A rare talent who can do smoldering ballads and elemental rock ‘n’ roll with equal aplomb, soul singer Leon Bridges’ musical aesthetic is nostalgia at its most enthralling. Often compared to soul artists from the 50s and 60s, Bridges’ emphasis on innocent guitar and adept songwriting embrace a subtlety that feels wholly refreshing. Bridges performes songs from his 2015 debut album Coming Home for his first appearance on Austin City Limits.
Although frequently compared to classic soul artists like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Bridges’ background lies in modern R&B and hip-hop. In high school, the now 26-year-old would try singing songs by Ginuwine and Usher. In college, Bridges began to find his voice during jam session with peers. A friend introduced him to A-minor and E-minor, and everything changed. “I fell in love with their sound, and that’s when I started writing songs, from those two chords,” Bridges said.
Coming Home exploded upon its release, debuting at No. 1 on top R&B/Hip-Hop albums and meeting critical and public acclaim. Produced by Austin Jenkins and Josh Block of Austin’s White Denim, the album displays Bridges’ versatility: from the buttery, sultry opener to the brushed snares and glowing brass on “Lisa Sawyer,” Bridges’ range is in full view. The Boston Globe called Coming Home “one of the year’s most compelling debuts.” NPR said of Bridges’ voice, “It’s imagination in careful motion, a sign of freedom in mastery.”
Though Bridges started with roots in modern R&B, he moves forward aware of the tradition of soul music and its influence on his own life. “I’m not saying I can hold a candle to any soul musician from the 50s and 60s,” Bridges said, “but I want to carry the torch.”
EPISODE LISTLeon Bridges / Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (41)
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- Leon Bridges and Nathaniel Rateliff bring soul to ACL’s 41st season
- ACL artists at the 2016 Grammys
- ACL announces second half of Season 41
- Leon Bridges’ new old soul
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- New tapings: Leon Bridges and Angelique Kidjo