Since bursting on the scene a decade ago, John Legend has added many professional titles to his initial resume of singer/songwriter/pianist. The Grammy Award winner now sits on philanthropy credits (Show Me Campaign, Gentlemen's Fund etc), acting credits (Soul Men, etc), and entreprenuer credits with his TV/film production company, Get Lifted Film Co.
Now on the verge of dropping his fifth studio album with G.O.O.D Music, Love in the Future, the groom-to-be chatted it up with Singersroom about everything he's working on/anticipating for the future (like the ventures of his blossoming production company and upcoming nuptials to fiance model Chrissy Teigen), as well as his inspirations, hobbies, who he has pegged to win the 2013 NBA championship, and his thoughts on fellow Ohioan Lebron James' infamous exit to Miami.
Singersroom: You seem to be following the vibe of the single "Tonight" with your new music, are you going for the sensual, sexy vibe this time around?
John Legend: Definitely some of the album is definitely very sexy. The whole album, the title of it, the picture and all the songs kind of revolve around love, and there’s definitely some sexy elements, but I wouldn’t say that’s a new thing for me, but “Tonight” is probably one of my more directly sexy songs, but we’ve always had it [sexiness] there, sometimes it’s more subtle than others. But obviously the video we did for it was very sexy, and beautiful and luxurious and a bit decadent and we were certainly going for that with that particular video.
Singersroom: Speaking of the music video, it was a bit explicit, why this concept?
Legend: If you don’t wanna see the explicit version, we do have a little more tame version, even though I think the explicit version is beautifully done and not raunchy in any way, but if people are scared of by a little bit of nudity, then we have an alternate version which is online as well. But the concept is, the song is about embracing a risk, not being afraid to live life to the fullest, not being afraid to luxuriate and enjoy your success. And so we definitely have a lot of those elements in the video; it is a bit risky, it is sexy, it is beautiful, it is artistic, it embraces luxury and a bit of decadence, and that was the concept we felt worked for the song. I feel really proud, the end product is really beautifully and artistically well done. And I’m not complimenting myself! (laughs) I’m complementing the director when I talk about it cause I feel like he did a great job of capturing something that I thought was really gorgeous.
Singersroom: Outside of Rick Ross, who else did you work with for the project?
Legend: There’s really not a lot of vocalists on the album, just a couple of cameos by different singers, but really at the end of the day it’s just me on the album. I don’t have a lot of features and things like that. In terms of producers and writers, we collaborated with some great people. Hit-Boy, Kanye, Bink, Dave Tozer, 88-Keys, The Interns, and DJ Camper all did varying amounts of work on the album. The three main creative forces behind the album were me and Kanye and Dave Tozer. Kanye was like the main curator of the sound and helped me pick a lot of beats for the album and co-wrote some of the songs. Then Dave did a lot of the arranging on the album, and then obviously I did a lot of the singing and the writing. The three of us were kind of the main three that made the album together. We had a lot of other contributors.
Singersroom: Where do you draw inspirations from in terms of your writing?
Legend: Just life, part of it, music I grew up listening to, some of that inspires me. Lyrically, obviously, the things I’m going through, this album is pretty hopeful, it’s pretty optimistic; it’s about beginning something new and embracing all the challenges that come with it, the good and the bad. And I’m in that position in my life now cause I’m about to get married.
Singersroom: Do you have any scoops, any details about the wedding that you can dish?
Legend: It’s not really a scoop, my answer has been the same for a while now, we know exactly when we’re gonna do it and where and we’re excited about it. We just haven’t been releasing all the details to the press because we would like for it to be a private affair (laughs).
Singersroom: That’s understandable (laughs). What artist(s) are you pumping in your iPod right now?
Legend: Well, it’s gonna sound very vain but it’s really pretty much all me until my album is done cause I don’t like to listen to a lot of other stuff. Like, I’ll just listen to the radio occasionally and just kinda be informed as to what’s coming out, but I don’t really marinate in anybody’s album because I don’t really want to sound like anybody else when I put my album out. So I’d rather not even be tempted to listen to a bunch of other stuff with any degree of emersion in it, cause I just don’t want to sound like anything else, so I kinda focus on my own music.
Singersroom: So you’re getting into more film producing, was this always a goal of yours?
Legend: It’s not something I always wanted to do. I always love the movies and been a big fan of really great television series and things of that nature and I talked to directors and producers all the time for music because I do a lot of writing for film and I’ve had a lot of songs used for television as well, so I’m kinda in that world. And the more I make connections in that world, the more I saw it would be something we’d be interested in, me and my team presenting some shows on our own. One of the first shows we tried to do was a show called “Live with John Legend” that we did a pilot for with Showtime. They didn’t end up picking up the series, but it’s something we still wanted to do, and it gave me the bug for producing other projects as well. So we have a couple of shows in development with HBO, we have a show in development at USA, and a few other TV and film projects that are in development right now, too. The development process kinda takes a while, some shows make it to air and some don’t, but hopefully some of our shows will make it to air and we’ll put out some great art.
Singersroom: Isn’t one show loosely based on your life growing up?
Legend: It was loosely about my life, but that one didn’t actually get picked up. It was VERY loosely about my life, actually, it wasn’t that much about it. The network, they always wanna make it seem like “based on John Legend’s life!” when not really, but it had elements of my past in it and then the writers kinda flipped it to a new concept. That one isn’t happening anymore but we have a couple of shows in development at HBO, one is a comedy, one is a drama. So we’ll see if any of them get to the air, but we’re gonna keep working and try to put out some creative ideas.
Singersroom: So outside of music related things, what are some of your hobbies?
Legend: Well, between my personal life and music I don’t really have that much free time. I’m really a big follower of politics, if anybody follows me on Twitter, they know that. I think about that stuff, read about that stuff a lot, I do a lot of reading when I’m on the road. Other than that, just hanging out with my fiancé and my friends and I love sports so a lot of me hanging out with my friends involves sports, particularly basketball and football, and a little bit of food, so I like going out to good restaurants.
Singersroom: You brought up basketball, who do you have for the playoffs right now?
Legend: Well I’m a Lakers fan so my hopes are ruined for the year, but who do I think will win? I think the Heat will probably win. I think they’re the best team, and they’re the healthiest of the best teams, so I think they have the best chance at winning but I was really shocked [at game one], I watched the Bulls/Heat game and did not expect the Bulls to win.
Singersroom: I’m from Akron, Ohio, where Lebron’s from.
Legend: Yeah, I grew up in Springfield so I know Akron, been there a few times.
Singersroom: Were you angry when he left Cleveland or did you not care? (laughs)
Legend: You know, like I said, I always was a Lakers fan so it wasn’t that big of a deal either way to me. It would have been a nicer story if he would have stayed in Ohio because he’s from Ohio, I’m from Ohio, you’re from Ohio, it would have been a good story if he didn’t go for the glitz and glamour and go to Miami. But it’s hard to get in his shoes, being him, I think he went where he thought he had the best opportunity to win, and he probably thought it would be fun to live in Miami, too, and I can’t blame him for that. I don’t love the idea of three superstars coming together to form a dream team, I’d rather teams are built more organically, just as a fan it’s more interesting to see. But like I said, you can’t fault him for doing what was in his best interest.