I am a singer, songwriter, producer and activist.
I’m currently touring Europe. Not a bad way to spend the summer. Read about my work at http://johnlegend.com, http://letsfreeamerica.org, http://lrng.org and http://showmecampaign.org. I’m also working with Stella Artois to celebrate the art of hosting. My wife and I love to throw parties and cook for our friends. I make a mean fried chicken and you can check out the recipe on HostBeautifully.com.
I’ll be answering questions starting at 12 noon EDT.
I just finished reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, a book all about how artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, musicians, and others work. I absolutely loved it and wished it had included even more people. What is your routine? Do you have any daily rituals? What do you do when you first get up in the morning?
I have a certain routine for life on tour and a certain routine for life at home when I’m working on my next album. On tour, I’m focused on resting my voice and staying physically prepared to give a great show every night. I don’t talk much during the day. I don’t drink alcohol on tour. I drink lots of water. I work out in the morning. I make sure I take a nap before the show…. When I’m writing the album, I like to schedule writing sessions rather than just hope inspiration randomly comes to me. I like to schedule my creativity so that I’m more proactive about searching for inspiration. It makes me more productive and prolific. Every song won’t be great, but I create 50-80 songs every album, in the hopes that a significant portion will be great.
On your first album, you had a couple of songs that more or less justified cheating (off the top of my head, “She Don’t Have to Know” and “Number One”). Have those songs ever come back to bite you in the ass?? And how do you reconcile those tracks with the rest of your discography, which often focuses on romance or altruism?
Well not exactly. But suffice to say I’m not writing She Don’t Have to Know right now if I want to sleep in my bed, haha. Every album is a snapshot of who you are at the time. As I have grown and my life circumstances and outlook have changed, so have my lyrics.
What inspired you to take up music as a career?
I grew up in a family that loved music. I was surrounded by music in church and at home, and I loved it from a very young age. I started taking piano lessons at 4. I started singing in the church choir and school musicals at 6 or 7. As a kid, when I would watch Star Search and the Grammys, I would envision myself on those stages winning awards. I always wanted to be here.
How much weight have you gained from Chrissy’s cooking? Be honest!
I’m back to normal now. She’s done testing her recipes and has moved on to the writing / photography phase of the book. I gained about 5 pounds during the recipe testing phase. And it was delicious!
How do you and Chrissy stay so fit while she cooks all that delicious food?
We both workout most mornings, which helps some. But we actually eat pretty moderately most of the time. Chrissy’s instagram looks so decadent and fattening, but we know we can’t go crazy every day. Most days, we eat low-sugar/low-carb diets and try to keep our portion size to a reasonable level.
How many Ohio State football games do you attend each year?
I don’t like going to live football games. I LOVE watching on TV. It’s a much better experience. I’ll sound like a brat right now, but when I was in a box seat at the Super Bowl, I would have been much happier watching at home on my flat screen so I could see all the angles and hear the commentary.
How does Chrissy react when you first sing your songs to her? Does she get all emotional or is she just like “Meh”?
It depends on the song! When she loves it, she can get emotional. When she doesn’t love it, she’s not afraid to be real with me.
Would you ever accept money to sing at a strangers wedding? If so how much. And how was it working with Mstrkrft?
Yes, I do weddings for strangers occasionally. You’ll have to call WME for pricing. 🙂
I loved working with MSTRKRFT! I love that song!
Out of all the artists you worked with, who’s your favorite and why? Any secrets you can spill?
Of all the artists I’ve worked with, Kanye has been the most influential and important one. We’ve worked together since 2002 and he’s helped my career in so many ways.
How much preparation did your appearance on Lip Sync Battles take?
I hung around backstage for the taping of a few episodes so I understood the format pretty well. It took me a while to decide which songs I wanted to do, but I definitely wanted it to be something out of character and unexpected. Once I picked the songs, we rehearsed the day of the show for a couple hours and that was about it. I had so much fun performing on the show. And I still think I was robbed!
Typically when someone like gibson or fender endorse a musician, the musician can get a signature guitar made — what options did stella artois offer in that department?
Stella Artois will give me all the beer I need. 🙂
How well can you speak Thai given how close you are with Chrissy and her mom?
