A couple years ago, soul singer Leon Bridges was working as a dishwasher in Texas. Now, he’s selling out concerts across the U.S. and his first album, “Coming Home” debuted at number one on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Album charts this past summer. Comparisons to Otis Redding and Sam Cooke are inevitable with Bridge’s throwback ‘60s musical style, but he brings his own hip-hop flare to the table, making his music truly stand out.
Going all in
It was Bridges’s father who introduced him to musicians like the ones he’s so often compared to today. “My dad was always keeping up with black history,” Bridges says. But he adds that it wasn’t until he was older and getting into soul music that he really started giving them a close listen.
Bridges tells us he was “definitely nervous” to go full-on retro on his album. “I didn’t know if I could do it because I came from a hip-hop and modern R&B background,” he says. “I could have gone the way of using just bits and pieces, but I really wanted to go all the way in. I was so in love with the music, but of course it’s going to come out my own way.”
Community college and coffeehouses
It wasn’t too long ago that Bridges played his first show at his community college in Texas. “One of my friends played the piano and we sang some cover songs,” he says. “I was nervous but also so excited because it was my first time playing in front of people.”
The 26-year-old taught himself guitar, first by watching YouTube videos and then by asking some of his friends, who already knew how to play. “There was an open mic at this coffee shop I went to and I had a lot of friends who were guitar players there,” he says. “They showed me a lot of things. … But over the years, I developed this certain style and it’s very sloppy, but it’s a great tool to write songs.”
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Keeping it loose
Part of what gives “Coming Home” its raw, authentic sound is the way it was recorded. “We recorded it in this building that was basically a lot of different businesses and lofts, and it had a bar,” Bridges describes. “So when people walked in, they would hear us recording.”
He says some of what’s on the album wasn’t rehearsed at all, it just came to him on the fly. “Basically what you hear on ‘Coming Home’ is when I was playing acoustic guitar around town. There were certain things that came out of nowhere.”
If you go:
Oct. 17, 7 p.m.
1026 Spring Garden St., 215-232-2100
New York City
Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m.
253 W 125th St., 212-531-5300
Oct. 21, 8:30 p.m.
125 E. 11th St., 212-353-1600
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