Leon Bridges’ first strides as an R&B artist prompted comparisons to legends like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, but the native Texan quickly came into his own with the remarkably refined Top Ten albums Coming Home (2015) and Good Thing (2018), the former of which led to a pair of Grammy nominations. Bridges expanded his audience with featured appearances on songs by artists ranging from the similarly tradition-rooted likes of Nick Waterhouse, Kacey Musgraves, and Gary Clark, Jr. to rappers Macklemore and Lecrae and production duo ODESZA. These collaborations, along with the broader stylistic scope of the second full-length, demonstrated that the singer, songwriter, and guitarist was no mere throwback stylist.
The singer, songwriter, and guitarist born Todd Michael Bridges honed his talent performing in and around his native Fort Worth, Texas, and stirred up music industry interest with SoundCloud uploads of analog recordings produced by Niles City Sound’s Joshua Block and Austin Jenkins, then of White Denim. Signed to major-label Columbia, Bridges’ first singles, including a rich ballad written about his mother, appeared in February 2015 with a sound that evoked mid- to late-’60s soul. His debut album, Coming Home, followed four months later. It debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best R&B Album. The video for one of the album’s highlights, “River,” was nominated as well.
During 2016 and 2017, Bridges was active primarily as a performer and collaborator. He co-wrote and was featured on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Kevin,” Nick Waterhouse’s “Katchi,” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Present Without a Bow.” Additionally, he recorded “On My Own” with Lecrae (for Birth of a Nation: The Inspired by Album) and connected twice with Gary Clark, Jr., as heard on Live North America 2016, and on a collaborative cover of Neil Young’s “Ohio.” Work with Aminé and ODESZA was also out by the end of 2017. Early the following year, Coming Home was certified gold by the RIAA. Shortly thereafter, Bridges released “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” and “Bad Bad News,” and then “Beyond,” as the first three songs off his comparatively contemporary and stylistically broader second album, Good Thing, which followed that May and hit the Top Ten. ~ Andy Kellman