BlackBook Interview: Leon Bridges on Style, Red Rocks + Playing Gil Scott-Heron Beside Ryan Gosling

 

Leon Bridges has a way of making it all feel so easy – as the soft-spoken Texas singer has managed to go from unknown dishwasher to twice Grammy-nominated fashion plate in less than a few years.

Fresh from LA to launch the limited-edition AHLEM sunglasses inspired by his sophomore album, Good Thing, he quietly glides between interviews, photo shoots, stage set-up and soundcheck as if he’s just sitting down to dinner. Today, the place is Missoula, Montana, and Bridges has managed to sell a packed stop on his tour, even here. He warmly smiles and stands against a wood-paneled trailer wall, casually talking about his role as Gil Scott-Heron in the new Ryan Gosling film, First Man. Directed by Damien Chazelle, it tells the story of the years leading up to and through man’s first walk on the moon.

 

 

Photo by Scott Hoeksema

 

The year is 1969. America is a country torn apart by extravagantly priced, questionable government agendas and deep social strife (sound familiar?). The Vietnam War rages on, set against deepening poverty, social inequality and of all things, the space race. From the perspective of the late, legendary musical poet Gil Scott-Heron, it was a blur of inspiration for his politically charged spoken-word performances, from drug addiction to a nuclear meltdown to the Detroit Riots.

Today, Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong, a man largely hailed as the hero who made history aboard the Apollo 11. And Bridges performs Scott-Heron’s “Whitey on the Moon,” during a protest, underscoring the unthinkable price that was paid for…a white man to walk on a planet far away from the issues that burned so deeply at home.

Bridges’ demeanor suggests that it is perfectly no big deal that his young career has culminated in an appearance in a film that is going to be, actually, a very big deal. And considering today’s political climate, Scott-Heron’s words ring truer than ever.

 

 

Wearing a vintage jacket he bought in London and black pants with a maroon side-stripe, Bridges leans back on the sofa and adds up how it all came together.

“I met Ryan while we were both on Saturday Night Live together,” he recalls, “but Damien had caught wind of me and felt I would be great for the part. I perform the piece during a protest scene; it was cool – they really let me just be myself. I didn’t even have to change my hair, which is in a freaking perm. I don’t even look like [Gil Scott Heron] – his hair was always in a fro.’”

And while he connects the dots in his nonchalant style, it’s even easier to forget how green Bridges is. He reflects back to the difficulties he had when his tour stopped at Colorado’s Red Rocks amphitheater. 

“I just have never performed in a venue that size,” he says. “I had to get a sense of what my show really was and how to fill it into a space that size.”

 

Photo by Scott Hoeksema

 

The 29-year-old is, of course, known as much for his trademark style as his music. Dapper, fresh, yet somehow effortless, his interest in fashion was born when he was still just a young child.

“Even as a kid, I was so into it. I just couldn’t afford to do exactly what I wanted to do,” he recalls. “I studied dance in college. When we performed a Bob Fosse repertoire, African or even a jazz piece, we had to pick out outfits for dance. The costume shops were filled with vintage clothing, and that is where my love for vintage started. I would steal pieces from the costume shop and wear them.”

 

With Ahlem Manai-Platt at the AHLEM for Leon Bridges launch party, image courtesy of AHLEM Eyewear

 

Today, Bridges has broken into completely new ground in just one album’s time. Blazing past the sepia confines of hi ’60s, soul-inspired debut album Coming Home, his latest Good Thing is indeed a colorful, hi-fi affair and draws inspiration from influences as varied as ’70s southern country soul, to R&B, à la Jodeci. Each track is completely different from the next, yet each is still steadfastly rooted in Bridges’ personal style. The result of studio sessions he took to LA with producer Ricky Reed, he calls Good Thing a collaborative affair and shyly nods in agreement that it’s a glimpse into his true musical wingspan.

“I just knew that if I was to make another project similar to the first one that I’d be stuck forever,” he says. “I’ve been able to grab more of the attention of the black community with this album, which I really wasn’t able to do before.”

