He’s one of the USA’s best soul singers, and for the first time in far too long, John Legend is coming back to Australia. Since releasing the classic ‘Ordinary People’ ten years ago, Legend has balanced classic soul songwriting with contemporary production. On his new record, Love In The Future, Legend has shown a newfound musical bravery, collaborating with Kimbra and Rick Ross, and bring on Kanye West as an executive producer. Now, he’s bringing that record down under, opening for Alicia Keys on her massive Set The World On Fire Tour. Glam Adelaide was able to chat to him before he comes down here in December.
When you went in to record your new record, Love In The Future, what did you set out to do?
Y’know, I had been looking at what was happening in modern music, and soul music has been pretty marginalised. I wanted to make an affirmative statement that soul music was still alive right now and that we could make something that was fresh, and relevant, and soulful.
Who were your influences when making the record?
My idols haven’t changed, I still listen to the same people I grew up listening to, like the legendary Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole. I listen to new stuff as well but I think my biggest inspirations are still older stuff.
There are a few collaborators on your record; who do you think was your favourite person to work with on that album?
Well, Kanye was great. He added so much creatively to the album, and he had the most impact on the album outside of myself. Dave Tozer was a co-executive producer of the album as well, and he had a lot of impact on the album. Both of them are very creative people who added a lot to the album.
One collaborator I wanted to ask you about was our ‘honorary’ Australian – Kimbra was on your song ‘Made To Love’. What was it like working with her?
I love Kimbra, she’s such a talented artist. So full of music, full of life and full of energy. I’m so happy she was able to be on that album. I’d worked with her already on her project and wrote a song with her that will hopefully be on her next album. So I got her to come in and see if she wanted to put some vocals on this song, ‘Made To Love’, and it made a real difference to the record.
Who would be your dream collaborator?
I don’t know, I don’t have any dreams of collaborating with anyone at this point. I’ve played with everybody, pretty much; now it’s just a matter of the right time, right circumstances, right song. I used to say “I wanted to work with this person or that person” but now, whatever happens, happens. I’m just excited to be a musician and make music.
You’ve also got a name for yourself doing a lot of charity work, what’s been happening on that front lately?
Well we continue to raise a lot of money to support schools, support teachers, support students who want to get a better education. We do that work here in America in some of our poorest communities but also in some of the poorest communities around the world: building schools, giving scholarships and doing whatever we can to support some of the most impoverished communities.
Let’s move onto the tour that you’re down here for very soon. What can we expect from your live show when you play with Alicia Keys?
Since I’m opening for Alicia I’m only doing an hour, so it’ll be a pretty energetic, fast paced set to get people excited and warmed up for Alicia. We’re gonna have a fun time.
Think you two might come up with a song or two together while you’re down here?
You know, I hope so. We’ll work something out. But like I say, we’re friends, we’ve collaborated before; it’s just a matter of us getting in the same room and coming up with an idea to do together.
What’s your experience like in Australia? Have we treated you well?
Absolutely! I haven’t been there enough, I need to come more often. But I’ve been there three or four times now and I’m looking forward to coming back. Part of the reason we did this tour with Alicia is because we want to build our fan base there even stronger, because we haven’t toured there that much; hopefully we’ll be back very soon after this.
John Legend will open for Alicia Keys on her Set The World On Fire tour, playing the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on December 9. Tickets available through Ticketek. John Legend’s new album Love In The Future is out now.