After teasing their collaboration for months on social media, Leon Bridges finally released his new song featuring John Mayer at midnight.
The slow-simmering R&B track is called “Inside Friend” and, like the name suggests, makes a choice soundtrack to a national mood: quarantine and chill.
In the single, Bridges and Mayer alternately trade lyrics inviting a yoga pant-wearing female protagonist to slide on the kitchen floor in a persistent, convincing invitation for a day-sex threesome — at least that’s what we want to hear. It's a sensual, slow, modern soul jam, pierced by Mayer’s signature guitar solo.
Bridges has popped up at Mayer performances in the past and has spent a great part of the last few months on a collaborative kick, dropping tracks with Houston’s Khruangbin in February and with Noah Cyrus in July 2019.
Bridges told Rolling Stone that the idea for the new track came about last year while he was discussing his ideal dating scenario, which is at home, away from crowds.
“I tour most of the year, so I’d rather invite a gal over to lounge comfortably in the crib as opposed to go out somewhere crowded,” the Fort Worth singer told the publication.
The timely subject matter is purely coincidental, Bridges said in the article, although the duo decided to release the song now, as it seemed relevant.
“‘Inside Friend’ stayed on the back burner for a while because it didn’t fit within the context of my third project, but the current state we’re in globally compelled us to dig this back up and finish it. I hope people find it soothing and uplifting while we hole up indoors and get through this,” he said.
Bridges wasn't the only North Texan to create the track with Mayer — Dallas heavyweights Keite Young and Jason Burt rounded out the production.
Young and Burt make up the soul-rock duo Medicine Man Revival, and Burt (who’s also worked as a producer for the likes of Diplo) did some production and co-writing on the track along with Young.
Burt says the collaboration started when Bridges invited him and Young to Los Angeles “on a writing trip.”
“When we land, we roll up to a cush pad in the hills; we plan to stay three days: three days to write, two nights to party,” he says.
And the trio stuck to their plan. On the second day in LA, Burt says, Bridges made a post that caught the attention of his famous friend.
“Leon goes on Instagram Live and flexing some new ideas and Mayer pops on and says he’s rolling through,” Burt remembers. “I did not know this at the time. We were just drinking mimosas, chillin’.”
Young remembers that day similarly.
“Me, J (Burt) and Leon mobbed out to LA to work and play. ... We brought some toys, so we set up a studio in the kitchen and started inviting a few homies over to hang,” he says. “I think Leon posted a video and John saw it. L asked if he wanted to fall through and we just vibed our way into a couple of cool ideas.”
Mayer came by their place with a Fender Reverb and a beat pad, and the four began making beats and freestyling all night with some friends.
“John asks for the mic and basically freestyles a vibe for the track, but all that stuck was 'You can be my inside friend' with a lot of help from Keite Young repeating the vocals as people freestyled,” Burt recalls.
Then, they went out. Two months later, after returning home from that trip, Burt says he gets a call from Bridges’ manager looking for the track, because Mayer wanted to produce it.
“I went back through two hours of mumble to build what would become the demo for the new single,” Burt says.
They ended up back in LA at Mayer's request, in the blues rocker's studio, which had once belonged to iconic puppeteer Jim Henson.
“Cue forward to Mayer inviting us back to his studio in LA, Jim Henson's studio, where my stories are limitless as I grew up a huge fan of Mayer and now here we are actually creating with him,” Burt says. “He showed me all of his guitars, and I even spoke to his longtime crew from when I first became a massive fan of his work 13 years ago.”
Burt says he got to work with his idol for three days.
“We recomposed the beat and additional instrumentation, just me, John and his engineer as Leon and Keite compiled some lyrical ideas, ” he says.
“We made a joke of a scenario about not taking girls out anymore and staying inside, like reinventing the booty call,” Young says. “It was all super organic, but we instantly knew there was something catchy about it.“
Young and Burt produced a demo for the label after returning, and, Young says, Mayer and Bridges were easy to work with. “John is super adaptable and efficient in the studio, and L just finds his groove and kills it.”
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Burt also believes that the song’s indoors-friendly theme was simply serendipity.
“At the time it was really about having a low-key home girl maybe you didn’t wanna take out and the double entendres stands now,” he says, and adds that after post-production the release date made sense.
“Mayer went back in and sauced it all the way and now, here we are … in a national crisis with perfect lyrical content for your low-key lover … guess sometimes it just works out that way.”