I know how to say hello and thank you. That’s all for now! Chrissy and her mother don’t speak Thai at the house, but Pepper does speak it when we go to ThaiTown in LA
Which of your songs are most meaningful to you, and which are your favorite to perform?
All of Me is the answer to both, I guess. But it’s hard to choose.
Which is your favorite country to perform?
I love playing all over the world. But I would say South Africa has consistently been my favorite country over the years. The energy and love that I feel there is just on another level.
I saw you live in Pittsburgh on Father’s Day last year. During “All of Me” someone proposed during your show (she said yes). Does that happen often?
All the time! Especially since All of Me.
What do you think of the film “I Am Legend?” Did you think Will Smith’s portrayal of you was accurate?
Haha, I loved that movie! And the title!
What is your favorite dish that Chrissy prepares for you and how often do you two eat in towels? I assume you’re both just messy eaters…
Chrissy’s prosciutto wrapped boursin-stuffed chicken is amazing. Her veal osso buco is amazing. So many great dishes. I’m so excited for y’all to get the cookbook. I’m a messier eater than Chrissy. But we both live a lot of our home life in towels or robes.
What would you say is the first song you ever wrote for Chrissy? And what inspired it?
“Good Morning.” morning sex inspired it.
What’s up John? What is your favorite Kanye West song?
So many favorites. He’s one of my favorite artists of all time. “Flashing Lights” is one of my favorites, but there are many more.
When you say “I don’t wanna brag,” are you bragging and trying to deny it? By the way, I saw you perform in Vegas recently and you were amazing!
What is your favorite part of performing live?
I love feeling the energy of the crowd. I love when things come to a crescendo and you feel the emotion and the power of the music. It can be very inspiring
Do you ever listen to your own music while having sex?
No. I rarely listen to my own music at all once an album is done. I listen to it extensively as we’re in the song selection / editing / mixing phase, but, once it’s done, it’s done.
What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
I love chocolate peanut butter in just about any dessert or candy, esp ice cream! I love talenti coconut ice cream so much too.
Who is your favorite singer?
My favorites and biggest influences: Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Jeff Buckley, Nat King Cole
Which do you prefer: Singing or playing piano?
I prefer singing and songwriting about equally (with maybe a slight edge to singing), then playing the piano.
Was it hard to rise above other musicians from large cities who could have more connections in the industry?
I think you eventually have to move to or spend a lot of time in large cities with a significant music industry presence if you want to meet and collaborate with the right people to advance your career. I lived in Springfield for the first 16 years of my life, then went to school in Philadelphia for 4 years. Philadelphia was a great place to meet other musicians, especially during the late 90’s when so much was happening there in soul/neo-soul/hip hop at the time. I lived in New York starting in 2000 and, of course, there was a vibrant music community there, in addition to a lot of record label execs being headquartered there. That was important for me as I was trying to get my music heard
How do you feel about Gay marriage being allowed?
I am so happy that the US has marriage equality now! Marriage isn’t for everyone, but I love being married, and I can’t imagine a law existing that told me I couldn’t marry the person I love. For too long, LGBTQ members of our society have been told they were second-class citizens. They deserve full citizenship and all the rights that come with it.
How do you stay inspired to constantly create amazing work?
I LOVE music. I LOVE writing music. I love the challenge of creating something new and special. There’s still so much I want to do and accomplish. It’s not hard to stay motivated and inspired.
I loved All of Me. The video was especially moving, particularly as a survivor. Seeing the beautiful woman with the mastectomy scars was both heartbreaking as a reminder of my own scars and extraordinarily liberating. What was the inspiration behind the video?
You’re talking about the “You & I” video. Thanks so much. When we shot the video, we wanted to examine the idea of what people see when they look in the mirror. We wanted to show all types of beauty and speak to the idea that each of them is special and beautiful.
What’s your biggest passion that the public doesn’t know about?
I love Google Maps haha
How do you rearrange your music for your lives? I love how they were presented so differently to their original songs.
The All of Me Tour was special in that we stripped down a lot of the arrangements. Every tour, we try to re-approach the songs to keep things interesting. We don’t want them to be un-recognizable from the album version, but I do believe that live versions should be special and fresh.
