An old soul through and through, Leon Bridges is bringing a vintage sound to 2015. When you hear his debut single 'Coming Home', it's hard not to make those Sam Cooke comparisons - sonically and visually it's similar, even down to being signed to the same label. But despite this, he's still managed to put his own stamp on this sound thanks to the assistance of White Denim guitarist Austin Jenkins. Both from Fort Worth, Texas, the pair began collaborating in the studio before eventually settling on Bridges' new found love of '60s soul records.

Working as a dishwasher in Fort Worth while creating his music, unbeknown to him his music was quietly becoming the talk of the town before eventually being offered record deals from 40 different record labels across independent and major names. Eventually, Bridges settled on Columbia because he "connected with them the most." Since then, 'Coming Home' has become one of Spotify's Most Viral Tracks and he's appeared at festivals such as Sundance and SXSW.

With his album now set to be released on June 22 via Columbia Records and a UK tour in the coming months, we talk all things music with Leon during a whistle stop tour of London about musical beginnings, future plans, the pressures of being "the new Sam Cooke" and what you do when 40 record labels offer you a deal...

You've performed a few live shows since landing in London, how has the reaction been to the music so far?

Oh man, it's been lovely! It's crazy to think that people are coming up to me and saying "Hey, we love your music!" I never thought I'd be here. It's humbling.

It's been a rather quick turnaround for you in that you've only had two or three songs out so far and you're already performing shows in London. How does it feel?

It's pretty overwhelming but really, I'm just soaking it all up. It's all a whirlwind and a shock because a couple of months ago I was playing around town in Fort Worth, washing dishes and now I'm here playing music for a living and it's all exciting.

The story goes that you had 40 different record deals on the table. I didn't even know 40 record labels still exist!

I swear, it was a lot! From indie to major. Just knowing all the interest over my songs tripped me out. When I was recording, I felt that it was something special but I didn't know which route we were going to go. Austin Jenkins and I got into the studio and I thought we were just going to release it ourselves but then it turned into something bigger. He told me about his management being interested in managing me and at first I was just really iffy about it because I wanted to be an independent artist but that's the way of thinking for a lot of artists so that got placed into my way of thinking - you've got to be independent and do it yourself. Austin explained to me "These guys made it to where I don't have to work a day job if I don't want to" and he's just a guitarist in a band, not even the band leader!

How does one deal with having all those offers on the table though? What was your thought process when you decided on Sony?

I didn't know anything about labels prior to all of this so I was just in for the ride. I didn't know what to think. For one I was just shocked to have all this interest from all these labels, it felt like I was still dreaming. We boiled everything down to Interscope, Atlantic and Columbia and they're all great labels with beautiful people. They all would have been able to put the magnifying glass on the music and expand it but Columbia... the whole team is who I connected with the most. Like I said, they can all do what they need to do but I was looking for people that I can break bread with outside of that, hangout with etc. Even though I don't get to see them all the time, every single person on the Columbia team are beautiful people I connect with the most. And it's just a classic ass label. I was sitting in the meeting room and they have black & white portraits of all the artists. Columbia was the best for me all around.

And judging by your Instagram page, you're into the whole old school, black & white aesthetic.

I'm a very creative person and I like to be creative in every avenue - from when I was a dancer to the music and my aesthetic. When I made the decision to pursue this sound, I wanted to make everything consistent from my lyrics to my songs to my Instagram and the way I dressed. I guess it's a little bit of an OCD thing. If I'm off in one area then it's going to bug the hell out of me. As part of my creativity, I just felt that the black & white theme goes with the sound and it's fun! It keeps people interested.

How did you meet with Austin Jenkins and start working with him?

We met over some denim jeans; some Wrangler's. I was at the bar and his girlfriend came up to me and said "Hey, you see my boyfriend, he wear Wrangler's too! You should meet him!" So that's how we met! I saw him, he had his cowboy hat on and he's just a classic looking dude and that's why I connected with him. He's classic but more so the classic country look. He's such a nice guy, one of the nicest dudes I've ever met. That day we talked about music and fashion a little bit, went about our separate ways then the week after that, Austin saw me performing at this little place called the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth. Apparently they had been looking to make a soul record for a long time and they had been gathering up all this old equipment. When Austin saw me, it was clear to him the music I was getting at so he said "We gotta make a record!" there had been a lot of people wanting to record me but they would tell me "Oh, I'll record you for a discount." And that's fine but I didn't have any money at the time! Austin believed in what I was doing and made it possible for me to record because I really needed someone to come through and fine tune and polish my sound. I've only been playing the guitar and writing for four years so at the time, I was still trying to figure things out and I didn't have that many songs. During this recording this process I was inspired to keep writing more songs.

For the album, have you worked solely with him or other producers?

It's a collaboration of me, Austin and that's it! The whole record is all my Fort Worth homeboys. We got together and made the record. Now they're touring with me. I'm blessed to be touring and have a band out of the process.

You mentioned you previously used to be a dancer. Were you making music around that time?

I was still making music. The dancing came up before the music but I would have to say five years ago is when I really found my voice. It wasn't the type of sound you hear now but I had a friend who would bring his keyboard to school and we'd sit around and make up songs. That's when i realised I could write songs and sing. Around that time, I was writing neo-soul, alternative music inspired by some folk vibes. I didn't have a clear direction. I was kind of just dipping into different things before I finally found my lane with the old soul.

With the sound you have, obviously you're going to be compared to some of the greats that have come before you. Are you happy to hear those comparisons?

It's flattering, especially when people say "the new Sam Cooke." I see where the comparisons are coming from - you have a guy who's bringing back an old sound and it's not particularly like the other revival music that's out. A lot of the other revival stuff is more energetic type of soul music. That's not me. I'm a very soft spoken person. It goes back to my roots in modern R&B with Ginuwine, Usher, 112, I've always been a smooth type of singer. It really raises a high bar when people make those comparisons and I'm just a cat from Fort Worth trying to write songs about my family and personal experiences. I can't hold a candle to any of those guys though.

Is there pressure on you to live up to expectations and follow in the footsteps of those greats before you?

I think there's a lot of pressure but I think people will realise that I'm a cat that can only hold onto my own. I'm just trying to do my own thing. I don't want to come off as a gimmick - that's one of my fears. I'm just a dude that was inspired by that sound and I'm just trying to do it in my own way. Even if people aren't feeling what I'm doing, there are enough positives that outweigh that. I lean upon the positives and the confidence within myself.

Have you discovered any UK artists while you've been here? Or perhaps even before you came here?

I don't know any UK Hip-Hop. I would love to get hip to some UK stuff. But I love Lianne La Havas - man, she's so beautiful. I remember finding out about Marques Toliver and Ghostpoet from those Black Cab Sessions.

What would you like your musical legacy to be?

I want to be remembered as a man with great songs that was loving and really gave his all. Gave 100% in everything he did.


Leon Bridges' debut album, Coming Home, is due out on June 22nd via Columbia.