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Leon Bridges On Living the Dream With a Grammy Nom and ‘Concussion’ Original Song

To say the least, 2015 was a great year for the 26-year-old singer-songwriter.

Leon Bridges Talks Grammy Nom and 'Concussion' Original Song
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Singer-songwriter Leon Bridges is wrapping up an explosive year. The 26-year-old artist broke into the music industry at the end of 2014; he lit out on his first national tour in January; he dropped his first official single, “Coming Home,” in February; he released his debut album of the same name in June; and he picked up a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album earlier this month. Now, his original song “So Long” will be featured in the upcoming Christmas release “Concussion.”

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Quite a year for you, huh?

Yeah, man. It’s been a crazy one but it’s been a good one as well.

To say the least. What was the “Saturday Night Live” experience like for you?

I mean, it was a great time, really. I never thought that I’d ever be on that show or really anything that’s happened this year. But it felt good to be a part of something like that and just the whole show in its entirety was very solid. The sketches were funny. It was great meeting all the cast and we just had a good time.

So you’re living the dream here. You broke into the industry, the album dropped, tons of buzz, and now a song in a big Hollywood movie. Is all this what you hoped it would be or is it very different than you imagined it might be?

I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think that I’d be able to have the opportunity to write a song for a film or, you know, do “Saturday Night Live” or get nominated for a Grammy. I was just, like any artist, wanting to put out a good record. I didn’t expect for any of this to happen.

Let’s talk about the film. I assume you got a look at it first before you wrote something?

Yeah, definitely. We were in London and we went out to watch the prescreening and I didn’t know where [director Peter Landesman] wanted the song in the film. After watching the film and I had a call with Peter, he said that he wanted something for the ending credits. So it was just like taking kind of the feeling that I felt from the emotion and everything from the film, and I just felt like a country, soulful, gospel vibe was perfect for the ending credits.

Right. And your music is so soul-influenced but this one definitely has more of a folk vibe. Almost like Bennet Omalu is a folk hero in some sense. Is that something you were thinking about at all? How did the character and his perspective work into what you were conjuring up?

Him being the outsider and trying to bring truth. And the fact that he was very persistent. But I didn’t want to make the song too little, you know? The song comes from a personal place, reflecting on some people back in my hometown saying that I don’t deserve to be where I’m at because I haven’t been working as hard as the other musicians who have been working harder or longer. How everything happened so fast for me. I love where I’m from but maybe I needed to leave because I don’t feel the love anymore, you know? So that’s where that comes from.

Interesting. I didn’t realize you had weathered that kind of criticism. But I mean, people break out. Talent gets out.

A lot of it comes from jealousy, you know?

One thing that sort of bothers me is when I read about your music in terms of being “throwback,” because that sort of presupposes that soul can’t be relevant today.

Yeah, definitely. I mean it all depends on what you’re talking about in the songs, you know? The way I write songs, I’m not talking about hopping in my ’50 Cadillac and going down the street or whatever. But yeah, I love soul music and I love that era of soul music and so it’s cool that the stories of my family and myself are able to fit within that, so that’s what I like to try to do. But I definitely cringe when people say, “Oh, this retro, throwback…” I think it is what it is. I’m definitely pulling something out of the past but it’s more than that.

Who are some of your influences, by the way?

I have a lot of different ones. I mean of course Sam Cooke is going to be my favorite singer. But I also love Bobby Womack. I love Johnnie Taylor. I love Willie Nelson. I love Townes Van Zandt. I mean the reason why I wanted to better myself as a singer was because of the people who were making music in Fort Worth and around town. They were great songwriters and singers. There wasn’t any soul music but those guys inspired me to become a better writer and singer.

Well I think you’re making it your own, so congratulations and good luck at the Grammys.

Thanks, man.