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Leon Bridges

Nov 29/2016
WORDS by Erin Lowers PHOTOGRAPHY by Brendan Meadows STYLED by Leila Bani ASSISTANTS: Whitney Lykins and Kristin Morawski MAKEUP by Jon Hennessey HAIR by Tania Becker SET CREATION by Danny Vermette ASSISTANTS: Sean Best & Maria Turner.

When Leon Bridges debuted Coming Home in 2015, his classic, soulful sound drew comparisons to some of the greatest black musicians of bygone eras, like Marvin Gaye and Same Cooke. The album also earned him a Grammy nomination – an experience that shocked a then 26-year-old Bridges, whose musical career spanned no more than a couple of years at the time of being nominated.

“It was kind of like one of those out-of-body things. I didn’t even believe it was happening,” he says. “Just to be a fan of music and R&B since I was a kid, and to see the reality that I was in that same line of my favorites… being at the Grammys, being nominated for the album – it’s crazy,” he continues. “My guitar player/producer [and I] went, and we left super inspired.”

The Grammy nod led Bridges on a worldwide tour and quickly propelled him to unprecedented levels of stardom. Eventually, he found himself at the White House. Bridges’ meeting with America’s “Royal Family” was a moment that cemented his career choices. “Man, I was able to meet the President, I was able to sing in front of the President, I was able to represent my name. I made my family super proud; I made my city super proud. It was an incredible experience”, he excitedly recounts.

Bridges’ short conversation with President Obama is one he’ll remember with fondness for the rest of his life. “It was super brief, but I told him that I loved him,” he laughs. “I didn’t know what to say! But he said, ‘I see you! An upcoming soul Texas star,’ or something like that, and it’s all I needed to hear.”

Like many Americans already mourning a future without the Obama administration, Bridges can’t help but speculate what a change in leadership will mean for artists of colour. “You look at, like, the honouring of Ray Charles and before that, they did a vintage soul thing… it’s not gonna be the same thing, you know?”

While Canada’s neighbours are facing some of their darkest days in recent history with regards to police brutality, socio-economic divides and racism, these burdens have not fallen on deaf ears. Black artists have unleashed an outpouring of support for victims of police brutality and other heinous crimes, and for Bridges, that fight is one he’s ready for as well. “A lot of people point at me to carry the responsibility because of the music that I make, like, ‘Oh, Sam Cooke did this, Marvin Gaye did this,’ so you should do it, too. That’s definitely the wrong motive. If you feel [strongly] about a certain thing, and want to say something about it, then you should,” he states firmly. “With that platform, we [artists] should use it to speak truth… I feel that I have a responsibility to myself to speak the truth, and that’s definitely what I’ve been thinking about as far as songwriting. I’m no politician and not a man of many words, but I can put my thoughts into a song.”

With 2016 quickly coming to a close, Bridges says he has three goals (some more tongue-in-cheek than others): read more, find himself a supermodel girlfriend, and perhaps most importantly: “Hopefully finish my record, or at least finish writing all the material.” While details of Bridges’ upcoming album are still largely under wraps, he does reveal that it takes a “different direction” than Coming Home. “It won’t sound so much like a period album,” he explains, adding that it is more of a cross-genre project.

Leon Bridges expects to release his forthcoming album in 2017.

 

 

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