Pat Rocks

I Am Legend: John Legend Interview

By Patrick ChngEvents - 06 April 2011 10:53 AM | Updated 11:15 AM

I Am Legend: John Legend Interview

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After bursting into the scene with his debut smash Get Lifted, soul crooner John Legend has picked up nine Grammys—not bad for the boy from Springfield, Ohio who from the age of five sang gospel choir and at wedding ceremonies.

In February, he received three Grammy awards in the R&B categories for his latest album, Wake Up. Still, the humble and affable musician told in a phone interview that the most important thing about being a musician is to make meaningful music.

“I want to make music that’s meaningful. Music that makes people think,” says the 32-year-old whose real name is John Stephens.

The talented pianist/singer-songwriter was already collaborating with big names in the music business—people such as Kanye West, Fort Minor, Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill--even before he released his breakthrough debut in December 2004.

Throughout his career, Legend has collaborated with different and diverse artists. He explained that this is how he has kept himself and his music exciting and fresh. Legend elaborates, “Picking the right collaborators and working with people who push you keep me fresh. Also, I keep an open mind—I’m open to other cultures, music, and paying attention to what’s around me.”

John teamed up with hip hop/soul band The Roots for his fourth album “Wake Up!” The band visited the University of Pennsylvania many years ago when John was studying there. Their paths crossed again a few years ago when The Roots’ drummer, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, invited him to sing on the Al Green’s track “Stay With Me (By The Sea)”. That project eventually led to the collaboration for Wake Up! that was released in September last year.

“They (The Roots) are one of the best bands in the business,” gushes John, obviously honoured to have worked with the legendary band. “Wake Up!” consists of soul covers from the ‘60s and ‘70s and one original, “Shine”, which won the Grammy for Best R&B Song.

“?uestlove and I were the ones responsible for putting the set list together. As the plan was to do a cover album of songs from that era, I thought that he (?uestlove) was the perfect guy as he has the knowledge. We wanted to do songs that were meaningful lyrically as well as having a great groove and soulful sound. It’s not your typical covers album--we were mindful that people might be hearing some of the songs for the first time,” says the singer.

John will be playing his second gig in Singapore at the upcoming Timbre Rock & Roots Festival (WIN TICKETS! Find out how) on 16 April (don’t miss our preview to the highlights!). He has some recollection of his concert here in January 2007, “I remember the show. I had a great time there. I met nice people, and it was an interesting audience.”

Check out the video below to catch John saying a very special “Hello” to his local fans:

As for the upcoming show, John said, “I will have my backing band with me for this gig (Rock & Roots) so it’s going to be a fun and energetic show. We’re going to play songs from all my albums.”


Timbre Rock & Roots Festival 2011 is happening on Apr 15-16 from 6pm at Marina Promenade (F1 tracks behind Singapore Flyer). Ticketsfrom$70 available at SISTIC. To find out more, read our Timbre Rock & Roots preview guide right here.