Feeling the Love: John Legend comes to Philly this week

Joe Pugliese

With a new tour in full swing and many projects on the horizon, John Legend is certainly one busy man. His latest album ‘Bigger Love’ was penned in 2019 and released at the height of the pandemic in 2020, and now, after a year and a half of no live shows, the artist is finally getting to share some of his latest music with fans on stage.

For his Philly tour-stop (Oct. 13 at The Met Philadelphia), the smooth-styled singer will be pulling out all the stops with singles from his ‘Bigger Love’ album and even some re-mixes of old favorites—but that’s just the start of what this tour and venture means for him.

Legend sat down with Metro to talk about his inspirations, what he’s looking forward to on his tour and what’s next for his career.

Joe Pugliese

Where did the inspiration come from for your latest album, ‘Bigger Love’? 

I wrote most of it in 2019, so quite a lot has been happening in the world and in my personal life since then. But, in every album, I’m writing where I am in that moment and I’m writing based on my own experiences with my family, with my wife and kids, my friends and extended family. But, I’m also looking at what’s happening in the world and being inspired by that. Also, musically, I’m always looking for inspiration. I think whenever I’m writing songs I’m also just inspired by the music that I love and I think you hear my influences throughout this album and you’ll see it on stage.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole—those are some of my biggest.

From this album, are there any songs in particular that you’re excited to perform live or are excited for people to hear?

We’ve been doing the show now since the beginning of September, and I’ve definitely got some favorites that I love doing live. ‘One Life,’ I really love. I wrote that one with Anderson Paak and I just had a good feeling that it would be a lot of fun to perform it live—and it really is. It’s a good song to jam to and to groove to and I love doing that one live. I love doing ‘Wild’ live too, and there are also some songs that we have remixed from the older albums as well like P.D.A  from ‘Once Again’ and various others that we’ve done cool new versions of.

During that period where live performances weren’t happening, what did you miss the most? And after we came back, was performing live different at all?

Well, it made me appreciate the live experience even more. I’ve always loved it, but I think with not being able to do shows for so long—and especially with a new album out—not being able to perform it live for so long truly made you miss it. It makes you appreciate taking that music that you’ve written and recorded and letting it live and breathe with an audience. I missed that feeling, it’s a lot of fun to do that. But, there’s always a downside to touring which is you have to be away from your family. My kids are in school now so they have to stay in LA the whole time and I don’t get to see them as much… this is the first tour that they’ve been of age to even notice me being on tour. The last time was the ‘Legendary’ Christmas Album in 2018 and they were too young to even notice or care and they didn’t have to go to school so they could be with me on a lot of the days as well. They definitely don’t love it with me being gone as much and I certainly miss them.

Speaking of being busy, you also are producing the ‘Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations’ musical on Broadway. What can you tell me about that? 

Yes, we’re coming back to Broadway on Oct. 16 with ‘Aint Too Proud’. I grew up a huge fan of the Temptations’ music and that whole Motown sound. My dad and his brothers and sisters, that was exactly the music of their youth. My dad indoctrinated us with those classic Motown songs and so I’ve been loving that music since I was a kid. Their story is quite interesting and this musical has been in development for a while, it’s been on the road and it’s finally coming to Broadway Oct 16, we’re really excited to produce it.

If you could go back in time and record a song with someone from that era, who would you choose?

Well, I’ve done some really cool Marvin Gaye tribute concerts, [one of which was at the] Hollywood Bowl here in LA and both of those were just beautiful. I did both of those with the Dap-Kings as my backing band and in the first half of the show we did duets with Sharon [Jones] when she was alive…it was just a beautiful experience and I love doing that. I would do that again in a heartbeat. We did a whole ‘What’s Going On’ album from front to back, and that was pretty incredible.

What else is in the works for you?

We’re going to be going back to ‘The Voice,’ those shows are airing now, but they’re pre-taped from the summer and then we’ll go live with that in November. My production company also has all kinds of fun things in the cooker: TV projects, film projects and Broadway as you know. Just so many exciting things going on with that. Chrissy and I have some wonderful business ideas that we’re working on together too, [so] there will be lots of exciting things to announce for the future. But truly, my main focus is music— [some] new, which I’ve been writing all year. I have a bunch of songs ready for my new album which I’ll finish up when I get off the tour, and then of course, this tour as it’s happening right now. I am totally having a great time on the road and enjoying being out there performing these songs.

What can audiences expect for your show at the Met?

Well, what I love about this show is that we’ve all been away from each other for so long. I’ve been talking to so many people that have been coming to shows and this is their first show since the pandemic, so I know that people have been excited to get out and see a show. We want to make this show a party, we want people to celebrate, we want them to feel connected to the music and to each other. So, it’s really a celebratory night and we’re going to have a good time. [But] that’s exactly it—I think people will feel more connected when they leave the show. I think it’s inspiring and it’s a celebration of love and human connection and I think people will feel that. There are some differences though: We encourage everyone to get vaccinated and particularly for the indoor shows, even if you’re vaccinated, I recommend wearing a mask. I know when I went to see Usher before my tour, it was an indoor show in Las Vegas and I felt safer wearing a mask in that atmosphere—and I still had a great time. I think for an indoor show, it would be smart to be vaccinated and when you come to wear a mask.

What does this tour mean for you personally?

It’s really wonderful, honestly. I love it and it’s very inspiring and uplifting when I feel that energy from the audience and a connection with them…I certainly missed that feeling.

Catch John Legend at The Met Philadelphia (858 N Broad St.) on Oct. 13. Tickets are available at johnlegend.com or themetphilly.com

 

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