Leon Bridges Talks ‘Concussion’ Song, Grammy Nod, ‘Crazy’ ‘SNL’ Appearance
On his debut album, Coming Home, Leon Bridges sounded like the second coming of Sam Cooke. During the course of the year, the young singer from Fort Worth, Texas, has staked out his own identity as the new voice of gospel and soul music. He ended his year with a feature on an emotional new Macklemore single, his Saturday Night Live debut and a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album. To top it all off, Bridges has contributed a gorgeous new ballad, “So Long,” to the soundtrack for the new Will Smith film, Concussion, out Christmas Day. Bridges recently spoke with Rolling Stone about his new track and the busy year he’s just starting to wrap up.
How did you get involved with Concussion?
The director, Peter [Landesman], had heard my record and reached out to my management about getting me in to do a song for this film. And so we set it up. We were in London at the time so we went and watched the film first and I didn’t really have any direction before getting into the film. I didn’t even know the film was a true story. But yeah, we watched the film and after the film we get on a call with him and he tells us he wants something for the ending credits and so I just felt like the soulful country-folk vibe was perfect for the ending credits.
I didn’t want to write a song that was too literal to the film, so I just emailed a personal story about me going back home and these people back home saying I don’t deserve to be where I’m at because I haven’t been working as long as these other musicians who have been doing it longer. The song is saying that I love where I’m from but maybe I need to leave because I don’t feel the love anymore.
It’s interesting that you had such a negative reaction from people back home to your success, especially given how well received your debut album had been from everyone else. How did you respond to that kind of negativity?
When I’m getting hurt, I try to have thick skin and not worry about it. I know my motive, but the people outside don’t know my motives. It hurt for a second, but I kept moving on after that. I just try to remember that what they say isn’t going to hurt my career. It’s not going to stop me from making art.
Have you felt similar feelings in the music world as well, especially as a soul singer?
Yeah, a little bit. What I do is being received very well, but there’s people out there who automatically shut down a cat because he’s doing retro music, quote-unquote “retro” music. So there are those people out there, the people who can’t listen to a song and say, “Does this sound good or not?” I definitely feel that within the music a little bit, but there are more positive things than bad.