SXSW standout and Austin City Limits Music Festival artist Leon Bridges spoke with NPR’s Bob Boilen today about his Texas upbringing and how he was able to bring his Sam Cooke-style soul into 2015.
In the 35-minute interview, the up-and-coming soul singer talked about growing up in Fort Worth, listening to Ginuwine as a kid and meeting Austin Jenkins, the guitarist and producer for his debut album “Coming Home.”
Related: Leon Bridges, Courtney Barnett and Spoon win SXSW’s 2015 Grulke Prizes
Bridges told NPR’s Bob Boilen that he met Jenkins, known locally as the guitarist for Austin-based band White Denim, at a bar in Fort Worth. The following is from the NPR transcript posted to the All Songs Considered blog:
“I was wearing my high-waisted Wrangler denim, and his girlfriend had come up to me and was like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to meet my boyfriend! He likes to wear Wranglers.’ That was the first time we met. We sat and talked about music; he said he was a musician and I told him I was a musician, but he never said what band he played in. He saw me a week later. I was playing solo at this little club called Magnolia Motor Lounge in Forth Worth. After I got done playing, he came up to me and was like, ‘Man, we’ve got to record some songs.’ After he left, the bartender was like, ‘You know that’s Austin Jenkins from White Denim, right?’ I was like, ‘Who’s White Denim?’ … When I first met him, I wouldn’t have guessed that he would have played this music. I thought he was just a country singer. But there was something about him. I knew when he approached me that it was something special.”
The singer’s selection of songs as NPR’s guest DJ included a track from White Denim as well as Roy C., Arthur Alexander and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
The 26-year-old Bridges used Ginuwine’s “Tribute To a Woman” to explain how he started out: growing up as a kid in the 1990s listening to R&B and hip-hop soul artists like Usher, 112 and Silk.
Known for his retro-soul sound, Bridges also talked about how he only gradually discovered his musical connection to Sam Cooke:
“There had been a time where a friend of mine, he had asked me if Sam Cooke was one of my inspirations. Of course, I had never really listened to Sam heavily like that. So I went to listen to him and other artists from that era. … I felt bad as a singer and songwriter that I didn’t know my roots. … After listening to Sam Cooke, I was seeing some similarities as far as some of the runs that I was doing. I was seeing, within Sam Cooke and other artists from the ’50s, they were doing the same thing.”
Check out NPR Music’s All Songs Considered for the full audio.
Bridges is set to play both weekends of Austin City Limits Music Festival in October.