What do you love most about Chrissy? And is it not super fun to live with her?
Chrissy has a big, open heart. She is hilarious and witty. She is beautiful inside and out. And, yes she can cook!
What’s your favorite line from any song you’ve written? Here’s my favorite lyric from you. I love it so much, I got it tattoed on me. http://imgur.com/Rq9qITa
I don’t know if I have a favorite line. Some of my favorite songs lyrically are “Again” / “Another Again” and “Maxine”. Those are all from Once Again. Maybe I was in a great place lyrically then?
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in life?
The biggest moment in my career was the performance / acceptance speech at the Oscars. It’ll be hard to top that.
Do you believe any of your songs from your Wake Up! collaboration with The Roots resonate to this day, especially with the social issues the U.S. is facing? If so, which song do you think resonates the loudest?
That entire album is so relevant right now. Given all the news around police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, I wish we were putting the Wake Up album out right now! I’m so proud of the album and I highly recommend people go back and listen to it.
Why do you think All of Me is your most popular song?
I think people really connected with the lyrics of the song. They can see themselves and their own love/relationships in a song that I wrote about my own relationship.
I know you are a huge Buckeyes fan and saw you at perform at OSU as a part of Obama’s 2008 campaign. Who is your favorite OSU player of all time and why?
Cris Carter is one of my favorites. He was playing for the Buckeyes when I first started to pay attention to football as a kid. He always made amazing catches, had a Hall of Fame NFL career, and is a great commentator on TV.
I also love your activism… Who or what would you say shaped you most in your beliefs, and what causes are most important to you and why? I have seen you speak out on so many things that are important to so many of us, so I’m wondering what drives that in you!
I grew up reading about Dr King. I read several biographies of him and histories of the civil rights movement as a kid. That always inspired me and made me believe that part of living a meaningful life was devoting at least a portion of it to helping other people and fighting for social justice. I wrote an essay for a McDonald’s Black History Makers competition when I was 15 years old. I said that I wanted to grow up to be a famous musician and use my platform to lift up my community. Everyday, I try to think about what I can do to make the world better. It requires you to see the world through the eyes of other people, to read, to visit places that might make you uncomfortable. With our #FREEAMERICA campaign, I’ve not only visited state legislatures to influence how they vote, but I’ve visited prisons to talk to the inmates as well. The more I see and read about, the more passionate I am about trying to help bring about change.
Did you ever think you would make it this far as a artist? Any doubts when growing up? What kept you committed?
I did believe I could make it this far. I went through life thinking that this was all a real possibility. But you never know. And i truly didn’t know much about how the business really worked when I was a kid. I just thought I could sing and would eventually get discovered. But, of course, there’s so much more to being an artist than being a good singer. Over the years, I had to continue to develop my sound and my songwriting and continue to hone my craft as a vocalist.
Why did you want to do a song for the Selma soundtrack?
My friend Common called me and asked me to collaborate with him on a song for Selma. I had heard about the film being made and was excited that Hollywood was finally doing a feature film about Dr King. I was honored and thrilled to contribute in any way that I could.
Taylor Swift recently took her album 1989 off from Spotify. Are you with her, and do you think artists should get paid more on streaming networks such as Spotify?
I think the big issue for artists is making sure there’s transparency in our deals with the record labels who make deals with the streaming services. There needs to be clear accounting of what the streaming services are paying the labels and how much each artist should get from that, based on how much their songs are streamed.
So, we’ve seen you croon Chrissy with ‘All Of Me’, but what is your love song selection for Puddy?
“Oh I like farts” from Family Guy, as sung by New Brian.
What was it like doing the video to “all of me” with your wife, Chrissy? I really think it’s a great touch to the song and personalises it in that way.
We had a great time doing it. We love Lake Como. We got married there the same week. It was a magical time. I’m glad we captured it on video.
Have you ever thought about doing a show in south america? How about Lollapalooza Argentina next year?
I would love to play in South America more! I’ll be at Rock in Rio in September. I can’t wait!
If you had to put yourself in the BCG matrix, would you be a cash cow?
Man, I forget the other quadrants of the matrix, but cash cow sounds about right at the moment.