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September 10, 2013

Q&A: John Legend on music, wedding, Kanye, Syria

LOS ANGELES — John Legend has one more thing to do before launching his fall tour: get married.

The 34-year-old R&B singer is engaged to 27-year-old model Chrissy Teigen, the subject of most of the romantic songs that make up his new album, “Love in the Future,” released last week. The wedding will be some time before he kicks off his tour Oct. 20 in Mashantucket, Conn., and marks a turning point for the piano-playing crooner, who since 2004’s “Get Lifted” has been crafting songs about hook-ups, cheating and heartbreak as well as long-term commitment.

Appropriately, the nine-time Grammy winner’s latest takes an overall more optimistic perspective on affairs of the heart, so much so that he says he’s already considering how married life will affect his writing: “My fans probably don’t want to listen to everything being awesome all the time.”

Legend reconnected with longtime collaborator Kanye West for his fourth solo album, which includes hip-hop drum patterns and moments of humor the singer credits to West. “I finally got to take the night off, so we can make some little tax write-offs,” he sings in “Caught Up.”

Legend recently sat down with The Associated Press to talk about fame, stability, wedding plans and international policy.

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AP: Your fiancee is very witty on Twitter, and you slide some jokes into many of your songs. How important is humor to you?

Legend: Chrissy is hilarious and I’m a big comedy fan. We go to comedy clubs ... I wish I was funnier myself ... I surround myself with people who are different from me. Obviously, people always ask me, ‘How are you and Chrissy together?” And then people also ask me, ‘How are you and Kanye working together for so many years because you’re so different?’ But I think I gravitate toward people that are a little more outrageous than I am. And we complement each other well.

AP: Do you want Kanye-level fame?

Legend: I want Kanye-level success. I don’t think I’m craving any more fame. But success and being recognized for making great work all around the world, I think it’s a great thing. And I’m already not far from there. But Kanye has been a really singular artist that’s made a unique contribution to pop culture, and I respect that and I wouldn’t mind being known for that as well.

AP: What’s your vision for your wedding? What do you want from it?

Legend: I’m excited to get married, but I look at it as just a fun party where I want my friends to have a great time. ... I guess we should look good, too, so the pictures come out nice. But other than that, I feel like it’s no pressure.

AP: Are you going to sing?

Legend: We’ve got a DJ and most of the night, it’ll be a DJ. But we do have a piano set up at dinner. So I’ll probably sing a song or two. And who knows who else will jump on the piano?

AP: Some songwriters make their best music when they’re not in a stable relationship. It can also go the other way. Is that something you’ve thought about?

Legend: I’ve written some of my better songs about the ups and downs of relationships. ... I’ve thought about, you know, what am I going to do two years from now? ... But I imagine that we’ll have some ups and downs too, so I’ll tell those stories, too.

AP: You’re a supporter of President Barack Obama, but covered several anti-war songs from the 1960s and 1970s on the 2010 album you created with The Roots called “Wake Up!” Are you worried about U.S. military intervention in Syria?

Legend: I am not anti-war in general. I am just anti-wars that I think are not a good idea. I didn’t think the Iraq war was a good idea. ... I do understand the impulse to want to punish countries for using chemical weapons. I do understand the humanitarian impulse when you see 100,000 people getting slaughtered ... but we have to be very cautious about getting into another long conflict in the Middle East. ... We know that al-Qaida’s infiltrated the rebel forces in Syria. We know that either way, no matter who wins, there are significant groups within each side that might not be pro-America. So I think it’s a very difficult decision to involve ourselves militarily in Syria.

AP: After doing “Wake Up,” do you wish there was more political pop music today?

Legend: Looking at the radio right now, you just hear nothing that’s the least bit socially conscious or aware, and I think artists are doing that because they don’t feel like the fans want to hear it. So what we have to ask ourselves (is), ‘Why don’t the fans want to hear it?’ ... It’s not like there’s nothing going on. We had the war in Iraq, which you could parallel to the war in Vietnam. Perhaps the biggest difference is there’s no draft — because when there was a draft, everyone felt the war.

———

Online:

http://www.johnlegend.com

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