Sounds Like: Usher as a vintage soul crooner in 1963, backed by Motown's Funk Brothers
For Fans of: Sam Cooke, Aloe Blacc circa "I Need a Dollar," John Legend
Why You Should Pay Attention: Leon Bridges' elegantly smoldering voice often evokes comparisons to Sam Cooke at his finest. However, his tone is unmistakably modern, a result of listening to 112 and Dru Hill as a teenager growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, before discovering Cooke and the Temptations. "I come from a slow jam background, and that carries over into the music I have now," he says. Four years ago, he started performing at open mic nights, accompanying himself on guitar. It was at Magnolia Motor Lounge where he met Austin Jenkins of rock group White Denim. "His vision was, 'I want to make it exactly like it came out in the Fifties and Sixties,'" remembers Bridges. Together with White Denim's Josh Block, they recorded "Coming Home" and "Better Man," and premiered the songs on Dallas-based music blog Gorilla vs. Bear last October. A bidding war ensued, with Bridges signing to Columbia, and he subsequently earned raves at this year's SXSW for songs like "Lisa Sawyer," where he lovingly details his mother's childhood in New Orleans, and "Brown Skin Girl," a celebration of women of color. His debut album, Coming Home, drops on June 23rd.
He Says: Born Todd Bridges, he originally performed under the name Lost Child. "My mom, she used to always tell me whenever I had a haircut or something, 'Boy, you look like a lost child," he says. "Later, I wanted a more professional-sounding name. A lot of people in college would call me Leon, after the actor. He acted in Cool Runnings, The Five Heartbeats and The Temptations. People were saying I looked like him. I felt that 'Leon' and 'Bridges' went together very well."
Hear for Yourself: On "Better Man," Bridges and his band strum soulfully on a black & white stage straight out of Shindig! Mosi Reeves