Looking a bit like David Byrne crossed with James Brown gyrating through his setlist, whatever box Leon Bridges may have been in, he’s popped right out of it. Comparisons to anybody, much less Sam Cooke, be damned. And he makes it all look and sound like the easiest breath of fresh air.

“I just like to live within the rhythm,” he adds. Just like that.

 

Resurrection Summons Fashion Gods With New Retail Store

Photography: Alexander Thompson

In 1996, Mark Haddawy and Katy Rodriguez founded Resurrection, a retail archive that would become one the world’s premiere international venues for collectible and historic clothing. With locations in both Los Angeles and New York, Resurrection has attracted high fashion icons including Prince, Catherine Denueve, Lou Lou De la Falaise, Azzedine Alaia, Iman, John Galliano and Chloe Sevigny—not to mention Kate Moss, who Rodriguez cites as their longest running, most loyal client.

“Kate Moss came into the store on our first day 20 years ago,” she said. “She will always hold a special place in our hearts and history.  She embodies our generation’s curious take of high and low fashion and everything in between.”

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Alexander McQueen Dogtooth Cocoon Coat (2009), Alexander McQueen Sarabande Lace Gown (2007), Alexander McQueen Runway Gown (2008)

With a new location on Great Jones, Resurrection opens its doors to celebrate a brand new, custom retail gallery and archive. In addition to their vast inventory of vintage pieces from fashion gods like Christian Lacroix, Gaultier and Moschino, Haddawy and Rodriguez are celebrating three specific archive collections in their new space.

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It begins with a selection of rare 20th century, out-of-print books showcased on custom Brian Thoreen brass shelves, moves on to Bulgari Jewelry (including the company’s famous Tubas watches) and finishes with a pupil dilating curation of Alexander McQueen pieces.

“It’s really special,” Rodriguez said. “The collection spans McQueen’s career from our perspective. We love the early pieces as much as the very famous later collections. He was such a unique force.  It’s been an important reminder of what great is.”

Later this month, Resurrection will showcase a rare collection of Maison Martin Margiela and in September, will debut a Helmut Lang show—stay tuned.


Resurrection, 45 Great Jones Street, is open Monday – Saturday from 11 AM – 7 PM.

Chelsea Wolfe Transcends On New Album, ‘Abyss’

Photography: Nico Turner

When Chelsea Wolfe writes a record she goes deep. So deep in fact, she reaches a level of personal intimacy and darkness most of us wouldn’t dare to explore, but all know exists. That’s why we have her albums to do the diving for us and bring back the sonic depiction of her findings. On her fifth studio album, Abyss, her most evolved and personal record to date she does just that.

“I wanted to drop deep into my own mind approaching things I hasn’t faced before,” she said. “Sonically, I wanted to reflect the hazy confusion of a dream or the afterlife, the feeling of not knowing whether you’re asleep or awake, and the intensity of the surreal world we live in.”

On record, Wolfe explores the warped world between sleep and awake through her atmospheric vocals, which alternate between delicate and commanding, while ripping through walls of guitar fuzz across a haunting synth landscape built for Wolfe transcends through.  On standout track, “Iron Moon,” this is most clear as she pulls us into calm waters and then throws us into a crashing sonic wave owning her audience like the moon owns the tides.

“I wanted to make sure [Iron Moon] had the right balance of intimacy and heaviness,” Wolfe said. “This song helps represent the album for as a whole for me—with its ups and downs, it’s like trying to wake up from a dream you’re trapped in.”

When it comes to playing the album live, Wolfe allows the songs to evolve into a reincarnation of themselves on each unique stage and night.

“Playing the songs live, they take on a new life,” she said. “We didn’t play any of the songs from Abyss until after they were recorded and they’ve already changed a lot as we’ve been touring. Some songs have become more distorted and loud, some have become more subdued and restrained.  Sometimes it depends on the venue, the night, or just the mood. We recently played two nights in a row in New York. The Williamsburg night felt very raw and emotional.  The next night at Bowery Ballroom was very reverent and quiet. Both shows felt special for their own reasons.”


Chelsea Wolfe is currently on tour with her new album Abyss. To purchase tickets click here.