Leon Bridges on His New Album “Gold-Diggers Sound” and New Single “Motorbike” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, June 21st, 2024  

Photo by Justin Hardiman

Leon Bridges on His New Album “Gold-Diggers Sound” and New Single “Motorbike”

Seeing the Humanity Within Everyone

May 14, 2021 Web Exclusive Photography by Justin Hardiman and Pavielle Garcia Bookmark and Share

Grammy-winning singer/songwriter, Leon Bridges, has one of the best voices on the planet. But it’s not one that he throws out bombastically or haphazardly. Rather, Bridges is often reserved, measured, composed. In fact, one might want to hear him belt out a vocal run more so than the crooner seems willing. But, deep down, Bridges is a low-key fellow. To him, often an uneventful day is the best kind. Yet, when you’re one of the best singers on earth, few days are uneventful.

Bridges, who will release his forthcoming LP, Gold-Diggers Sound, on July 23 via Columbia, released the record’s first single, “Motorbike,” and corresponding music video today. The video for the romantic track was directed by the famed artist and musician, Anderson .Paak. It’s a stunner. We caught up with Bridges to ask him about the genesis of the single, video and LP. We also talked the repercussions of fame and working in the restaurant industry.

Jake Uitti (Under the Radar): When did you first discover music as a young person?

Some of the earliest memories for me was when my mother would go pick up my father from work and she would play the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack. There was a tune by Harry Connick Jr. by the name of “A Wink and a Smile.” I remember as a kid thinking it was kind of like an older tune, not knowing that was a modern record of the time.

What do you think originally drew you to older sounds or aesthetics?

Man, I think a lot of that comes from—I would say the seed was planted initially through my parents. My father was really into Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield, and Sam Cooke and my mother was into Anita Baker and Sade. It’s just one of those things—throughout our lives we store so much music and influences and it ultimately just pours out into the art. There was a time in my songwriting journey where I just felt compelled to shape my songs around soul music, along with the community of musicians I used to run with. So, it was a mixture of things I attributed to that sound.

You’re known for playing a million open mics as you were coming up. But where do you think your work ethic comes from in this way?

I think a lot of it, for me, was just like when I was in the restaurant industry. I think the motivation in that time was that I needed to get through the day. And then also not wanting to be deemed as lazy amongst my coworkers and managers. A lot of it is totally almost innate. Something that’s always been ingrained—my mother is a big factor in instilling that within me and my siblings.

I worked as a bartender, waiter, and line cook for many years. Did you work in the front of the house or back of the house?

I worked in the back of the house as a dishwasher. I mean, my whole job trajectory is pretty small. I worked at Six Flags amusement park in Arlington, Texas. I subsequently worked this place called Rosa’s Café and then Del Frisco’s and then I transitioned to doing music for a living. I think working in the back is humbling. It was humbling for me. Even now, I look at it like those types of people who are in those jobs, they keep the world going. So, I think it created that perspective to where I never belittle anyone based on who they are or what they do. I see the humanity within everyone.

I’ve spent my fair share of time in the dish pit—it can be hell to get the grease off some of those pots and pans.

Yo! I have PTSD just thinking about that.

What were some major turning points around that time for you, especially as it pertains to your professional career as a musician?

I was kind of seeing it in a miniscule way when I was doing open mics. I think at that time, I was definitely conscious that I was somewhat of an anomaly in the city and doing something that was different because the musical landscape at that time was predominately country music, there was some rock going on. This is Ft. Worth. I was noticing there wasn’t any singer/songwriter/guitarists in the city. So, that gave me a little bit of hope.

So, the moment for me where I saw things transitioning to a better place was when I put out two of my songs that I had wrote on Soundcloud and just seeing the subsequent number of streams and people reaching out in my DM, like, “Who are you? Where are you from?” Seeing that was the moment I knew things were heading in a better direction.

You seem like such a mellow person. Given that, what was your reaction as that was happening? Butterflies, laughter?

It was one of those moments—I’m the type of person who doesn’t really express excitement in a way that’s pretty obvious. I’m pretty subtle about it. So, when it was happening I felt this feeling inside, like, wow. I think the biggest thing for me was the understanding that I would have the opportunity to leave my dishwashing gig. I think that was the biggest thing for me. Then there was, like, these snowball crazy moments that happened after that.

