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Artist Spotlight: Leon Bridges

– Lucy Shanker, Roots N Blues Intern

I first heard Leon Bridges when I randomly stumbled upon his NPR Tiny Desk Concert: From that moment, I was hooked. The Texas native, born Todd Michael Bridges, sang four songs behind the desk of Bob Boilen with an undeniable charm and an impressive set of dance moves. At the time, it had a couple thousand views. Now, it has over two million.

This jump is symbolic of the exponential growth Bridges has seen: he went from washing dishes at a restaurant in Texas to a Grammy nomination in less than two years.
He immediately stood out to me because of his innovative yet familiar sound. Bridges infuses a ‘50s and ‘60’s soul vibe with a contemporary style of his own, creating songs that rival Sam Cooke. This music is matched by his uncanny style. The singer can often be seen sporting suspenders and old style button downs, sometimes the occasional mustard-colored, three piece suit. But always with his pants pulled just a little higher than usual.
Bridges’ repertoire ranges in both topic and style: from upbeat, classic hits like “Twistin’ & Groovin’” to slower, melodic tunes like “River.” While the first is a sweet love song about his grandparents meeting, the second reflects on the Baltimore uprising. Bridges wrote on twitter that the song and video were intended to be a “message of light.”
My love for him grew after seeing him perform at Lollapalooza this summer where he played for a surprisingly large crowd for a midday show. Despite being in the midst of the sea of people, it was an unforgettable experience. From the moment he and his band walked on stage, everyone in the crowd had a goofy grin plastered across their faces. His groove is contagious; I’m sure bystanders of the show were entertained by the sporadic attempts at soul dancing from the audience. And yet, everyone was too mesmerized by his remarkable talent to care.
Since first watching it in the fall of 2015, I am probably responsible for at least a thousand of the views on his Tiny Desk. His set at this year’s festival is bound to be incredible and definitely not one to miss.
If you watched the Tiny Desk and can’t get enough, here is a video of him casually singing “River” outside at a cafe behind the Notre-Dame in Paris.
And here is him singing in an obscure, old-style living room.
And live at Austin City Limits.