Where To Start With... Leon Bridges
Atlanta-born, Texas-raised soul singer and songwriter Leon Bridges hadn’t been writing and performing retro-styled soul music of his own for all that long before he began to turn heads, and reportedly got an early break after befriending White Denim guitarist Austin Jenkins and drummer Joshua Block, who approached the singer after catching a solo performance of what would soon become Bridges’ first breakout hit ‘Coming Home’.
The pair offered to help him assemble a band to record a demo, with Jenkins and Block acting as producers, and the song was quick to make an impact. Earning comparisons to soul singers of the 1950s and 60s such as Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, two songs uploaded to Soundcloud were all it took for Bridges to begin attracting offers from major record labels, eventually agreeing a deal with Columbia Records at the tail-end of 2014.
Continuing to work with the White Denim duo as co-writers and producers while working on his debut album, Bridges was soon on the road opening for Sharon van Etten, also performing at Sundance Film Festival, SXSW and alongside Pharrell Williams at the Roundhouse in London, as well as featuring on Saturday Night Live which helped his second single, ‘Smooth Sailin’ become his first to top the charts in the US. His debut arrived in summer 2015 and saw Bridges nominated for a Grammy that year.
In the years that followed his debut, Bridges appeared with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on their second album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made and saw his song ‘River’ become the theme tune to HBO’s hit series Big Little Lies, as well as performing for Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House and appearing in a cameo as Gil Scott-Heron in Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic First Man. His sophomore LP Good Thing arrived in 2018 and scored Bridges his second No. 1 hit with ‘Bad Bad News’, and since then the singer has appeared on tracks with guitarist Gary Clarke Jr. and The Avalanches, to name just a couple.
This week Bridges returns with his third full-length offering, Gold-Diggers Sound, which features 11 new tracks including recent single ‘Motorbike’ and guest appearances from Robert Glasper and Terrace Martin.
The album makes its arrival in stores on Friday (Jul 23) and you can find the video for ‘Motorbike’ below – beneath that we’ve picked out five of his best tracks and collaborations so far anyone who has yet to experience that golden voice…
The title track from his debut and the song the got him noticed in the first place, ‘Coming Home’ is still one of the best examples of what Leon Bridges excels at; timeless soul, straight from the heart. An instant classic.
Possibly the biggest hit from his debut LP besides the title track and ‘Smooth Sailin’ (and certainly his most-streamed online), you’ll have heard ‘River’ many times already if you’re a fan of Big Little Lies, but it deserves its place on our little list here because it’s a cracker.
One of two guest appearances by Bridges we’ve included here, this little stripped-back ditty sees Bridges dueting with Noah Cyrus and shows just how effortlessly Bridges is able to apply his vocal talents to different styles and genres. They both sound tremendous here.
‘Bad Bad News’
Bridges is at his funkiest on jazzy, groovy cut from his sophomore LP Good Thing and the track scored the singer his second chart-topper in his native US. We dare you not to dance.
Our final pick is another Bridges guest feature, this time on on ‘Interstellar Love’, taken from the third album by Australian sample wizards The Avalanches. Take a look at the live performance of this dreamy track below and judge for yourselves…