Leon Bridges walks into Cherry Coffee Shop – one of his favourite spots in Forth Worth’s Fairmount neighbourhood – and leaves the Texas humidity behind. Inside the cool, caffeinated hubbub of the shop, a wave of whispers and glances enlivens the room. This is a Leon sighting. Of course, Bridges would stand out as the best-dressed man in any room, with an impeccable fashion sense to match his music. Today he’s sporting black-and-white cowboy boots, perfectly creased black trousers and a silk bowling shirt from a team that hasn’t rolled in his lifetime. All this despite the extreme heat: “I don’t really do shorts,” he says with a laugh.
Bridges has become a local celebrity, an artist who got his start here in Fort Worth, then stayed put. He might spend long stretches on the road or out in Los Angeles, but he still considers this city to be his home, however far off the industry map it might be. Such loyalty has endeared him to locals, such that Leon sightings have lost little of their excitement despite their frequency.
“Fort Worth is cool because it has its own identity,” he says as he places his order with the barista – large drip coffee, no cream, no sugar. “Dallas aspires to be like Los Angeles or New York, but Fort Worth is totally comfortable being its own little thing. It definitely has that smalltown energy. It’s grounding to be in the place where I grew up. It’s just easy here. Whenever I’m out in LA, I just don’t understand how people even have a car and drive everywhere.”
Before he can cause a scene, he bails on the coffeeshop and walks past a barbecue joint to the Magnolia Wine Bar, another favourite hangout. “I came here a lot during the pandemic and I could just have a sense of normalcy. My routine was work out during the day, pull up to the coffee shop, then come here, get some wine, then go home.” The place is closed, but Bridges hops over the low fence and takes a seat at one of the many picnic tables on the patio.
Fort Worth, he says, allows him to keep a little distance from the hustle of the music industry. It’s also a city with a rich musical history and he feels some responsibility to honour and build on that local legacy.
“You’ve got an interesting lineage of musicians who’ve come from the area,” he explains. “You’ve got people like Townes Van Zandt. You’ve got a bunch of jazz greats who grew up in the same neighbourhood as me – Ornette Coleman, King Curtis, Cornell Dupree. But there aren’t too many soul or R&B guys from here.”