Whether he is crafting songs for others or writing to fuel his own passion, John Legend has had critics raving about his abilities for the whole of 2006. Although his new album is entitled Once Again, it is more like a second wind in a musical race he was already winning.
Fans know the music well, but how many opportunities do we get to go beyond the hits? Before embarking on a world tour, John took some time to speak with us about everything from TiVo to politics – although it is amazing that he could find the time to have any semblance of a normal life these days. Move over James Brown – meet the new busiest man in show business! Oh, and ladies, if he cooks you dinner, you will be there for breakfast the next day.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Thus far, what do you feel has been the biggest milestone in your career?
John Legend: Definitely the Grammys, because it solidified my status as somebody that people should be paying attention to. It increased my record sales, my acclaim, my fame. It just set me up really well to do this album I think.
AHHA: Youve got that classic movie star appeal in your style. Who would you cast to play you in a movie about your life?
John: Thats interesting. I never thought about that. I really dont know. [laughs] Who looks like me? I dont know. No one ever really says, John you look like this star.
AHHA: If you could have any fashion designer design your entire wardrobe, who would it be?
John: I would go with Gucci maybe.
AHHA: Good choice. So, youre home alone, cleaning your house, and you turn your radio up. What is the one song playing that will transform you into Tom Cruise in Risky Business?
John: Public Service Announcement by Jay-Z. My name is Hov! When that comes on I get excited. Thats my shit. The perfect song at the club for everyones hands to go up.
AHHA: Do you watch much TV?
John: I watch like stuff on my iTunes, and I watch TiVo when Im at home.
AHHA: What are the shows you TiVo religiously?
John: The Daily Show and the The Office are definitely my favorites!
AHHA: What would you say is the most influential book youve ever read, and how did it change your perspective on life?
John: When I was kid I read The Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. That impacted me a lot. I think it just made me want to do great things and made me want to live my life so I could have a great biography too.
AHHA: In your new video, you have several races of women present. Do you feel its important for every man to get down like Skittles and taste the rainbow?
John: [laughs] You know, to each his own. God loves everybody, and I find all different women attractive from different races. I never look at race as the defining feature of a person. I think theres a lot more to somebodys character and personality than the color of their skin. Ive dated light skinned girls, dark skinned girls, all kinds of girls. I think you should do whatever feels right to you.
AHHA: Is there currently a lady in your life?
John: Yes, there is.
AHHA: What is the one meal youd cook her for dinner to guarantee that shed be there for breakfast?
John: Well shes gonna stay for breakfast anyway, no matter if I cook or if I dont cook. [laughs] Nah, but my favorite food to cook is soul food. I like to make fried chicken and macaroni and cheese and stuff like that.
AHHA: Where is the one vacation spot where youd gladly leave all communication devices at home?
John: I love Tuscany, Italy. I was in this place Siena before and its beautiful. Its relaxing and away from the world. I love it there. I used to date somebody who had a villa out there. She invited me out and it was very nice, very romantic, and very relaxing.
AHHA: Emails or phone calls?
John: A lot of times its emails, because when Im on tour I cant really talk a lot. My voice; Ive gotta protect it.
AHHA: Nike or Adidas?
John: Wow, I have a lot of both. I will side with Nike on this one.
AHHA: Larry King or Jon Stewart?
John: Oh easy! Jon Stewart; not even close.
AHHA: Palm trees or pine trees?
John: Lets go with palm trees.
AHHA: Sanford and Son or Goodtimes?
John: Ooh! I watched more Sanford and Son growing up, and there was something about Fred Sanford. He was the man. [laughs]
AHHA: CDs or vinyl?
John: You know, vinyl is cool and has a great sound, but you just cant take it anywhere. I dont even listen to CDs anymore. Im like all MP3s now. When you travel a lot, you cant carry all that stuff around.
AHHA: Soul food or Whole Foods?
John: Soul food! I like to eat healthy, but when it comes right down to it, soul food will make me happy any day.
AHHA: Youve made it a point over the past few years to share your journey with your fans through your journal. Were you worried at all about the outcome of this second album since your fanbase is so involved in your career?
John: I wasnt really worried about that. I love it that they are involved and love feedback. But at the end of the day, Im going to make music that I think is the right thing at the right time. Thats what I did.
AHHA: Once Again is far more introspective than Get Lifted. What made you decide to go in such a personal direction this time around?
John: I didnt really decide in advance. I just tried to make the album and do whatever felt right. This is what felt right this time. Im just gonna keep doing that as an artist, just try to make music that feels right to me, feels authentic, work with great people, collaborate with great people, and just see what comes out. I didnt plan for this album to be what it was. But it is, and it is what it is. Im proud of it.
AHHA: How did you go about choosing the producers for this album? Was it comfort in their style, or confidence in them through their resumes?
John: It was both because the people that I worked with that have great resumes are also people that Ive worked with before, or I felt like I could work with whose style I felt was complimentary to mine.
AHHA: On the song Coming Home you sing Ill make it home again, I pray youll fall in love again, speaking about the soldiers overseas.
John: The idea was that there was a soldier at war, and he had a girlfriend at home or a wife at home and the distance is making it hard. Then you add the distance to the fact that you might die any day, and youre in a war that youre not sure why youre even there. A war that personally, I dont even agree with as a concept or a political strategy. I was trying to capture the emotions of someone going through that.
AHHA: Was there a particular family you had in mine when writing this song?
John: Not a specific individual, but I was doing a lot of reading about life and politics and war and world issues like I do all the time and it was something on my mind.
AHHA: What is one song on the album that you feel defines you the best?
John: I think this album, the whole style and lyrical perspective of the album is all very much reflective of me and my style, my taste and my personality. I think Show Me is probably one of the most heartfelt songs on the album as far as really something that I identify with.
AHHA: Rumor has it youre starting your own label.
John: Yeah, thats true!
AHHA: What kind of artists will you be signing?
John: Artists that I believe in, artists that make great music, and can do a lot on their own, but I can help them succeed. Music that really just inspires me. Something that I have an ear for and I can help. Thats really it, and music that I think can sell a lot of records as well.
AHHA: Are there any artists currently on the roster?
John: Yes, Estelle – singer, rapper, producer, and songwriter from London – Ive signed her and we got her a deal through Atlantic Records.
AHHA: If you werent here, where would you be?
John: I couldnt imagine, really. But before I got a record deal, I was a management consultant. So maybe in the corporate world doing some kind of strategy for a media company – something like that.