Leon Bridges is having a breakout year, especially considering no one really knew his name before that. Not only has the 26-year-old soul singer with a Sam Cooke-esque croon performed with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at the American Music Awards—he hammed it up with Ryan Gosling as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live and was just bestowed with the ultimate industry accolade: a Grammy nomination (for Best R&B Album).
"It’s pretty crazy," he recently told InStyle over the phone. "I’m going to wake up tomorrow as a janitor somewhere." The prophecy may seem dramatic to some, but not so much for Bridges, whose last job was working as a dishwasher at a Tex-Mex restaurant in his native Fort Worth, Texas. Still, with successes like these so early on, we predict he's safe from scrubbing for the foreseeable future. Below, we spoke with the buzzed-about artist on a break from his current tour.
Congratulations on the Grammy nomination! How did you hear the news?
My guitar player, Austin, told me while we were in Bloomington, Ind. on the way to the airport for an early flight. I thought he was lying.
What was the first thing you did when you found out?
I posted on Instagram. Then I had a big barbecue dinner in Austin—our next stop on the tour.
Your music is largely classified as gospel and soul. Were you surprised that you were nominated in the R&B category?
I’m happy that my album was considered, knowing how much R&B music has changed in recent years. Back in the ’40s and ‘50s, that’s what it was: rhythm and blues. I love R. Kelly, though.
Is there anything left on your to-do list?
Playing a show in space [laughs]. No. Really, I just want to meet Drake. Then I’m good.
Tell us about your song for the new Will Smith movie, Concussion.
I didn’t want to make the song too literal to the film, but there are some common threads: feeling like you don’t belong in a certain place but still persevering and staying brave. The song mainly comes from people back home saying that I don’t deserve to be where I’m at because I haven’t been working as hard or as long as other musicians.
They must’ve really been pissed when you performed on SNL with Ryan Gosling.
That was the most fun. He seemed really genuine when he said he was a fan of the album. It was even crazier because Justin Timberlake was at the show too and said, “That was freaking fresh, man.”
Did the three of you go out and party after?
We did. Hard.
Listen to "So Long" below, and buy Coming Home for $10 on the iTunes Store.