Fort Worth's rising star musician Leon Bridges has taken numerous late-night television opportunities to showcase his multi-faceted style, and one song that's become a go-to is "River," a gospel tune about faith and redemption.
When Bridges chose it as one of two to perform on Saturday Night Live in December, it seemed like an odd choice for an audience that laughed their socks off with host Ryan Gosling and company. But it's obvious that the song means a great deal to the young singer.
Monday he released a music video for the song so thoughtful and heartfelt it may choke you up a bit.
"A river has historically been used in gospel music as symbolism for change and redemption. My goal was to write a song about my personal spiritual experience," Bridges posted on Facebook. "It was written during a time of real depression in my life and I recall sitting in my garage trying to write a song which reflected this struggle."
Bridges' hardships are well-chronicled, from his time working as a dishwasher to busking on the streets of Fort Worth. In his note, he also mentions trying to support his mother.
"I had little hope and couldn't see a road out of my reality," he said.
"The only thing I could cling to in the midst of all that was my faith in God and my only path towards baptism was by way of the river."
However, instead of harping on his own experiences, the video for "River" offers a window into many struggles African American families face -- a man walks down the street in blood-spattered shirt, families convene at a candlelight vigil, a baby cries while an overwhelmed parent seeks refuge in another room. The video was in fact shot in Baltimore and highly influenced by the city's Uprising movement after the death of local Tyrone West, who died in police custody in 2013.
The point is to visually represent a universal battle, Bridges said, but also offer hope. The video ends with warm embraces and a storm that metaphorically washes the trouble away.
"I want this video to be a message of light," Bridges said. "I believe it has the power to change and heal those that are hurting."