The Conversation: Singer-songwriter John Legend on dinner with Obama and Cameron and hanging out with Mumford & Sons

 

You're a vocal supporter of Barack Obama. Have you ever been invited for dinner at the White House?

I've been invited quite a few times, but not on an individual level. More for parties. I was there to celebrate the First Lady's birthday a couple of weeks ago and for the State dinner with Prime Minister Cameron. And I was there to help them celebrate the inauguration. Then occasionally I've popped by to say hello.

You'll just drop by for a cup of tea?

You know, he has a lot closer friends than me so I try not to take up any of his time outside of when they invite me there.

Did you have a natter with David Cameron while you were there?

Yes, I took a photo with him and his wife and the President and the First Lady all together with my wife. That's one to go down in the memory books. I chatted with him very briefly. I was performing as the American representative and the Mumford & Sons were there to represent the United Kingdom.

How broad are your music tastes? Do you listen to the Mumfords?

I listen to everything, always have. If I hear good things about an artist, I'll check them out no matter what genre it is. Sometimes I agree with the hype and sometimes I don't get it. But I'm always willing to try out new stuff. I try not to get caught up in the genre distinctions, I just listen to whatever feels good to me.

The new album is called Love in the Future. Interesting title...

It came from one of the songs I wrote about the optimism of beginning something new with someone. I was about to get married at the time and I felt it fit the sensibility of the album.

You began your career working with Kanye West; how much is collaborating about getting on with someone personally and how much is it about having the same ear for things?

It's easy for me to get along with just about anybody. I enjoy collaborating with people and I'm open. I'm not so precious that I won't take advice or criticism. It's really just a matter of working with people who have great taste to curate the music and push me in the right direction.

How important was the church to your musical upbringing?

I was introduced to music through the church. My father was a minister and he played the drums at church and sang in the choir; my mother directed the choir, my grandmother was the church organist, my pastor was my grandfather first, then when he retired my uncle took over. So my family are a church-going family and they love gospel. I played it throughout my childhood and teenage years.

You must have been over to the UK quite a bit. What do you do when you have a few moments to yourself?

First of all they work me very hard. I'm in interviews, performing on television and on the radio pretty much every moment that I'm here. But, you know, we go out to dinner a little bit, and to the clubs very seldomly.

But have you done all the sights? Big Ben and Buckingham Palace?

A little bit of that – I've driven past Buckingham Palace, but never been inside. I love London and the energy of the city; I love performing here.

Maybe you could drop in and say hello to David Cameron...

Hahahaha. Maybe

Biography

Growing up in Ohio, John Legend, now 35, played piano and sung in the church choir. In 2001, he began to work closely with the hip-hop artist, Kanye West. Three years later, his debut album, ‘Get Lifted’, met with international praise. His new album, ‘Love in the Future’, and single, ‘All of Me’, are both out now. He is married to the model, Chrissy Teigen

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