On paper, it’s an unlikely pairing: Leon Bridges, classic soul revivalist and late-’50s throwback, cutting a record with Khruangbin, forward-leaning, genre-allergic instrumental trio. But before they’d ever met—at the first in a slew of tour dates they’d play together in late 2018—Bridges had been writing to the sound of Khruangbin’s breakthrough LP Con Todo El Mundo. “I really love their kind of minimalist approach to instrumentation, just like the style of it,” Bridges tells Apple Music. “It’s very soulful.” The attraction was mutual. As the tour unfolded, Khruangbin approached Bridges with new music that seemed to call out for a vocal—a recording they’d given the working title “Awesome Guitar Loop.” “We sent it to him and then literally the next day he came back with words on it,” bassist Laura Lee says. “That was the beginning.” All Texas natives—Bridges hails from Fort Worth and Khruangbin from Houston—they started meeting at a studio in Houston when their schedules allowed, experimenting with new and older material alike. The result is Texas Sun, a four-track EP and tribute to their home state that also speaks to its considerable diversity—in sound and sensibility. “It was,” Bridges says, “an inevitable collaboration.” Here, he and Lee detail the coming together of each song.
Leon Bridges: “For this project, we set out to redefine the perception of Texas music, really blending our roots. I feel like this song is the perfect marriage of country, soul, and R&B. And historically, artists have incorporated elements of country music—like Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and Joe Tex—so it was important to keep the spirit of that. This song really captures the mood of cruising Texas highways and taking it all in while the sun sets.”
Laura Lee: “No matter where you are in Texas, it's big sky, big sun—that unifies the state. Khruangbin and Leon are both on tour all the time, so I think there was a relatable thing of just missing the feeling of home.”
LB: “That's a story about young love, about this chick that I was crazy about in high school. My mother wasn't too keen on me hanging with this chick, so I had to kick it with her on the down-low. At the time I didn't have my own car, so I would have to borrow my mother's and drive from my side of town to where this girl lived in Polywood, which is kind of a rough area, so I was always sweating balls when I had to pick her up. It was a Honda Accord, and the lyric is 'Midnight black on the outside,' but the car was actually green—midnight black just sounded cool. I would tell my mother I was going to open mics, and the song is essentially about making love in the backseat of her car. I never got caught. But I think she's going to find out now.”
LL: “‘C-Side’ was actually a 40-minute jam that we edited down. There was a real energy that happened when all four of us just played. It's an interesting thing when you play off each other, because it's really what's naturally from you, as a group or collective. We would find a groove and then Leon would start singing over it. Sometimes it was just melodies, but Leon just has all these words stored in him.”
LB: “The vibe and mood of it felt like a late-night rendezvous on the streets of New Orleans—and my lineage goes deep in New Orleans. My approach was to create that experience of just having a good time with someone you love, somewhere, in a second line.”
LB: “The first song that I ever wrote. It’s pre-Coming Home, my first album. Honestly, I've never really showed this song to anybody else. When I was a kid, I went to church because my parents went. But when I got older, I started to have a personal relationship with God, and this song reflects the first time I had that spiritual awakening. I think it's safe to say that being brought up in the church and faith is the common thread between all of us, me and Khruangbin.”
LL: “One of the greatest moments happened during the recording session for that song. I grew up going to church, but I didn’t grow up going to a gospel church; [drummer] DJ [Johnson] has been playing in gospel churches his whole life and [guitarist] Mark [Speer] started as a teen, so they know all of the gospel standards. At the end of ‘Conversion,’ Leon somehow transitioned really beautifully into an old hymn called 'At the Cross.' And when he played it, I saw DJ's face light up, because he'd never heard it sung that way, and he immediately went to the piano. DJ is my brother, I've seen him play gospel a million times, but to see him inspired by something really simple and really beautiful and something that meant so much to him was special. I love that song—it might be my favorite on the record.”