With second record, Leon Bridges is onto a good thing
LEON Bridges, from Fort Worth, Texas, has one of America's most tender voices. He emerged in 2015 with his debut album Coming Home. The record was a paean to the storied figures of soul music - Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke - that carried the weight of an American generation.
Bridges' attempts to revive the transcendent but dormant art of the soul singer were met with celebrations and acclaim, with Rolling Stone describing his first album as 'the best kind of nostalgia trip'.
Three years later, after establishing himself as the poster child for a certain musical nostalgia, Bridges has himself transcended genre boundaries. The result is his second album, Good Thing, which Bridges will unveil at Byron Bay Bluesfest this weekend.
What will you be bringing to the stage at Bluesfest?
A mix of songs from my first album and my upcoming record. My whole show has an energetic feel. I love to dance and I've got a great band, so I hope it'll be an awesome vibe.
You mentioned your new album Good Thing. On first listen it sounds like a significant deviation from your debut record. How are you feeling about the record on the cusp of its release?
I'm excited about it. It's a reflection on my growth as an artist. I wanted to make an album that was reflective of all the styles of R&B that I love. It's definitely a diverse album and I'm excited for the world to hear a different side of me. It was super dope to be able to write without any boundaries.
After your first album was released, critics were constantly comparing you to some of the giants of soul music - Otis Redding and Sam Cooke especially - where does that sit with you now?
It's not totally representative of who I am. I felt that with my first album it definitely put me in a box, and so moving forward I feel like this album could open the door for me to create anything. After this album I could go back to making that same sound or I can do an 80s sound or a 90s sound. It's all music that I love.
Making this record was liberating. I held back a lot with the first album, because that was the statement I wanted to make at the time. But within that sound you can only work with a certain style of singing and writing to be true to that era. With this project I was able to be free and write what felt good to me. I didn't chase a certain sound. The record was able to organically unfold to what became what it was.
What makes you most proud of your journey to get to this record - and do you have any favourite moments on Good Thing?
It was a long process of searching for what sound I wanted to make. What I love most about it is that I feel I have grown and made a diverse album. There's moments of twang on it, there's R&B disco stuff, there's 90s R&B. I'm proud I was able to make something reflective of my growth. Of a song, I'm really proud of 'Bet Ain't Worth a Hand', which was released earlier in the month. I've never written a falsetto into my songs. Looking back, it's a testament to legendary guys that have inspired me. It's funny because even in that song, showing friends family, they'd be like, 'who is that?" - I hope that it's a sign of my growth as an artist.