The speed of the soul singer’s stardom left him reeling. As he releases his best album yet, he explains how he shook off his insecurities – and confronted love, loss and a racist US
Leon Bridges leans back on a gold velvet couch at Gold-Diggers, a compound in east Hollywood that includes a hotel, nine recording studios, a bar and a live music venue. Here in Studio 2, sunlight streams down from a skylight, bathing Bridges’ sky-blue madras shirt and buttery-brown leather loafers in a soft glow. His sartorial combination places him somewhere between a soul singer and country star circa 1970.
Now 32, Bridges was working as a dishwasher just seven years ago, vying for attention at open mic nights in his home town of Fort Worth, Texas. In 2015, he released his debut album, the Grammy-nominated Coming Home, and soon the sheltered Christian found himself performing his spiritual, gospel-imbued song River on Saturday Night Live and covering Ray Charles for the Obamas at the White House. Music journalists hailed this soul singer/songwriter as the second coming of Sam Cooke.
There’s a solitude and weight that comes with gaining success. Initially, it was rough for me
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