Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"In My Life" #1: Kings of Leon Today Show Performance/Up Close & Personal with John Legend

On this feature, I will be ranting and raving on specific events in music that happened "in my life!" Ok, let's get started...

I promised myself...I promised myself that I would not go to another one of these Today show summer concerts with the crazy fan girls, aching feet, the all-nighter, rain and being too far back to see anything, but guess where I was again...Three fridays ago, I was right back where I said I would not be. Why? Two reasons - to hang out with my friends (Katrina, Pryanca and Zara) and to see the group Kings of Leon! However, unlike the last time, this performance was not that bad...

Maybe it was because I was more enthusiastic to see Kings of Leon and my friends and I spent the night watching Kings of Leon videos. The adrenaline rush I was getting from not sleeping the entire night might have been the reason. Or maybe it was that we were one of the first in line and that we waited on line only the morning of the show and not since the night before. Just might have been that my friends, I and other fans were united in our true love of KOL and also united in our anger over those with VIP passes who just came and left as they pleased while we stuck it out in the rain. It also could have been that there were funny moments like when some us thought a guy in the window of the building looked like Caleb and we found out later that he was just a look-a-like. Even though my feet ached, it rained on and off, they sang the same three current hits repeatedly instead of singing older songs and I could barely see anything, just singing along with everybody else and all the other things I mentioned made this an experience that I am glad happened... Still, I am never doing this again!

Now, Heeeerrre's... Johnny!

Thanks to the Recording Academy (aka Grammy University), as a member, I got an exclusive invite last Wednesday to go to an interview with the talented John Legend for free! Since it was my first time there, it was a bit awkward. Picture me going into this huge, fancy building on 42nd street and waiting at the front desk while a bunch of girly girls with their dresses and make-up come in for the same event...I felt so plain jane in there. Well, when we walked in the room, it was a lot more intimate setting than I thought it would be (close enough to see the designs on his sneakers!). As we sat there waiting, I read some of the free booklets and Grammy Awards book that they gave out, and then finally the man of the hour (literally it was an hour) came out! OMG! I thought I was going to faint; he looked so much more handsome in person.

A few other things I learned about Mr. Legend, besides his handsome features, was that he is very articulate, funny, down-to-earth and genuinely talented. Here is a list of some of the other things I learned about him:

1) Growing up, John was part of a Pentecostal (like me) and he said that this denomination is known for its liveliness, creativity and spontaneity (yeah, that's right). Also, in poor black communities, the church is the only place where a person can really learn music, since music programs are taken out of school and music lessons are too expensive. He said that is why many artists came from the church.

2) While at the University of Pennsylvania, he was part of a cappella groups and often went downtown to go to shows featuring The Roots, Jill Scott and Bilal (some of my favorite artists). Also, he went to Black Lily in Philadelphia, which is a festival with mostly female neo-soul artists. One day I will attend; it seems like my kind of scene.

3) Before John Legend started appreciating legendary R&B and Soul singers, like Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, he liked the New Jack Swing Movement in R&B, which included artists like Jodeci, SWV, and Boyz2Men (I love these artists, too).

4) Legend also described how he writes a song using the song "Again" off of his second album: he starts off with the music and then he lets the lyrics build from the music. John usually writes the bridge last and says the bridge is the easiest part. Also, he said how he uses patterns and repetition in both the verses and the chorus so that it is memorable (e.g. in "Again," he uses time in the verses). Good advice, John!

5) Additionally, he said when it comes to writing songs, he usually stays until the song is finished. Raphael Saadiq (another artist I love, taking notes?) noticed this and said he wished he could do that because he always has people telling him to finish a song. John said he doesn't know why, maybe it is because he is a capricorn. Funny, isn't he?

6) His first demo, which featured most of the songs from Get Lifted, at first did not get anywhere. Only until Kanye West released his first album, The College Dropout, which Legend worked on, and signed John that the hype over his album increase. He said that sometimes it is not about the talent but the timing and buzz surrounding the artist.

7) John Legend has becomes known as "the guy who worked with everybody" because he has worked with artists from Alicia Keys to Lauryn Hill (played piano on "Everything Is Everything") to Black Eyed Peas.

8) From working with Will.I.Am on a Black Eyed Peas album, John came up with the chords for "Ordinary People." It was originally suppose to be a song for the group but John ended up liking the song more for himself. As a deal, Will.I.Am was supposed to produced the song for giving it up, but Legend played the non-produced track for some people and they loved it the way it was. So, "Ordinary People" became the song it is today because of that! Wow!

9) With the music industry the way it is today, John does not blame record companies for demanding 360 deals from artists, which is taken a percentage of sales from not only album and single sales, but also touring and merchandise. He said it is almost impossible to get a record deal without making a 360 deal.

10) According to John, talent or artistry comes in various forms from performing to choosing songs to sing to actually writing the songs (I agree, look at my artistry vs. entertainment music note). He wants people to know that he does not works alone when he is writing songs and it is definitely a collaborative effort. Ain't he humble?

11) He said other artists he might want to collaborate with are Beyonce because of her voice and Lil Wayne because he is very popular right now (Ewwww, why John, why?).

12) John Legend likes the show The Office and made a few references to it (okay, he's back on my good side!).

13) Finally, he has his own record label called Homeschool Records and his first artist was Estelle! Check out the website:

1 comment:

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