John Legend: One Mo’ Gin

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. Alternatives: Thus far, what do you feel has been the biggest milestone in your career?

John Legend: Definitely the Grammy’s, 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: You’ve got that classic movie star appeal in your style. Who would you cast to play you in a movie about your life?

John: That’s interesting. I never thought about that. I really don’t know. [laughs] Who looks like me? I don’t 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, you’re 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. That’s my shit. The perfect song at the club for everyone’s hands to go up.

AHHA: Do you watch much TV?

John: I watch like stuff on my iTunes, and I watch TiVo when I’m 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 you’ve 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 it’s 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 there’s a lot more to somebody’s character and personality than the color of their skin. I’ve 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 you’d cook her for dinner to guarantee that she’d be there for breakfast?

John: Well she’s gonna stay for breakfast anyway, no matter if I cook or if I don’t 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 you’d gladly leave all communication devices at home?

John: I love Tuscany, Italy. I was in this place Siena before and it’s beautiful. It’s 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 it’s emails, because when I’m on tour I can’t really talk a lot. My voice; I’ve 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: Let’s 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: CD’s or vinyl?

John: You know, vinyl is cool and has a great sound, but you just can’t take it anywhere. I don’t even listen to CD’s anymore. I’m like all MP3’s now. When you travel a lot, you can’t 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: You’ve 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 wasn’t really worried about that. I love it that they are involved and love feedback. But at the end of the day, I’m going to make music that I think is the right thing at the right time. That’s 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 didn’t really decide in advance. I just tried to make the album and do whatever felt right. This is what felt right this time. I’m 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 didn’t plan for this album to be what it was. But it is, and it is what it is. I’m 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 I’ve 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 “I’ll make it home again, I pray you’ll 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 you’re in a war that you’re not sure why you’re even there. A war that personally, I don’t 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 you’re starting your own label.

John: Yeah, that’s 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. That’s 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 - I’ve signed her and we got her a deal through Atlantic Records.

AHHA: If you weren’t here, where would you be?

John: I couldn’t 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.