Leon Bridges made his Outside Lands debut in 2015, only a year after he was singing at open mics and working at a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas. At a small venue, Austin Jenkins and Joshua Block of White Denim saw Bridges perform “Coming Home” and were instantly captivated by his raw talent. Recording with him with gear from the 40’s and 50’s, they created a set of songs that almost instantly went viral when uploaded online. 4 months later, he was already signed by Columbia Records.He may only be 29 years old today, but his music hearkens back to classic 1960’s and 70’s soul and classic R&B.
While inspired by musicians like sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Bridges imparts modernity to old school Soul. “Somebody asked me, ‘What are your inspirations? Sam Cooke?’ I was like, ‘Not really.’ I’d heard about him, but I wasn’t listening to him hard like that,” Bridges told NME. “So after that I started digging into soul music and that 1950s and ’60s vibe. … I love the realness and the simplicity of it. The soul music they were making back then was from the heart.”
From the official release of “Coming Home” to hits like “River,” Bridges started to build a following that didn’t just include the 10,000,000 streamers on Soundcloud that tuned into his original uploads. Bridges performed at the White House for President Obama, opened for Harry Styles, and his music featured prominently in shows like Big Little Lies. He’s collaborated and co-written with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Outside Lands Lineup-Mate Kacey Musgraves’ “Present Without a Bow.”
In 2018, Bridges released the first songs from his highly anticipated second record Good Thing. The 2018 release featured broader influences and styles, and gave Bridges his first Grammy for “Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand.”
From open-mic to Outside Lands might seem like a big jump, but with a sound that is somehow both familiar and completely original, it’s easy to see how Bridges achieved such a meteoric rise and success at only 29. His musical influences and on-stage fashion may seem vintage, but his sound is anything but.