The Joy of the Solo Album

John Legend, is an American soul singer, songwriter, and pianist. He has won six Grammy Awards.  Born John Stephens, Legend was a child prodigy who grew up in Ohio, where he began singing gospel and playing piano at the tender age of five. Legend left Ohio at 16 to attend college in Philadelphia, and it was there that he first found a larger audience. Not yet out of his teens, Legend was tapped to play piano on Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything" in 1998.

After completing college, he moved to New York, where he began to build a loyal following playing in nightclubs and releasing CDs that he would sell at shows. He also became an in-demand session musician, playing and occasionally writing for a wide array of artists, including Alicia Keys, Twista, Janet Jackson, and Kanye West.

It wasn't until West signed the young talent to his new label that he adopted the Legend name with 2004's Solo Sessions Vol. 1: Live at the Knitting Factory. Get Lifted, his first studio album, was released later in the year. On the strength of enduring single "Ordinary People," the album reached the Top Five of the Billboard 200. This led to three Grammy Awards: Best R&B Album, Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist. Once Again, which peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and number one on the R&B/hip-hop Albums chart, followed in October 2006. Live from Philadelphia, sold exclusively at Target stores, was a successful stopgap release that predated October 2008's Evolver.

  • Transcript


John Legend:  Well it’s funny because I was making my own album [Get Lifted] during the time when I was working with everyone else as well anyway, and I just didn’t have a record deal. I didn’t have the outlet yet for the music to be released on a global scale. And so I was creating all this music kind of underground, behind the scenes.

But I was also lending my voice, and my writing talents, and my piano playing talents to more high profile releases at the same time. The high profile stuff got more attention, but the bulk of my time was still being spent on my own project.

And so to me, I was always looking at myself as a solo artist. Other people were looking at me as kind of a contributing artist at the time, but eventually my solo career took off and I got to be recognized for what I really was doing in the first place – which was making my own music, and performing it, and recording it, and for my own name and not for someone else.

Recorded on: Jan 29, 2008