Americana Soul Singer-Songwriter Leon Timbo Talks New Single ‘Lovers + Fools’, What It Means To Be A Music Revolutionary, & More

Self-proclaimed “Music Revolutionary” Leon Timbo has released his powerful new single, “Lovers + Fools,” which hit streaming services this past Friday.

Timbo has four albums out to date, from his debut album What Love’s All About (2016), to his two concept albums Invitation to Love Vol. 1 & 2 (2018) and Invitation to Worship Vol. 1 & 2 (2018). The powerful soul singer straddles many genres from gospel, to Americana, to folk, and this new upbeat tune is no different.

Timbo originally hails from Jacksonville, Florida, where he grew up as the son of two pastors. With music in his blood, he began singing and playing guitar as a teenager, and in 2005 he put out Soul Sessions as an independently released album. He played local gigs to support the album, and wound up performing for Tyrese Gibson, who invited Timbo to open for him at the House of Blues, and helped work on Timbo’s album What Love’s All About. This all kickstarted his career into another gear, creating exciting new opportunities, such as doing session work with Quincy Jones, and opening doors for his new material.

Set to be the title track off of his soon-to-be EP Lovers + Fools, the immediate appeal of the single is its bounce right out of the gate, as it sets a firm backbeat for the lush harmonies that Timbo layers on top. As the song unfolds, he explores dynamic range by coming down and resting on the backbeat during the verses, and rising to the top again on the choruses with forward-moving drums and fast-picking banjo. Timbo draws out the final chorus of the song by repeating the line “lovers and fools,” bringing the acoustic guitar strumming to the forefront, and slowly breaking it all down until he reaches a natural and soulful conclusion.

This buoyant tune will surely find its way into the hearts of his fans, as well as Timbo’s setlist when he hits the road again and starts performing live shows again. And in the meantime, be sure to check out his podcast Ok, Here We Go: Beauty & The Beards to hear him discuss issues on politics, race, and religion.

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We got the chance to ask Timbo about the new single, his dream gig, and much more.

In your Instagram bio you call yourself a “Music Revolutionary.” What does that term mean to you, and how do you emulate it?

To be a music revolutionary is to be someone who challenges musical presumptions and the status quo. Being a revolutionary is directly related to my life’s purpose: to speak truth to systems that structure how we listen to music. I work to create spaces that challenge musical inflexibilities. 

We have determined how we will hear music and what expression of music belongs to what voice; revolutionaries challenge that line of thinking and belief. I emulate this in my person because I usually have to be reintroduced in spaces. People often see me in one way, but after I bring my guitar and sing or speak, people’s beliefs are challenged, and change occurs.

Your music blends so many different types of music, from gospel to Americana and everything in between. Can you talk about your musical influences and inspirations that led you to the sound you have today?

Musical Influences: Ray Charles, Rosetta Tharpe, Andre Crouch, James Taylor, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, & Sam Cooke.

There is a common thread of innovative fluidity in their creative approach. Culturally, these artists’ sound was rooted in spiritualism (the American church), hope, and faith, and it later evolved to speak to social constructs and personal processes. Everyone I have named understood the American sound and was birthed out of the fusion known as American music. 

Looking at your new single, “Lovers + Fools,” what were some of the main sources of inspiration for this particular song?

“Lovers + Fools” was inspired by the beauty and tragedy of loss- the loss of a relationship, the loss of love, and the loss of who you thought you were in those experiences. Within the loss of a relationship, you not only lose the connection, but you also lose the version of you that was comfortable in that space. Identity is fluid, and although some anchors don’t change, how you form and evolve is associated with what you gain and lose in a relationship. There is a thin line between being a lover and a fool. 

The single covers a lot of sonic ground with various forms of percussion and string instruments as well as backing vocals. As a solo artist, how did you go about choosing which musicians to play on this track?

I started from scratch in January of 2020 writing this song. The truth is I recorded an entire album, other than this one, that I am super proud of, but due to some experiences in 2020, I knew that there was something more to dig for musically. And, I could only do this kind of digging with friends. So, 90 percent of this music was written in those moments of searching and exploring with those chosen friends.

The single is the title track for the Lovers + Fools EP. Why did you choose this song to be the face of the EP?

I felt like “Lovers + Fools” was an adequate gateway into some of the places that the rest of the music goes. This song is an excellent pivot from some of the expressions people are used to getting from me. For those who are new to me and my music, this song and the rest of the EP are a great introduction to what this new chapter will be. 

“Being a revolutionary is directly related to my life’s purpose: to speak truth to systems that structure how we listen to music. I work to create spaces that challenge musical inflexibilities.”

With the release of this new song and EP coming soon, can fans expect to see you perform some shows soon and experience these songs live?

Absolutely! I am excited about bringing my music home to Duval County, The DMV, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, LA, and Oakland.

How would you describe Leon Timbo’s dream gig?

My dream gig would be at the National Mall in Washington with an orchestra singing alongside an array of diverse artists and creatives. I would want to create a moment that artfully symbolizes the hope of America. Displaying that level of hope does not happen with me alone; it happens in community, in tandem with other artists. I would want to see and participate in all of the tension and glory that this space offers. I long to have a voice that works in conjunctions with other like-minded hearts- a voice that provides the soundtrack to moments, movements, and marches.  

Did you face any setbacks while recording “Lovers + Fools?” If so, how did you overcome them?

The setback was “Lovers + Fools” itself. We had a record already completed, but as I previously mentioned, I felt there was more. I had to invest personally into this idea and concept. I went into this process blindly, but I was determined to do it because I believe in the music and its message. 

What keeps you motivated as an artist? Is it recording new music? Performing? All of the above and more?

History keeps me motivated. When I realized that Marvin Gaye got depressed and that between his two hits, “What’s Going On” and “Sexual Healing,” those 7-8 years were the worst of his life, this allows me to know that valleys are just as crucial to my process and development as mountains. And even though I’m not too fond of the valleys- they hurt and are painful -seeing these lows in the lives of other artists gives me hope that pain produces something powerful.

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