A former waiter in a Tex Mex restaurant who became a soul sensation, Leon Bridges has the kind of origin story and sound you'd associate with the long lost Sixties labels of Key-Loc, Morsound or Twink.
Instead, Bridges is Columbia Records' most exciting hope for 2015, blessed with a truly spectacular soul voice that we can't wait to hear on his debut album Coming Home. Bridges was discovered after finding a mutual appreciation of jeans with White Denim's Austin Jenkins and, following two of his tracks becoming firm blog favourites at the end of last year, was the subject of a fierce bidding war.
Sitting in the offices of Sony, the winners, Bridges is polite and attentive, admitting a quiet 'Dayum!' about anything that surprises him and offering profuse thanks for any compliment. It's easy to forget that he's only played 50 or so shows so far but he looks set to have a really spectacular 2015. Bar some prelimiaries (unsurprisingly he's not a fan of 'gimmicky type of music' and his preference for jeans is ("High waist. And I don't like 'em too skinny.") he sat down with Gigwise to discuss getting the best out of charity shops, cartoons and the futuristic R&B of Miguel.
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Gigwise: Describe the outfit you're currently wearing.
Leon Bridges: One of my buddy's buddies, he gave me this little houndstooth jacket. We were just chilling at the studio. It's all thrift stores finds: there's a certain joy within finding a cool piece in a thrift store rather than going to a place where you can easily get to it. I like having to search, going through the bins and finding the treasure.
There's one place - it's a vintage store - it's called Dolly Pythons in Dallas. That's one of my favourites. They have really cool men's vintage pants and a really big selection of vintage shirts and jackets and hats. There's a picture of me on my Instagram in a Notre Dame sweatshirt. It was expensive but I thought "I gotta get this."
What's the worst job you've ever done?
I worked at this place called Alcon and it was hell. Basically I was on the assembly line inspecting eye drop packaging. You have to look at the date make sure it's correct and put it through for it to get packaged. They were very strict and it was so weird. It was from 6am-3pm. There's no partying at night, you got to get to bed early.
What was the first gig you ever went to?
It's funny the first gig I went to was a Christian hip-hop concert. It's a guy named Tedashii - he's pretty big in the Christian hip-hop circuit. He and LeCrae are in that same label. It was great, man, because as a kid I never went to any concerts. That was a big part of us not having a lot of money and my Mom being very spiritual.So it was great to hear some of my heroes live: That day I made sure I put on some cool clothes and me and my brother went out and had a good time.
What hip-hop do you love now?
Right now I love lyrical type of underground hiphop but I also enjoy people like Young Thug and Drake. They are two different things but there's a time and place for all of them. I love Young Thug's aesthetic his flow and his attitude: I don't agree with everything he says but he just makes me feel good. I loved Drake's recent album: there's some really good melodies, the lyrics are great and his flow is just great. 'Know Yourself' is a good one.
Is there a lyric on the record you're really proud of?
I'll go with the 'River' song: it's an old song but I love the line "Dip me in your smooth waters / I go in as a man with many crimes / Come up for air / As my sins float down the Jordan". That's one of my favourite lines.
What was the strangest conversation with a label?
I think the weirdest one was with some nice people: but they wanted to get involved, in as far as cowriting. I was like "Writing songs and having them be my own is something I will hold on to. And me being up there and sharing a song, it feels good because I wrote it." They were beautiful people and had some great artists on there but I'm glad I made the decision.
Who would you really love to see perform?
I want to see Miguel. He's one of my favourite contemporary artists. Miguel is one of the first guys I heard when I first started playing guitar that really spoke to me. I was driving and I had on the urban station that's in Fort Worth DOWK104 and 'All I Want Is You' came on. I had never heard anything like that on urban radio for a long time. Usher's cool and one of my favourite guys but this is just so different: the melody and the lyrics. So I started digging into Miguel and his sound was something I really connected with.
Tell me a modern thing you really love.
I love Adventure Time. It's a fun show, very trippy and I love it. For one, I'm a sucker for cartoons: I grew up on Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain - I got to get that whole season, find out where I can buy that from. Adventure Time is the only decent show: a lot of cartoons that come on today can't even touch what was coming on back in the Nineties.
What is the biggest misconception about you?
When people say I'm the "new Sam Cooke!" [laughs] I'm like "No...not at all." I'm down here and Sam's up here. It's flattering but it puts a lot of pressure on me. Sam's great but it's nowhere vocally a Sam Cooke. I understand when it reminds them as far as being smooth and I'm wriitng an old sound. It's flattering though.
Leon Bridges Coming Home is out on Columbia Records on 23 June. He will perform at London's Village Underground and Latitude festival. For tickets to see Bridges live see here.
Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.