A phenomenally successful singer-songwriter and social justice campaigner, or a preachy virtue-signaller? Ryan Bradley meets John Legend
John Legend springs up from his mahogany grand piano in the high-ceilinged, light-drenched living room of his Hollywood home and greets me with a grin, a hello, and one of those very smooth handshakes that seamlessly morph into an extremely brief hug. My palms are sweaty and my face is flushed. Until a moment ago, I’d been running up the road that leads to Legend’s hilltop house, late because of the traffic. And now I’m sweatily, awkwardly apologising to John Legend in his beautiful living room as he gestures towards another room where there’s a long table by the window that overlooks the morning haze and the distant ridges of the Santa Monica mountains.
“Let’s just zen out in this zen dining room,” John Legend says, before looking around the room as if for the first time, running his hands over the dark-wood table, leaning back in his chair, lifting his head. He inhales, exhales, beams. And then he laughs – a long, deep, rich baritone. The laugh alone is like a song. And the traffic? What traffic? We are in Legend-land. Troubles are distant memories.