Leon Bridges delivers a rich, vintage soul sound that somehow carries with it the crackle of a needle on vinyl. He does it wearing the hats, slacks and collared shirts that are more often seen in washed-out black and white photographs of ’50s jazz clubs than on twenty-something Texans. Yet he sidesteps the pitfall of becoming a pastiche of a better time for pop music.
Despite hailing from Forth Worth, Texas and having strong family ties in the rhythm and blues hub of New Orleans, Bridges’ listening habits as a teenager were pretty straightforward – Usher and Ginuwine are name-checked in our interview long before Sam Cooke or Otis Redding. (Perhaps that meant he never put the soul legends he evokes on a pedestal?)
Yet the ‘50s and ‘60s influences that were latent in the ‘90s neo-soul heyday come crashing to the fore in on Bridges’ records and extend wholeheartedly to his image and even, at times, in the way he speaks. “I’m enjoying being a young man who is able to write the music that I love and being able to share my stories with the world.” Is his graceful interpretation of a career that has taken a rather explosive turn towards success in the past 12 months. “I like to write about my family a lot. And they make for great stories,” he continues.
Though Bridges’ lyrics contain the odd give-away modern colloquialism, each of his tracks lilts, broods and fades like a memory of years ago. As he tips his hat and exits the stage, you can’t help but admit that the sound, the get-up and the past kinda suits him.