As we count down to the ESSENCE Festival, taking place June 30-July 3 in New Orleans, artists from our power-packed lineup wiill sum up their lives—from childhood to stardom—in 10 songs. This week it’s retro-soul man Leon Bridges, who will be bringing his Grammy-nominated debut, Coming Home, to life at the Superdome.
1. R. Kelly, “When a Woman’s Fed Up”
This will always be one of my favorite R&B songs. I heard someone play it on the piano for the first time at a community center when I was 10 years old. That’s one of the songs that made me fall in love with R&B.
2. Terence Trent D’Arby, “Sign Your Name”
My mother would play this song on our trips to New Orleans to see the family as a kid. Terence has been slept on, but he was a pioneer, and his style was a great contribution to R&B music.
3. Sam Cooke, “(Somebody) Ease My Troublin’ Mind”
This was one of the first songs I played when I purchased my first car. Sam Cooke was one of the greatest singers of all time.
4. The Valentinos, “Somewhere There’s a God”
Before Bobby Womack pursued a solo career, he performed in this band with his brothers. Sam Cooke took them under his wing. This is one of my favorite gospel songs.
5. Usher, “U Don’t Have to Call”
Usher was one of my favorite singers as a kid. He inspired me to be a dancer and a singer.
6. Silk, “Meeting in My Bedroom”
I always had fantasies of being in an R&B band as a kid. My friends and I would always post up on the front porch and blast this song. We had choreography steps and lip-syncing skills to go with it. This song has a specific late ’90s/early 2000s vibe that can’t be found in today’s music.
7. Yung Nation, “Club Rock”
Yung Nation has a flow and vibe that is very specific to Dallas. It’s interesting that this music inspires my stage banter with phrases like “show me what you know” and “get it go.”
8. Gary Clark Jr., “Bright Lights”
I pulled in the parking lot at school one morning, and the local radio station was playing this song. I was so encouraged to find out that Gary was black. It was inspiring to see a black man carrying on the [blues] tradition. I just started playing guitar around that time and that movtivated me to keep working toward my goal.
9. Solo Woods, “Powers”
It’s rare to find a new artist today who really stays true to the essence of what R&B is, and I feel that Solo really embodies that in a modern way. His straightforward singing and great guitar-playing is refreshing to see.
10. Neil Young, “Helpless”
It was an honor to be able to cover this song at the legendary Massey Hall recently. Neil Young is one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
Buy your tickets for the 2016 ESSENCE Festival here and make sure to check back for more updates!