Leon Bridges’ serendipitous journey to success goes to show that you should always dress your best because you never know whom you might meet.
If the soul singer hadn’t been wearing his snazzy, high-waisted trousers at that bar in Fort Worth, Texas, White Denim’s Austin Jenkins and his then-girlfriend might not have struck up a conversation about fashion, which led to an invitation to see Bridges perform.
“They saw him at a little open mic night place in town called the Magnolia Motor Lounge. Austin immediately fell in love with him and was like, ‘Man, we gotta make a record together,’” Mick Management’s Jonathan Eshak, who manages White Denim and Bridges, told Pollstar.
After Jenkins sent Eshak demos of the tracks “Coming Home” and “Better Man,” Eshak immediately booked a flight to Dallas to meet Bridges. Needless to say, Eshak and Mick Management’s Zeke Hutchins also fell for Bridges.
Music blog Gorilla vs. Bear had such an enthusiastic response to the tracks that Bridges’ team decided to put the songs on SoundCloud last fall.
“It just took off like lightning, right away,” Eshak said. “I think we got like 10,000 downloads in the first day. And then, all of a sudden, the industry started to take notice too. … All the blogs started writing about him and in the U.K., Radio 1 and BBC were playing [his] un-mastered track without anybody pushing them to do it.”
Bridges had never toured outside the Lone Star State so there have been a lot of firsts in the past year. Eshak noted that it was important to build his career “brick by brick,” regardless of the hype.
Although the majority of the venues on his fall U.S. tour sold out before his debut album was released, the room sizes stayed the same, rewarding fans who bought into Bridges early on. But come March he’ll move into bigger venues, including the Chicago Theatre.
Bridges’ fan base has also been growing in Europe. He just wrapped a run of U.K. dates with two sold-out shows at London’s 2,000-cap O2 Shepherds Bush Empire.
“It’s unbelievable to see the artist he’s become in [such a] short time,” Eshak said. “The first time I saw him play he was hiding behind his guitar and to see where he is now as an absolute performer, using the whole stage. And he’s just going to get better.”