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After His Breakthrough, Leon Bridges Pushes Beyond 1960s Soul

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Photo: Leon Bridges
Leon Bridges

Leon Bridges broke onto the scene in 2015 with his debut album, “Coming Home.” People connected with the Texas singer-songwriter's retro sound and compared him to soul legends from the 1960s like Sam Cooke. Bridges says those comparisons eventually felt suffocating.

“I feel like with my first album, it kind of put me in a box,” he says, sitting backstage before a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. “With this one, I wanted to show people that I can exist in any genre and maintain my integrity.”

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Bridges changes things up on his new album, “Good Thing.” He goes beyond retro soul to disco and pop. And the entire album has a strong R&B flare.

He teamed up with songwriters who’ve worked with mainstream artists like Selena Gomez and Fall Out Boy.

“When I’m writing by myself, I write what’s comfortable," he says. "I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone and opened myself to doing jams like ‘You Don’t Know.'"

Bridges sings about flirting, breaking up and getting married. He says he wanted to make songs that people could relate to -- whether that meant writing as different characters or about his personal experience.

One of the autobiographical songs on the new release is "Georgia to Texas." It tells the story of his mother's life, starting with her move to Georgia when she was pregnant with Leon.

Bridges used his mother’s story for inspiration before, on the song "Lisa Sawyer" from his debut. Bridges says writing about her comes naturally.

“When I write, I just try to pull from whatever I can pull from and whatever makes a good song. I felt like that would be dope in a song,” he says. “She is a strong woman and she has a great story. Honestly it’s about honoring her within the music.”

Bridges still calls himself a retro act. But he also brings his own unique voice and style to the R&B landscape.

“It’s all essentially retro music. Even when I’m doing more of the '80s style, it’s still retro,” he says. “I want to carry on the legacy of R&B and it’s awesome to kind of carve my own lane within today’s music industry.”

No matter what impact Bridges ends up making on R&B, he’s only looking forward from here.

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