John Legend interview

Vocalist, pianist and choir-leader John Legend talks to Time Out

John Legend interview

Thirty-one-year-old vocalist, pianist and choir-leader John Legend (né Stephens) has just teamed up with hip hop band The Roots to release album Wake Up!, a collection of ’60s and ’70s protest soul songs. Here are some little known facts about the man.

He’s appeared on Sesame Street twice.
‘It was cool meeting all the human beings who play the characters. There’s a big black guy who does Elmo. You hear these squeaky voices on the Muppets and they’re all voiced by actors who don’t look like you might think.’

He abandoned law and politics for pop.
‘Man, I always wanted to be a star. I always wanted to be on TV and I always wanted to sing. But, you know, at times I wanted to be a lawyer because I liked the series Matlock and I wanted to be president when I was a little kid.’

Gospel choirs were his radio.
‘We really didn’t get a lot of big concerts in my area – I grew up in a small town that’s in the middle of nowhere to some extent. I was in church a lot though, so I was exposed to live music all the time. You could go to Cincinnati or Columbus a couple of hours away but as a kid I didn’t go to those, so the live music I saw was either at church or at school.’

Immortality is a perk of his job.
‘I get to write songs, which is amazing. I love creating something new and having it go out into the world to last forever. It’s an amazing ability and talent that writers have to be able to create something that is listened to by people around the world, and even after you die it’s still there. Of course the feeling of performing on a stage in front of thousands of screaming fans is pretty thrilling as well.’

Stifler is a fan of his music.
‘Sean William Scott – he has a certain reputation as an actor, you know the kind of characters he plays? He told me that when he was shooting Dukes of Hazzard, the guy from Jackass [Johnny Knoxville] introduced my music to him and I was totally surprised by the fact that Stifler and the guy from Jackass were listening to my music. That was pretty cool.’

And so is Barack Obama.
‘The first time I met him he wasn’t that famous. It was back in ’06 and he was considering running for president. He’s a fan of my music and heard I was going to be in town in Chicago and he invited me to his office. So I went by and talked to him for a little while and I said, ‘Are you gonna run?’ and he was like, ‘I don’t know yet, I’ll figure it out soon,’ and I said, ‘Well, if you decide to run just let us know if you need anything as far as helping with the campaign and we’ll do it.’ Then two years later he was elected president.’

He nearly spoke to Thom Yorke.
‘I met him, and I’m a big fan of his and of Radiohead, and you could tell he was distracted. I didn’t get the chance to really convey to him how cool I thought he was. I wish I had another chance.’

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