by Ragan Clark | The Associated Press
“Gold-Diggers Sound” is an apt name for the third studio album by an artist who made it rich with his debut LP six years earlier.
Leon Bridges’ music quickly earned him recognition. “Coming Home” was nominated for Best R&B Album at the 2015 Grammys. Three years later, “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” from his sophomore album earned him his first Grammy win.
The fame that followed was an adjustment for Bridges. He lost his anonymity and felt isolated – an experience he described in the song “Blue Mess”.
“When you take an insecure person and put them in the spotlight, sometimes it’s a little hard to deal with, you know what?” he said in an interview this week.
The story behind the album’s name, however, is literal – Gold-Diggers is the name of the hotel where Bridges wrote and recorded his new material.
“I’ve been working over the course of two years digging and searching for the right sound,” Bridges said.
He wanted an R&B album “based with organic elements” and the Gold-Diggers “the perfect place to put all this music.”
Bridges held a Grammy party there in 2019 and after joining Space, he decided he wanted the album experience to be immersive – he started a residency at the hotel, brought in collaborators, and got to work.
As the musicians would jam and improvise, they sang melodies and phrases over the top, gradually shaping each song.
For some, he had a specific artist in mind, like Sade when he was writing “Magnolias.” But for most, he says he was just “doing me.”
“I didn’t necessarily know what the concept would be on some of them,” Bridges said.
But he knew he didn’t want to repeat the sound of his previous two albums. He says it was a conscious decision to remain unpredictable. He calls growth and change inevitable.
“With each album, I want to continue to reinvent myself as an artist,” he said.
In “Coming Home”, gospel music’s influence is widespread. In “Good Thing”, Bridge takes on a more retro sound.
“When I first got into the game with ‘Coming Home,’ I was immediately pigeonholed and put in a box,” Bridges says.
His departure from the spiritual path was related to his relationship with religion. While songs such as “River” from their debut album are rooted in Christian symbolism, songs from “Gold-Diggers Sound”, such as “Shaw Nuff” are playfully erotic.
“I was apprehensive at the time, writing those songs for fear of not being accepted,” Bridges said. “Currently, like, I don’t really know what my relationship with God is anymore and I think the music still has some of that gospel in it, but it’s so liberating to just make the music that I want. “
Something offbeat that he knows might have alienated some fans. But for all the fans he lost, he gained a lot.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always been scrutinized for essentially whitewashing my music,” he said. “But I can see through social media that there are more black people involved in and supporting the music.”
Bridges says that it was “off-putting” for him to initially hear criticism of his music, but he doesn’t think about it anymore. He points out that rap and hip-hop culture is so steeped in the mainstream that even a Young Thug concert can have predominantly white fans.
She believes that artists such as Lil Nas X and Lizzo are redefining the boundaries of Black art that is accepted within the Black community.
“You know, people like Daniel Caesar, he was at the fore, and it’s really beautiful to see artists who don’t really fit the mold of what’s popular,” he said.
As for Bridges, he’s content in the direction he’s going and looks forward to the part of the process he enjoys most—the performance.
“Writing is such a difficult and challenging thing,” he said. “The final step of getting on stage and watching it, like, taking out the collective enthusiasm and energy in the crowd and then bringing it back, it’s a beautiful thing.”