So far this year, John Legend has launched a Las Vegas residency, returned to his coaching role for the coming season of “The Voice” and, most importantly, announced that he and wife Chrissy Teigen are expecting another child.
But Legend, an industrious singer/songwriter/EGOT winner, has another major unveiling: his eighth release, an ambitious double album christened “Legend,” that lands Friday.
Legend, 43, corralled a marquee of talent to assist on his 24-track opus, including super-producer Ryan Tedder and guests Muni Long (“Honey”), Saweetie (“All She Wanna Do”). Rick Ross (“Rounds”) and Jazmine Sullivan (“Love”).
Although he’s been commuting Wednesdays through Fridays for his Love in Las Vegas residency, which returns Oct. 14 for shows throughout the month, Legend is chatting from his Los Angeles home.
Here’s what he told USA TODAY about the “sexy” and “spiritual” songs on “Legend” and his cautious optimism about Teigen’s pregnancy following the loss of their baby Jack in 2020.
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Question: You decided to go all out with a double album for your eighth release. How long have you been working on these songs that you were able to get 24 great ones?
Answer: We had so much time to create last year. It was an embarrassment of riches. We wrote more than 80 songs, and it was about organizing them internally, calling them “Act 1 – Saturday Night,” which was more physical and sexy, and “Act 2 – Sunday Morning,” which is more spiritual. I’d never done a double album before or had this much material, and I put a lot of time and love and thought into the sequence.
You’ve got a lot of sexy songs on here (“Strawberry Blush,” “Nervous,” “Rounds”). How influential is Chrissy when you sit down to write?
She’s very influential. It’s important for songwriters to write from experience and their own truth. But not every song is about this moment in my life; some are about experiences before, some are stories I’ve talked about with friends. It is great to be in a relationship that is inspiring and that has nuance and history and challenges. It provides you with the kind of material that helps you write honest songs that are authentic and have emotion.
Have you had any concern about being too public with Chrissy’s current pregnancy, given the past heartbreak with Jack?
I think we’re cautiously optimistic – and really mean both cautious and optimistic. But at some point, we had to let people know. If they saw her out looking pregnant, we didn’t want people to speculate and we also didn’t want to not leave the house for nine months. When she started to show, we said, let’s just tell people. It doesn’t mean things will go according to plan. We just don’t know. And that feeling is more acute when you’ve suffered a loss.
Was the song “Pieces,” with its lyrics of “let your broken heart learn to live in pieces,” a way for you to work through that loss a little?
That song really speaks to me, about dealing with pain and loss and recovering from that and finding a way to keep living. For us, it was having experienced loss with baby Jack and my grandmother and other family members (who died after contracting) COVID. But a lot of people know that feeling.
Now that you’ve got the EGOT (an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award), what else fuels you professionally? And where do you keep all of those awards?
(Laughs) I’ve won enough, so awards (don’t fuel me). They’re in my house in my piano bar – it’s my version of a man cave. I’m just focused on trying to make the best music I can make and the best art I can make. I still feel like I have to prove myself every album and if I keep that approach, it will keep me hungry.
What has been the most rewarding thing about your Las Vegas residency?
I truly love doing the show. We’ve never had the time and resources to create a show that’s as beautifully produced and so big and speaks to this moment. This is it. It feels very celebratory and nostalgic. I never toured with dancers before, so there are a lot of fun aspects to it.
Any tour plans outside of Vegas?
I definitely want to tour. We’ve been doing three of the new songs in the Vegas set since April and the jubilant reaction to songs (that fans had) never heard before gave us a sense of “this is going to work” for a live show.
What do you think you’ll do with all of the leftover songs from this album?
I’ve done a lot of songs for previous albums, but not this many. Maybe after I die they’ll release them, like Tupac (Shakur).
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