Leon Bridges Won SXSW and Is Now Eyeing The Late-Night Talk Show Circuit.
It's rather fortuitous that Rembert Browne's interview feature on Fort Worth's Leon Bridges for Grantland bore the headline “Watching Leon Bridges Get Famous in Real Time.” In the piece, Browne meets up with Bridges in Austin just prior to the buzzing crooner's performance at the Spotify House during this past weekend's SXSW, and the two part ways later in the day when Bridges has trouble getting into the Fader Fort. Our old pal Browne, meanwhile, waltzes right in.
If only Bridges had tried that move later on in the week.
See, that Spotify House show was Bridges' first-ever South By performance. But he'd go on to increase that number eight-fold over the course of the weekend. And, with each of those added performances at the conference, Bridges indeed inched his way further up the fame ladder. At this point, by all accounts, the soulman — who was washing dishes in a local restaurant not long ago — appears maybe to be the artist who benefited most from this year's Austin trek out of anyone.
Billboard's confident in that fact, for sure. That publication declared Bridges the “winner” of this year's SXSW. Expounds that publication: “At the end of the thousands-of-bands clusterfudge that is SXSW, Bridges was one of the small handful of acts that everyone you talked to seemed to have either been blown away by or crestfallen that they'd missed.”
Of course, Billboard was hardly the only publication making such declarations. Here are a few more notable clippings.
• “Jammed shows with hundreds of hopeful attendees turned away are a given every year at SXSW. But this wasn't Kanye at Fader Fort, or Lady Gaga at Stubb's, or Jay-Z at the Austin Music Hall. This was at the Historic Sanctuary of St. David's Episcopal Church, and the star causing all the stir was Leon Bridges, a name barely known outside of Fort Worth a year ago.” — Austin 360 on a Bridges gig that was nearly shut down by the fire marshal.
• “The smooth-voiced, vintage-attired soul-rocker proved to be a smooth performer, too, previewing the libidinous love songs and sweet family odes from his Columbia Records debut and making the way-too-trendy Spotify House feel more like a classic supper club.” — Minneapolis Star-Tribune
• “Leon Bridges seems poised to be this year's SXSW breakout star, and that was apparent at his Hype Hotel performance on Thursday where you'd be hard-pressed to find a single person in the crowd not swaying along to his smooth, soulful tunes. If you're at all a Sam Cooke fan, this guy is a must-listen.” — Paste
• “When Bridges took the stage at the Spotify House, donning vintage clothing, and strapped his hollow-body electric guitar on, the whole crowd knew we were about to enjoy something truly special. In about a year's time, we will be as familiar with Leon Bridges as we are with Adele and Sam Smith. Very big things ahead of him, and for good reason.” — Nerdist
• “The young Leon Bridges, already on track to be one of this year's SXSW breakout acts, channeled soul and doo-wop sounds akin to the likes of Sam Cooke. Looking like he stepped out of the era his music is influenced by, Bridges made a fan out of everyone with his silky crooning and charming back-up band. Bridges is clearly still new to performing live, but it will be exciting to see what happens when this natural talent blossoms into a fully formed entertainer.” — Glide Magazine
Next up, Leon Bridges will make his national television debut on The Late Late Show this coming Wednesday, capping off British comedian James Corden's first week as the show's new host after taking over for Craig Ferguson tonight. (Thursday and Friday's shows will be preempted by NCAA basketball.)
It also caps off one hell of a buzz-filled week for Bridges. Whether or not it's truly possible for one artist to “win” South By, if Bridges does become the next big superstar everyone believes he can be, this may very well be the week we all point to years from now in which Leon Bridges truly began his assent.