John Legend: Sharing the Spotlight

In the new world of old-school revival R&B, John Legend is essential in that ensemble. In efforts to set himself apart, he’s dipping into the business end of things. Proof that this musician is on his businessman tip, Legend has teamed up with Atlantic Records and erected his new record label Homeschool Records. On the night he met with us, he would introduce artists on the Home roster to New York City – the British reggae influenced singer Estelle, his brother Vaughn Anthony, and The James Gang.While working on his artists’ debut albums, this Ohio native still adds to his wrap sheet: John is recording his third album that’s said to be out next summer. In a yellow-lit dressing room that had a few members of John’s crew steaming hung garments, the laid-back and deep monotone voiced (seemingly preoccupied) R&B star sat down with us before his Bailey’s sponsored concert at Hammerstein Ballroom, which was also televised by TV One. John revealed what was behind his label start-up, the studio chemistry with Will.I.Am, and his Christmas present for his Alternatives: The new record label Home School Records – did you always intend on starting one, or did meeting Estelle inspire it?John Legend: I mean it was always in the back of my mind and it’s almost cliché. I think artists do it because we want to be part of making other artists succeed as well, and be part of making good music that’s not always sung by us but we want to be part of making great music with other people also. When I met Estelle, she actually found me; she found me and Kanye back in 2003. You could tell she was hungry, you could tell she was talented, and I wanted to help her succeed. And so we did all that I could and I think we made a great album with her.AHHA: On Once Again, “Show Me” and “Coming Home” were on different levels content wise, did that content pave the way for the new album?John Legend: That was particularly inspiring. That’s why I started my own organization called the “Show Me” campaign. We just shot a video for “Show Me.” It’ll be out shortly. It’s probably the best video I’ve ever done. It’s really beautiful. Directed by a guy Lee Hirsch, who is best know for his documentary about South African music called Amandla! He did a beautiful job directing this video.AHHA: Is the reason you’re so comfortable with Will.I.Am because you’re able to try different sounds each time you get together?John Legend: Well, he’s never had boundaries when it comes to that. He does his pop thing with the Black Eyed Peas, but me and him we just do what we do and try to come up with something beautiful. I think it’s fun for him to do something different than people expect him to do anyway.AHHA: I heard that you’re giving your hometown a nice Christmas present by having a home concert on Christmas Eve. How’d that come about?John Legend: I’m going to go home, and we’re going to do a show with my brother [Vaughn Anthony] and I, and a couple of other local acts, and it’ll be a nice little thing –  our whole family will perform. It’ll be cool.AHHA: What songs are you currently listening to? Anything people might not expect?John Legend: The new Jay-Z. I just got it. I love it. Kanye’s album – I sound like I’m biased listening to people that I’ve worked with. I haven’t been listening to a lot of new stuff lately, because I’ve been focused on working…so not really that much going on.AHHA: What compelled you exactly to join the Gap Red Campaign?John Legend: The Red campaign – pretty much a no-brainer I think. The money that’s being raised…it’s not even just being raised. It’s about empowering African manufacturers to make shirts and pumping money into their economy, and providing jobs as well. So, I think that’s a great thing. Yeah, it’s one of those things that’s very easy for me to do. So, why not? Why not just show up and get your picture taken?

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