Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award winner John Legend has been keeping busy during the pandemic.
He's made appearances at virtual fundraisers, including one for presidential candidate Joe Biden. He has continued to serve as a coach alongside Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas and Blake Shelton on the latest season of NBC’s “The Voice.” And in June, he released a new 16-track album called “Bigger Love.”
Legend says he didn’t plan to put out his seventh studio album during a global pandemic, but the songs, which were written between 2019 and early 2020, resonated with what was needed in the current moment.
“We had made an album that was full of love and joy and human connection,” he says, “and we felt like it was the right music for the people right now.”
Woven through his lyrics, Legend balances singing about personal moments from his life — such as his six-year marriage to model Chrissy Teigen — with universal concepts he says anyone can relate to. Take “Conversations in the Dark” for example, a recording he says is about intimate moments and conversations within a relationship.
While “quite a bit” of “Bigger Love” is inspired by Teigen, he says some of the songs reflect other life experiences.
“I think it's important for artists to write from their own experience,” he says. “It helps you write authentically and write in a way that really cuts through.”
He and Teigen, along with their two children, 4-year-old Luna and 2-year-old Miles, have “made the most” out of quarantining during the pandemic, he says, noting the high-profile family is “fortunate” to have the resources to keep them entertained.
His silver lining of staying at home is getting to spend countless hours of quality time with his kids.
“I would have never been able to spend this much time with my kids — I think pretty much ever — if this pandemic hadn't happened,” he says.
Singing and dance parties between mom, dad and the kids have become common occurrences in their household during the pandemic, he says. Although it’s too soon to tell if they’ll follow in Legend’s musical footsteps, he says they both love music.
As a parent, he says he wants “to give them as much freedom as possible to explore and figure out what they really love.” And once they do find that inner spark, he says he’ll remind them that there are no shortcuts to success.
“They have to spend some time on it, work hard. And the best people at any profession usually have some innate talent, but they spend a lot of time cultivating it as well,” he says.
When Legend wanted to team up with a Jamaican artist on “Don’t Walk Away,” reggae singer Mikayla Simpson — known as Koffee — was tapped to collaborate. He says he heard her music and knew she was the “perfect person” for the song.
At only 20 years old, Koffee already has a Grammy win under her belt.
“She's the first female artist to ever win Best Reggae Album. She's also the youngest artist ever to win Best Reggae Album,” he says. “So she's truly a young phenom.”
He says he feels fortunate to have Koffee’s presence on the “Bigger Love” album because she “means a lot in the world of folks that listen to Caribbean music.”
Legend is also known for his outspoken political activism. He endorsed presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 election but has since pivoted to helping presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden fundraise.
He says after three and a half years of the Trump administration’s “chaos,” “division” and “bigotry,” he hopes that “America makes the right decision” in November.
And for those who may not have supported Biden in the primaries, Legend says the country can’t afford those who choose not to show up and vote because Biden wasn’t their first-choice candidate.
“I really believe we don't have the luxury of being that picky,” he says.
As for Legend, he says he doesn’t have his sight set on becoming a politician, now or in the future.
“I do not want to run for office,” he says. “I use my position and my platform to try to be a part of the conversation in a major way — and I'll continue to do that.”
This segment aired on August 3, 2020.