I look at the year 2014, that was the year I got my first car. I recorded “Coming Home” in the summer and in December, I signed with Columbia Records. Then I’m being asked to attend the Met Gala and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and all of those different things. All I can say is that I express nothing but gratitude for all of those experiences.

Let’s talk about the new album! It’s funny, we’ve talked about you being a subtle person, measured. And that’s how the new album is, in a way, too. There aren’t super high peaks and super low lows. So, what was the genesis of the new record and how did you go about crafting it?

So, I would say the inception of this album started with me sitting down with my good friend and producer, Ricky Reed, and we just talked about the success of my album, Good Thing. We talked about the direction I wanted to head. At that time, I saw that if I was to continue making retro music, essentially, then I would just continue to stay stagnant. I could have a good career doing that but I understood from a standpoint that I would have just hit a peak only doing retro music.

But at the same time I understood that my artistry is diverse and there are so many different influences in there. So, I really wanted to showcase that in this new album and so we felt the only way to unlock that was to create this fully immersive recording experience and invite some of the dopest musicians and writer friends to help cultivate this R&B style that was unique to me. So, the whole concept behind this album is basically like pushing my sound forward, pushing the envelope while still having those organic elements in there.

Because I want to be in the same conversations with some of my R&B counterparts, as well. I felt like how some people say, “He’s slept on.” I just felt like—basically, I want to create music that puts me in front of more people while still doing something that’s authentic.

Your new single, “Motorbike,” is excellent and the music video for the song is truly brilliant. How did those each come together?

The story about “Motorbike” started with—this was when I first embarked on the process of making this third album, Gold-Diggers Sound. One of the first things that was brought to the table was this instrumental Afrobeat, which ultimately became “Motorbike.” Some of the rhythm in there gave me the vibe. Prior to that, I had just spent my 30th in Puerto Rico with some of my best friends.

And literally the day after, I’m in this session. We wanted to create this song about taking the time to appreciate what is and what’s happening right now. Not worrying about putting expectations on the future. Kind of escaping with somebody that you have that deep connection with. Man, the crazy thing is that I’m terrified of riding any type of motorcycle.

Me too!

But being on the motorbike is the personification of the unspoken chemistry between you and the other person. And shout out to Anderson .Paak. He came up with the concept and he did a really good job of bringing that energy of the song to life. I loved working with him.

Photo by Pavielle Garcia
Photo by Pavielle Garcia

It’s a brilliant video, it really is. And speaking of Anderson, you’ve collaborated and spent time with many well-known people. I imagine fame has its upsides and downsides. But with fame as the backdrop, let me ask: how do you stay yourself with all your success and all the possibilities and fame around you?

Yeah, man. I look at fame as that is something that comes with—it’s, like, inevitable when you make rad shit, essentially. But I don’t necessarily like it. I’m a pretty low-key guy. All I want to do is just exist and create dope art that resonates with people. Unfortunately, when you do dope shit, fame comes along with that. I think sometimes it can be disheartening. I hate the fact that in certain places you can’t be anonymous.

I would say mostly when I’m at home in Ft. Worth, that’s kind of like the most disheartening thing. I do miss being invisible sometimes. I do miss how my life was prior to that. Just, like, waking up, clocking in at my 9-to-5, and going back home. There is still an aspect of beauty in having fame because it’s provided a way for me to take care of myself and my family.

When you close your eyes and think about the future, what comes to mind?

I foresee for myself, I think I ultimately want to chill out a bit. At this point, I have at least three projects that are essentially done. Next year, I’ll be releasing another EP. I made some music in Nashville. So, Gold-Diggers Sound, it’s a great album but it’s totally not indicative of what the future me-style is going to be. I’m going to continue to experiment and redefine my art as I progress on this journey.

What do you love most about music?

For me, personally, it’s a portal to just tap into. What I love about it is that it can be a conduit for me to convey and tell my story. I love that I can express myself through it and there’s also this healing aspect to music at the same time. I can create it and be on the other side of it as a consumer.


Support Under the Radar on Patreon.


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.