For most of his career to date, Fort Worth-based singer-songwriter Leon Bridges has been subtle, yet insistent, about his political beliefs.
Certainly, he’s made allusions to racial struggles of the past on his social media channels — and his Grammy-nominated clip for River remains one of last year’s most potent commentaries on the cauldron of racial violence still simmering throughout America.
Bridges also performed a handful of times for President Barack Obama during his administration, and has collaborated with a number of progressively-minded artists, such as Chance the Rapper and Anderson. Paak.
But nothing he’s done to date is as explicitly politically charged as his new contribution to ESPN’s The Undefeated, where Bridges speaks frankly about the state of race relations in America and delivers a gorgeous, deeply felt rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, as part of the site’s pre-Super Bowl coverage (Bridges is also scheduled to appear in Houston this weekend as part of the pre-game festivities).
“To make honest music, you have to really express what’s on your heart and not really be scared by what’s popular or what somebody else is doing,” Bridges says in the clip, before noting “this is the first time I’ve sung the national anthem.”
The brief video and interview, which was shot in and around Fort Worth’s Niles City Sound, where Bridges is working on the follow-up to his Grammy-nominated major label debut, Coming Home, also features comments from Bridges about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s controversial protests.
“I think I understand [Kaepernick] — that was a response to hate and injustice that is still prevalent within America and even goes back to the ‘68 Olympics,” Bridges tells The Undefeated. “I understand where they’re coming from.”
Here’s the full clip of the national anthem: