Leon Bridges has taken on various musical identities since the release of his debut album, Retro Soul Inspired Go home, in 2015. His latest project, an R&B album titled Sound of the gold diggers (on July 23), explores a whole new territory: in the first single, “Motorbike” (whose music video debuted on May 13 and is directed by Anderson .Paak), the decks layer ethereal and relaxed instrumentals with lyrics soft to create a modern romantic hymn for lazy summer afternoons. In an interview for W annual number of music, the musician opens up on the creative process behind Sound of gold diggers, dressing for public life after the pandemic, and why he wants to challenge his fans.
During what has been a lonely time for so many people, you’ve released a number of collaborations, including “Inside Friend,” with John Mayer; “All About You”, with Lucky Daye; and the EP Texas sun, with Khruangbin. In May 2020, you released “Sweeter,” starring Terrace Martin, which is written from the perspective of a black man facing untimely death. How did you feel to bring him into the world during this tumultuous time?
It was my contribution to the movement. I was sitting on these words; I just didn’t know the right outfit to put them on. Throughout my career, I have been scrutinized for not being political enough. And I’ve always wanted just the right time to do it, and the right way to say it. The crazy thing is that this song was already made, and what really drove me to release it was the death of George Floyd. It really shook me. I had never shed tears for someone I didn’t know, and that moment forced me to put it into the world.
Bode shirt and shoes; his own pants.
Bode shirt; Cool pants I Am; his own belt.
You are known to have a very strong and unique sense of style. How do you feel about dressing for public life again?
Man, that’s been a crazy thing about the pandemic – I haven’t really managed to portray fashion. I ordered a lot of things. I’m trying to find what will look good on stage when I start shooting again. I recently took inspiration from the 70s. I still like something funkadelic, and I have switched to more flared jeans. But I also did a lot of monochrome, especially all in black.
You have a new album coming out soon. Something you can share about how this will sound?
The new project is called Sound of gold diggers. Gold-Diggers is that unassuming little resort in East Hollywood. It’s a bit of a gnarly neighborhood, but inside it’s a beautiful place. It’s like a hotel, studio and dive bar. I wanted a sound that was R&B, but that was unique to me. We thought the only way to do that was to create a totally immersive experience, so I basically lived there, and I think we were able to find it. There is low-key jazz, there are more prominent guitar songs, but it’s definitely more of an R&B centric album.
How do you think listeners will react to this next phase of your musical development?
I kind of challenge my fans, because often artists can be confined to a certain genre, and it can be difficult for fans to come to terms with this evolution and growth. And so I just want them to accept the direction I’m going. That’s the thing – I always want to be unpredictable. I don’t think people are going to see this coming, but I think they are going to love it.