When we first talked, three years ago, it was clear that you had a lot of musical influences that didn’t come through in the straight 1960s soul of Coming Home. I was eager to see if those interests would leak into your new album, Good Thing. They clearly have. Were you consciously trying to move away from the image of being a retro act? It definitely was a conscious intent to be able to branch out and make something different. When I made the first album, I felt it was necessary to tell my family’s story through ’60s R&B. Even then, I had many influences. Honestly, I didn’t want to play complacent with that sound. And I felt that writing in that way was very restrictive, which is one of the reasons why I went forward.
The first note you sing on the album is in falsetto. Was that a way to announce that this album was a whole new you? That was the first song we wrote in the session. I have never written a falsetto in my music, and I had never thought it was good. When we were writing, producer Ricky Reed encouraged me to sing the part falsetto. That was the beauty about the collaboration. The chorus on that song was in a range I had never sang before, and he said, “Try it.” These songs could have gone in any direction. We wanted to bring what people love from Coming Home but evolve the sound. We didn’t really have a specific sound that we wanted, and so we tried a whole bunch of different things, hence the album being a roller coaster of different sounds.
It’s not just your music. I saw a photo of you in GQ’s Coachella fashion roundup, and you had a new look. No more throwback suits and skinny ties. A beanie? A lot of the evolution of my sound and even my fashion is a testament to me just being around different influences. I love and am inspired by a lot of the guys bringing back the whole ’90s thing, like A$AP Rocky and his style. I want to be able to keep the same integrity. All those pieces are vintage-inspired, but it is all about how you piece them together.
A lot has happened in three years. You’ve played at a private party with Paul McCartney in the audience. You’ve collaborated with people like Macklemore. What has been the most head-spinning thing about this trip? Looking back on it, it is all a blur. I’m really blessed by the opportunities I’ve been given because of my art. It is amazing to see how my whole campaign was based on word-of-mouth; it was a thing that was constantly growing. To be able to perform for former President Barack Obama at the White House, to be invited to fashion events—I never aspired to do any of those things.
What does your mom—the now-famous Lisa Sawyer—think of it all? She’s very supportive and proud of everything that I’m doing. It was great being able to show her the new record and her reaction was, “Who is that?” I guess that’s a good thing. It is beautiful that with everything that I’m doing I’m able to help support my mom, and that is what’s most important for me.
Any plans to leave Fort Worth? I love keeping Fort Worth home base, and I feel like I’ll be there as long as I can. The direction I see everything going, it might be hard to keep my privacy in the neighborhood.
Is privacy becoming an issue? That’s the dope thing: I’m still at that sweet spot. I like to go out to Dallas still and hang out in Deep Ellum. The places I go to, people are respectful of my space.
Leon Bridges performs June 9 and 10 at Toyota Music Factory. Good Thing is out now.