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MEET THE GRAMMY CLASS: LEON BRIDGES


You’ve had great success over the last year-plus; what, if anything, has changed for you in the wake of this greater visibility?

I’m no longer washing dishes at Del Frisco’s. Being able to help my mom and pay off her debt and just play music for a living has been amazing.

It used to be that hearing your song on the radio for the first time was a signal that you have a shot at having a hit. What was the moment when you got a sense a hit was possible with “Coming Home” ?
When Gorilla vs. Bear posted it and my SoundCloud streams starting growing more and more every second. I was in a car going to New Orleans with my saxophonist Jeff, and I kept checking my phone, because it was crazy. This was before an album, label or agent was involved. Also, when I played at the Apollo and the crowd was singing along to every word.

Who played the biggest role in helping you define your sound on the album, and what did they do for you?
Austin Jenkins and Josh Block of Niles City Sound. They are the producers on the album. They also play on it and are in my band.

What do you see as key to breaking beyond classic R&B and getting into the mainstream?
I don’t really think about that too much. Just trying to do my thing and be myself.

Who are your biggest influences, and what did you take from each?
Ginuwine, Usher, Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack and the music around Fort Worth. Right now I’m also listening to Bryson Tiller, Migos and Drake.

Who discovered and/or mentored you, setting off your career in a viable direction?
Austin Jenkins! I was hanging out at a bar, and I was wearing my high-waisted Wranglers. This girl came up to me and basically said, “Hey, you’ve got to meet my boyfriend—he likes to wear vintage Wranglers too. Turns out it was Austin Jenkins, who was in the band White Denim. He saw me play, asked to record me, and from there he and Josh Block introduced me to Jonathan Eshak and Zeke Hutchins at Mick Management. That helped get things moving. My band is also made up of all Texas guys who are all great musicians.

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