John Legend talk life, politics and new album
Is there any specific production angle you’re working towards with this one?
We’re just trying to make a great, modern soul album. And when we talk about modern soul, we understand where we’ve come from, we understand the music I’ve grown up with, but we want to take it into the future and kind of help define what a 21st century soul album is supposed to sound like. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.
It’s been four years since Evolver, and you did The Roots album in the interim – was that the reason you waited so long for another solo project?
Yeah, we did The Roots album, and I’ve been busy touring with The Roots; I’ve been on Duets; I’ve been writing a lot for myself and other people. Now, it’s time. It’s time to put the new album out.
You were on Neal Brennan’s podcast The Champs a couple weeks ago talking about Frank Ocean. You said you once told him he was a “weird guy,” but that it would help him artistically. What about him was so unusual?
You can just tell when people have really interesting minds, and when I write with them, specifically, because their lyrical sensibilities are different. And his is especially unique…You can tell from the album what a great lyricist he is, but it’s also different from how anybody else would write. And I told him, ‘You’re kind of weird in that way, but that’s gonna make you a great artist because writing good lyrics sometimes means your brain thinks on a different wavelength than other peoples’ brains.’ And I think that’s why he’s really an exceptional artist.
Do you think it’s the lyrics that make channel ORANGE [Ocean’s album] remarkable?
I think it’s a phenomenal album. I think it was just beautifully done. I know all the folks that were around making it, and they’re all really talented musicians. He’s got a really interesting mind and a creative sensibility, and he deserves all the accolades that everybody is giving him.
You’re also very active in politics. What do you think has been Obama’s most significant step this year, considering his moves on gay marriage, immigration policy and health care?
Well, I think health care is going to have a huge effect on the country. People don’t realize we’re the only country in the developed world that has so many people that aren’t insured…We’re the only country in the world where you can go bankrupt from getting sick. To have that insecurity built into the American system – where if you lose your job, you might lose your insurance, and if you already have a preexisting condition, you might not be able to get new insurance – that is a very uniquely American problem that we needed to solve. And for the president to solve that was huge. It means a lot for a lot of people, not just the people who don’t have insurance now, but for people who could potentially lose their job and lose their insurance. People that could get sick and run into lifetime limits on what their benefits could be, and then end up going broke because they got sick. No one should go broke because they got sick. For that to change is something that will affect every American; it was such an important thing to make happen. I’ll be excited when that is implemented in its fullness and hopefully America won’t elect the wrong people into office that will repeal it.
Well said. And last but not least, will we be hearing you on Cruel Summer in August?
(smiles)…I think so…I think so.