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This summer’s festival season is well underway, with Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival celebrating its 15th anniversary this weekend. Among its star-driven musical lineup are the talented Pearl Jam, Tame Impala, LCD Soundsystem, Miguel, The Chainsmokers, J Cole and more.
In a music world filled with everything from thumping electronic dance beats to slowed-down love jams, it can be difficult for an emerging artist to find his or her own footing. This is currently the case for budding soul artist, Leon Bridges, who is set to perform live at Bonnaroo later tonight. With a growing fan base and increasing celebrity recognition, Bridges is on his way to having a very successful career. Allow us to introduce you to this singer-songwriter with suave musical stylings and an original sense of style.
— Leon Bridges (@leonbridges) June 7, 2016
Leon Bridges is a 26-year-old Texan musician who has completely immersed himself into the sweet sounds of old-school soul and R&B. Bridges, now signed to Columbia Records, made his official entrance into the soul music scene last year with his debut album, Coming Home.
For Bridges, the road to Coming Home seemed almost expeditious and traffic-free. In a single year, Bridges went from performing at local open-mic shows to hitting the global stage. However, Bridges wasn’t always set on the mission of saving soul music. Growing up as an extremely shy and lonely child, it took years for the viral SoundCloud artist to find his voice.
In an interview with Billboard, Bridges admitted to never really thinking that he could sing. “I knew I could do stuff here and there, but didn’t think I was good enough to fit,” said Bridges.
In his youth, Bridges didn’t even know what soul music was. Longing to relate to others his age, Bridges resorted to listening to the music that his peers were listening to–mainly deciding to educate himself into the world of Usher, Ginuwine, and the other artists who fell under the category of ’90s R&B.
It wasn’t until Bridges entered community college to study dance that he began to become comfortable with performing and found a hobby in singing, songwriting and playing the guitar. Leon’s early music strove to coincide with his R&B idols, but after being compared to Sam Cooke, an American ’60s soul artist, all of that began to change.
After the comparison, Bridges began to engross himself in ’50s and ’60s soul culture, finding inspiration in the likes of Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder. Somewhere in between dish-washing and busing tables, Bridges met Austin Jenkins, a guitarist from the rock band White Denim. Jenkins saw a rare talent in Bridges and later (along with his fellow band member, Joshua Block) helped Bridges to produce Coming Home.
Coming Home was released in June of 2015 and since its debut, Bridges has been praised for the album’s nostalgic sound.
“I think it’s really important to carry on the tradition of soul music. For me, it’s really more than being cute and cool…it’s really about honouring those who came before me.” Bridges explains in a documentary directed by Danny Clinch.
Bridges incorporates inspirations from his own life into his timely sound. Just like classic soul, Bridges writes heartfelt songs about family and truth. Off of Coming Home, “Twistin and Goovin” pays tribute to his grandparents’ first meeting and “Brown Skin Girl” acts as a love letter to his ex-girlfriend.
With his old-school houndstooth suits, bow ties, high-waisted pants and soul music, Leon Bridges is definitely a man outside of his time. Watch Leon Bridges’ “This Is Home” documentary below, check out Coming Home on iTunes, and remember to catch him performing via livesteam tonight at Bonnaroo!