Yesterday morning, while a mixture of rain and sleet sort-of pissed all over the streets of Manhattan, John Legend performed at the edge of Citi’s pop-up skating rink in Bryant Park, a precipitation-free winter wonderland in the middle of the city. It was the launch of JC Penney’s Holiday Giving Tour, and so he dutifully took pictures with LaLa Vasquez and Nina Garcia, the three smiling in front of a wall plastered with logos.
In a hallway cramped with managers, assistants, the aforementioned celebrities, people dressed as elves and publicists on walkie-talkies, Legend talked with Rolling Stone about his future plans – and, he was happy to note, none of them involve accidentally killing himself with a kitchen knife.
You just sold a sitcom to Fox a month or so ago, and – while not much is known about it yet – I imagine it to be something where you and Kanye live in an apartment together, and one’s clean and one’s messy, and how could two guys who are so different get along? Am I close?
No! [laughs] No, no, no. It’s something we should consider. You know, it’s funny, because in the press they said it was based around my life… It’s if you took the most liberties with my life. It’s loosely, very loosely based on my life; it’s not even really about me. It’s about kids growing up in a kind of unconventional parenting situation and trying to make the best of it.
What TV comedies do you watch or are you drawing inspiration from?
Oh, I’m not writing the show, so I don’t have to be that inspired by them, but Parks and Recreation is one of my favorites. I love Louie, Girls…I used to love The Office…
Liz and Dick?
Well, that was a comedy as well! [laughs]
Speaking of TV comedies, this week you were just at the Soul Train Awards, where you performed. And then you won, and you were nowhere to be found.
There was a miscommunication, because I was done… and I performed. So I was there! I was told they were done announcing the awards that I was a part of and so I was going to the airport to catch the red-eye… I was told I was done. [laughs] That was an incorrect, uh, pronouncement by the producers. I eventually won and I wasn’t there to receive it. I was a little annoyed about that, yeah.
Would you like to make an acceptance speech right now…to, uh, just me, I guess?
Yes, I would. I’d like to thank the Academy, and…
That’s enough, I’m already playing you off in my head. All right, so you pushed back your album a little bit, after putting out the preview for “Caught Up” with Hit-Boy and Kanye. Does that song still make the final cut?
I think so! We’re going to make the final decision today, actually.
We, as in me and you?
Me and you, yes! No. Me and Kanye and my team are going to talk and put it all together today.
What’s your involvement with [G.O.O.D. Music’s album] Cruel Winter?
I have a couple of songs at least on there, and you know… we’ll see what makes the final cut for that as well, but I’m definitely involved. I wrote a few hooks for it.
You sort-of have to be involved. It’s mandatory, isn’t it?
I’m G.O.O.D. Music. I’m the original!
I’m endlessly fascinated by the stories of the G.O.O.D. Music basketball games. Who’s got surprisingly good game, and do you ever show everyone how UPenn basketball gets down?
[laughs] You know, I haven’t played with them in a couple years, at least. I haven’t even played with them since we were on tour, back when I used to tour with Kanye back in like, ’04, ’05. So, I couldn’t really attest to the skills of all of the new G.O.O.D. Music members. Kanye is very good, actually. He’s better than I think people might believe.
Pusha told me a few months ago that Kanye sprained his ankle while playing, so he screwed it up for everybody.
Yup, yup. It’s tough! We’re getting older, too, man. I’m 33! Things start to bend and break more than they should, you know?
You’re one of the more politically-savvy minds out there: you give lectures at universities, you appear on Bill Maher’s show. Have you found anyone so like-minded in the entertainment industry, or do you find that people say they know politics but really can’t hold their own?
Oh, I find some. Some musicians, some actors that really pay attention to what’s going on, and we have conversations about it.
Do you hold salons?
Oh, you know, you may see us at the Soho House [laughs] in LA or something, holding court.
You and your fiancee Chrissy [Teigen] live this fabulous but hectic jet-set life. You two were just in Paris, and you asked Eric Ripert on Twitter for recommendations for her upcoming birthday dinner. Now, you’re getting married soon. Is that going to settle your schedule down at all? Are you going to move to the suburbs and hit up Eric Ripert about like, what apps to get at Buffalo Wild Wings?
I’m a very strong Wild Wings aficionado, so I don’t need any advice from Eric on that. [laughs] We’re not moving to the suburbs any time soon. We live right here in the city, and we’re very happy to stay here.
Speaking of Chrissy, she was making fun of you on Twitter for your cooking technique, in which you use a knife by cutting toward you.
She thinks I’m going to kill myself at some point, accidentally, with the cooking knife.
Care to respond and/or defend your, uh, progressive knife-handling skills?
Hey, I’m still here. [laughs]