Few people can be higher than R&B newcomer John Legend is right now. With his debut album, Get Lifted, near the top of the albums chart, Legend’s feet are barely touching the pavement.
“I’m amazed,” Legend said of the album’s success. “I knew it would do well, but I thought it would be over time with word-of-mouth and not right out of the gate.”
The singer/songwriter aims to stay on track with his second single, “Ordinary People.” The sparse song, co-written by Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas, features only Legend’s voice and piano.
“Hip-hop stations that are playing Lil Jon all day are also playing my song,” Legend marveled. “I really appreciate the fans, because that song was built by fans requesting it. People seem to really relate to the lyrics and are often dedicating it to their significant others.”
For the single’s forthcoming video, Legend says mentor/video director Kanye West (see “Kanye’s Hook Singer, John Legend, Ready For The Spotlight” ) wanted to keep things simple.
“I’m in an all-white room sitting at a black piano in everyman, ordinary clothes playing the piano,” Legend explained. “It’s simple, but beautifully and complexly shot. Actors play out family scenes to show conflict and the ups and downs of relationships as I sing. Overall, it’s visually arresting.”
While Kanye has co-directed several of his own clips, “Ordinary People” marks the first time he’s directed a video for another artist.
“He did a phenomenal job,” said Legend. “He and [fellow video director] Chris Milk came up with the concept. I let them do their thing. As an artist, my job is to be myself and perform.”
Fans will soon be able to see Legend sing “Ordinary People” live when he hits the road with Alicia Keys for her Diary Tour in late February (see “Alicia Keys Tour Announced” ).
“My label and everyone were keeping their eyes open for tours that made sense for me,” Legend said. “When we heard Alicia Keys was going on tour it almost made too much sense. I have been very lucky to be on some great tours with Kanye, Usher and now Alicia. I’m just putting forth the effort to show more and more people who I am.”
In the midst of promoting Get Lifted and preparing for the tour, Legend has also gotten the opportunity to do a little film and TV work. The singer recently portrayed a young Stevie Wonder on NBC’s “American Dreams.”
“It was interesting,” Legend said of playing the music icon. “I had to do some acting in trying to impersonate him. It was an honor to do. Any time you get to cover a Stevie Wonder song it’s an honor. He was a young man when he recorded the song and sang much higher than I sing now, so that was a challenge. I just hope I did him justice.”
The Stevie Wonder connection continues with Legend covering Wonder’s classic “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing” for the soundtrack to the Will Smith film “Hitch.”
“People keep asking me to cover Stevie Wonder — I am going to have to ask them to slow down,” Legend said with a laugh.
With a full calendar, Legend still doesn’t seem satisfied. He said he’s already planning his next set.
“I hope to release an album early next year,” he said. “I have already started writing a few songs.”