white denim

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Coming home with Leon Bridges: soul’s new star on success, anxiety and denim

In November Bridges played a showcase gig for label executives at Shipping and Receiving back in Fort Worth. ‘The cool and quite rare thing was that we had the record done before we signed,’ he says. ‘And Columbia, who I signed with, didn’t ask for any changes at all. There were no producers brought in to do extra work on the album. There were no stylists for me to be sent off to. People think the way I dress is part of some Columbia marketing scheme. I understand where they’re coming from, too, because it is rare, but it pisses me off as well. You can see from my Instagram before I was signed that it’s the same guy.’

This is the closest to irritation I see from Bridges. His ‘aesthetic’ is important to him and in a ‘very conservative, chilled and slow paced’ part of Texas, committing to an alternative dress code is no insignificant decision. ‘I started dressing this way about three years ago,’ he says. ‘One of my mom’s older friends brought me over a whole bunch of his clothes that he used to wear back when he was a teenager. But I wasn’t consistent with it in the beginning. It’s hard. You’re vulnerable. Especially as a black man walking around in Texas with his pants high and shirts tucked in. People would make comments.’ He takes a second to plot out his next sentence. ‘White people, they understand and then, like, some black people would say, “What are you doing?” I had more problems from black people. Sometimes it’s just that they wouldn’t understand.

‘At the beginning I was conscious of how African-American culture saw me. But now I just think, Screw it. I’m going to be me. But it took me a while to transition into being comfortable with who I am and how that meant people would see me. But this is full-time now. There are no sweats, there are no graphic T-shirts, there are no tennis shoes, and no shorts unless I’m at the beach or at the swimming pool. And it’s no bad thing. When I’m hanging out at the bars or at the clubs, it’s the first thing that ladies recognise. I don’t even need to tell them I’m a musician most of the time.’

Bridges is keenly aware of his unique place within young African-American culture. In concerts, he often introduces his song Brown Skin Girl by asking for ‘any brown-skinned girls to make some noise’. There often isn’t a great deal of noise. ‘I would love to see more black people at my shows,’ he says. ‘And that’s something that can grow.’

Why does he feel there perhaps is a dearth of black audience members right now?

‘The thing is, and I can’t speak for every African-American, but a lot of my people aren’t aware of the indie blogs that white people are catching on to at the beginning,’ he says. ‘And sometimes, a lot of black people usually just don’t come to a smooth, chilling singer-songwriter thing. It’s all about cutting into their world. But when they see a young man bringing back that sound that they heard when they were sitting with their grandmothers, they will hopefully say, oh, cool.’ [Read More]