1 Week On Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
In October 2014, Leon Bridges, 26, couldn’t stop checking the Internet. The soul singer had been a fixture at open mics in Fort Worth, Texas, but few outside the state knew his name until MP3 blog Gorilla vs. Bear streamed his debut single, “Coming Home.” The post triggered an online frenzy and a major-label bidding war. Columbia won the latter just before Christmas. Bridges’ Coming Home LP made its charmed debut six months later, eventually scoring a Grammy nomination for best R&B album.
BRIDGES The first time I met [Columbia chairman Rob Stringer], we played “Lisa Sawyer” and he lost it, which surprised me, knowing he has seen so much great music. Afterward I asked my management, “What department does he work in?,” not knowing that he’s the head man.
STRINGER He had a record that was organic, and some of it was out in the world. He already had a story to tell — he had a huge number of blogs talking about his music. We knew how to magnify that. We played the record for more people, and more people liked it. He started playing shows, and more people liked the shows. It just grew beautifully. It doesn’t always work like this, but with Leon it did.
BRIDGES I love when the older generation comes up to me and says [the album] reminds them of growing up. I was in downtown Fort Worth, and this older black lady, she’s like, “Are you Leon Bridges?” I think one of her co-workers sent her the link. I was like, “Yes.” She’s like, “I love your record. It just reminds me of growing up with my mother.” That’s one of the reasons why I started to do this sound.
This story originally appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of Billboard.