reasons they visit Vegas, but when they see it, they love it because it’s something new and different. Is that the message?
I think I got the unexpected idea that you can show up in Vegas and come away better outside of your wallet.
It could be your own tourism campaign.
(Laughs) Yeah, for anyone who’s interested in coming, don’t just be interested. To come! It will be worth it.
What are you able to draw inspiration from to create a new material in this environment?
The poem I’m doing here is actually tailor-made for this show. It is nothing that I have done before. It is because it was made for this audience. I have a solo piece that I’m going to perform at the Nevada Museum of Art Reno called “Insomnia” in December.
Something in Las Vegas?
You will see me at random on street corners with my typewriter, writing poems for people. In Las Vegas. I’ll be in the arts district.
You will be near me! I’m ordering a poem right away. You will see me there.
(Laughs) Okay. I’ll write some typewriter poetry for you.