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Interview:
Real-life love fueled new John Legend album
 

By GARY GRAFF
@GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK



If John Legend had love on his mind during the making of his latest album, he had a good reason.

As the R&B singer was recording "Love in the Future," which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in September, he was also planning his nuptials to model Chrissy Teigan. The two married on Sept. 4 in Como, Italy, and it's not surprising that any of the songs on the album would have been suitable for the ceremony.

"You can definitely hear a sense of optimism and romance," acknowledges Legend, 34, who was born John Stephens in Springifled, Ohio. "I was obviously about to get married, so that tone was appropriate for my life circumstances right now."

But, Legend adds, he doesn't feel "Love in the Future" evolved much differently than its four predecessors, which have earned him nine Grammy Awards and three Soul Train Music Awards.

"When you start an album, you never really -- at least I don't -- start with a concept as far as 'These are the lyrical things I'm going to explore' and this and that," says Legend, who sang for Kanye West, Jay Z, Alicia Keys, Detroit's Slum Village and others before launching his own career with 2004's double-platinum "Get Lifted." "I usually start writing and see where my head is and where my creativity takes me, and after awhile you develop a body of work and you start to figure out what part of that body of work feels like the core of it and feels like the kind of direction you want to go in, and then you build around it."

For Legend, "Love in the Future" began with the track "Caught Up," which he co-wrote with West, who also co-produced along with Hit Boy. " 'Caught Up' was a good first song becuse it felt really soulful, but it had something about it that made it feel fresh at the same time," he explains. "I love the psace in the track and just the feeling that space as an important musical direction for the whole album, I think."

And Legend credits his primary pop music mentor with that approach.

"I think Kanye is really good at that," Legend says. "When he makes records as a producer, one of the thigns he always tells me is don't have any sound in there you just want as background noise. Every sound in there should be for, like, a real reasona nd because you actually want to hear the sound. And if you thik of it that way then you don't clutter it up with other sounds that are just background noise.

"So you just have to be a good editor. You ahve to say, "I don't need this sound. I don't need that sound.' If you leave that as a goal, that part of what makes (the song) great is that we are tasteful about what we include and what we take out. If you go into it with that mentality, they'll be good songs."

Also making an impact on the album were The Roots, who Legend worked with on the dazzling, socially conscious 2010 collaboration "Wake Up!," another critically acclaimed Top 10 set. "I think my singing style started to evolve with 'Wake Up!'," he says. "I just felt like I'm more in control of my voice and understanding how to use its power most effectively. I think that had an impact on this record and it started with 'Wake Up!' "

A new album has, of course, brought the newlywed -- who's also served as a judge on ABC's "Duets" -- out on the road. But with nearly a decade's worth of material in hand, Legend promises that his Made to Love Tour 2013 will share more than just "Love..." to share from the stage.

We're going to do a good bit of the album," he says. "We always have to do some of the older cuts as well, all the hits from the previous albums, but we definitely want to work in a lot of new songs 'cause we've been touring on the old songs for awhile. We did the Sade tour, we did some shows with the Roots. We did the Evolver Tour back in '08, '09, so I'm excited to tour with new music.

"We're going to try to musically and visually present a show that really fits wtih the sound of the album as well as the art of the album -- very clean, a touch of color and romance with a lot of, like, classic, clean black and whites and stuff. The show has a real vibe to it."

John Legend and Tamar Braxton perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $30.50-$90. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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