Note: This is an occasional series on a single song composed by an American songwriter.
There's an unexplainable magic to Leon Bridges' song "Coming Home," a winning formula that has brought the Fort Worth soul singer plenty of pinch-me moments in the last year.
The 26-year-old Bridges has taken his signature song to many mountaintops since getting the music world's undivided attention at South by Southwest back in March. He's performed it on TV talk shows, at NPR's "Tiny Desk," at high-profile festivals to rapt audiences, at sold out headlining concerts in the U.S. and abroad.
"Coming Home" was even the soundtrack for an iPhone 6 TV commercial. The dude's everywhere -- and he'll be heading back to North Texas for a sold-out show at the Majestic Theatre on Saturday.
But, as Bridges told us by phone over the weekend from California, the song that helped him break out and get to such heights began with a moment of boredom a couple of years ago.
"I was chilling in my room, and I was kind of messing with the guitar, and the song just came to me," Bridges said. "At the time, I had really fallen in love with soul music. I always knew and loved it, but it wasn't until I was about 23 that I decided to go down that path as an artist.
For "Coming Home," a slow burner that celebrates the healing power of love, "I just wanted to paint a picture of faithfulness in that setting of classic soul music."
What began as a faithful ballad over strummed strings ended up being the first song Bridges cut last year with several Fort Worth musicians who'd joined him to make his first album.
White Denim's Austin Jenkins, among others, had encouraged Bridges to get fully formed, vintage-sounding recordings of his material. The fruit of that, a full-length debut album, was released to critical acclaim in June.
Did Bridges and his new collaborators record "Coming Home" first because they knew it'd end up being the first single and title song of the album? It was nothing that calculated, according to Bridges.
"When we got into the studio on Day One, I had just shot a video for 'Coming Home' with my friend Chip Tompkins, but we didn't have a recorded version of the song ready," he said. "So I was like, 'Um, can we record 'Coming Home'? Because I already shot a video, and we need the song so we can edit it.'"
It was all done so quickly that Bridges hadn't even had time to consider, say, backup singers. Those vital voices you hear at the beginning and throughout the track, the ones that so perfectly complement Bridges' lead? A last-minute addition.
"When we got to the studio that day, I called two of my friends and had them sit and watch and get the vibe," Bridges said. "Then I was like, 'Man, y'all might as well go ahead and sing on this song.'"
"Coming Home" continued to give Bridges important milestone moments after it hit iTunes and after its video racked up millions of views. The singer told us he likes to look back at a time he performed it in Spain, and the entire audience sang with him. It was the first time he'd experienced that.
"It was a wow moment for me," he said. "I just thought about how it was when I started out, and how I'd be busking on the street."
Bridges looks at his years of struggling and busking as a blessing at this point.
"It helped me to be thankful for the little things," Bridges said. "But this whole new life was a beast that I was never prepared for. All the busking and doing it myself could never prepare me."
Bridges says his biggest challenge as a young artist with a fresh spotlight is figuring out what to do when he's not singing. "It's something I still have to get used to -- getting on stage and being a performer, figuring out how to talk to the crowd and connect."
The fans at the packed Majestic will witness Bridges' progress. And when he gets to that first line of "Coming Home," they might just do as the Spaniards did and sing along. Seems appropriate.