Famous from Fort Worth
Leon Bridges pens love letter home to Fort Worth in national magazine
Fort Worth's Leon Bridges has been moving through 2020 with purposeful rhythm, lending his voice to causes that stir his soul and events that propel change. So he was the perfect pick for an Artist Spotlight in the fall issue of Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Journal — an issue themed "Embracing the rhythms that move us forward."
In an essay (as told to Alisha Sommer), the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter talks about what keeps him grounded and creative when his own life's rhythms are in flux.
Unlike when he was a child who danced freely around the house, he now explores rhythm through language and melody when writing a song — especially an intensely personal one.
"I piece together lyrics and beats, trying to create flows that take listeners on a journey — a journey through my own personal experience, as well as a journey through themselves," he says in the magazine. "It's day to day, mood to mood. I have to work hard to really lay out my personal experiences into songwriting — to be vulnerable — but then have it be broad so people can feel the music for their own lives."
His words are especially resonant now. In this summer of heightened awareness of social and racial injustice, Bridges has given voice to his own experiences with racism.
A few weeks after he quietly joined peaceful protesters in Fort Worth amid the death of George Floyd, Bridges released a new single called "Sweeter" with an accompanying Instagram caption that said, "I am George Floyd, my brothers are George Floyd, and my sisters are George Floyd. I cannot and will not be silent any longer."
The mournful song and its video (which was filmed in Fort Worth and featured his father and childhood friends) captured so much attention, he was asked to perform it on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, August 17.
But, while there's energy and adrenaline that comes from being in the spotlight, playing in New York or Los Angeles or Nashville — "all these places that are so good" — Bridges finds himself yearning to be home, he says in the magazine.
"There's nothing like the peace of mind that comes when you are home," he says. "Here, I can wrap my head around the music in a different way ... ease into the version of myself that finds comfort in the quiet and strength in being with the people I grew up around."
That includes frequenting his favorite local hangouts and pitching in to help the community. In April, Bridges live-streamed a virtual concert from Kent & Co. wine bar on the Near Southside that raised $63,000 for local workers affected by coronavirus-related shutdowns.
"It is always good to be home," Bridges says. "It grounds me, this place. It takes me back to who I am."
More highlights of his magazine piece:
On his earliest memories of "feeling" music: "It might have been then, standing in the [church] pews on Sundays, that I began to understand music's ability to literally move someone ... But it was not only hymns and gospels. My father kept the funky, upbeat sounds of Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield on repeat; my mother filled the air with the silky-voiced R&B singers of the '90s like Sade, Anita Baker, and Brian McKnight."
On learning to dance as a youngster: "When I was younger, seems like I was always dancing. As I remember it, that's how we all were. There was no stigma on dancing, no boundaries on when you should or could. I had a mirror in the garage, and if I wanted to practice, that's where I'd go."
On a recent songwriting experience: "... I'm sitting with my crew in a car outside a coffee shop ... and in less than an hour, just talking and singing, I might write a whole song. I had a cappuccino that wasn't even done yet, but I had this new and beautiful song. Things come in; they inspire you."
On the importance of writing music that moves: "What I know now is that the world needs more stories. I know people need to be uplifted. The world needs to dance."
The fall issue of Magnolia Journal will hit newsstands on Friday, August 21.