Rising Artists, If You #TakeTheLeap You Could Be Joining John Legend At SXSW


With every new year comes new opportunities for the actualization of our dreams. New changes to step out in confidence and show the world what great things we have to offer it. With the help of AXE White Label, John Legend is stepping in to kick the goal getting process into gear.

Legend is part of the AXE White Label Collective, a mentorship program specifically designed to help rising artists reach the next rung on their professional ladder. Starting today (Jan. 20), John and the Collective are launching a search for an artist to join him onstage at SXSW Music this March. Interested talent can submit a YouTube video on the AXE White Label website showing off their vocal chops for a chance to join Legend in Austin, Texas. Don’t be scared, now. You won’t wind up the next big thing in music if you don’t #TakeTheLeap!

Aside from reminiscing on stepping stone opportunities he was given by Kanye West and that he gave to other artists, Legend chops it up with us about G.O.O.D. Music collaborations, a Love In The Future followup and his big Golden Globe win for Selma. —Stacy-Ann Ellis (@)

VIBE: Happy New Year to you! How’d you ring in 2015?
John Legend: We were actually at a casino near Dallas. I was performing. Actually, my show was at 9 p.m., so we drove back to Dallas for New Year’s Eve and got back to the club in Dallas at around 12 a.m.

Right on time?
It was minutes after, which was fine. I wasn’t with my wife, so I wasn’t kissing anybody anyway. She was in New York.

That’s nice. So talk a little bit about your involvement with AXE’s White Label Collective and how it feels to be helping artists get a step closer to their dreams.
I love this idea because this is really how I got my break, too. I was a young artist writing, recording demos, playing around New York and I needed someone to help me get that opportunity and to take it to the next level. Kanye was that person for me and I’ve been that person for other artists like Estelle and Stacy Barthe. We’re going to try to do more of that with White Label Collective.

Let’s say this is a job interview, but instead of giving resume advice, it’s for their YouTube submission. What would you tell aspirants when it comes to properly showcasing their skills?
Well for YouTube tips, you want them to have something that’s distinctive, whether it’s an original song or it’s a style of performing. Whatever it is, it needs to make them stand out. Some of the advice is just be great. It’s hard to explain to someone what that means, but that means you have to work hard, you have to study the greats, you have to understand what’s come before you and what’s influenced you, but take it to the next level. We’re looking for greatness. We’re looking for awesome artists that have something special that deserves a bigger platform.

What was your first stepping stone gig? Walk us how you were feeling and how you got over any jitters you might’ve felt.
Well I had gigs my whole life in some way or another. So my first gig was singing at church in the choir when I was like 6 or 7. I’ve had moments throughout my life where I was nervous and it was a new experience, but because I built up all this experience being on stage, being in front of people performing for years, it makes it easier and easier to not be nervous. To be more confident. And a big part of overcoming this fear is about confronting it. Going out there and doing it. You gotta get it out the way because you can’t wait until you’re on a bigger stage to get that practice out of the way. You gotta get that experience under your belt early.

Do you still get nervous before performing?
Not really. Occasionally I do, like the Grammy’s or if I’m doing the National Anthem in front of a big audience or something. Because there’s no net. I did the National Anthem for the BCS Championship last year and I was a little nervous before I walked out there, but once I hit the first note I was fine.

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What about new music? I know you’ve been lending your voice to other projects, but what about your own Love In The Future followup?
I haven’t really done much. I’ve done a few collaborations. I have a new song with Meghan Trainor that’s about to come out and it’s a really gorgeous love song. I have a song with Common called “Glory” on the Selma soundtrack. I have a song with Stacy Barthe. We did a finished version of “Angel,” which we had done on Love In The Future, but we did a full version of that with a new beat. I’m excited about that. It’s going to be on her debut album. Those are a few side projects that I’ve done and I’m ready to start writing for the next album.

Have you been doing anything with the home team, G.O.O.D. Music? Or with Kanye?
I have a song with Big Sean coming out, too, which I really like. I did a little bit of writing with Kanye on his latest project, but I don’t know where that is at this point because I’ve been on the road for so long. But I’m going to see him tonight at my party, so we’ll talk about it some more.

How’d you feel about “Only One” with Paul McCartney?
I think it’s beautiful. I love what he’s saying. I love him connecting what he has to say about his mother to what he has to say to his daughter, North. I think it’s beautiful.

It was a nice soft spot.
Yeah, because his last album was obviously really aggressive and dark and I think this is kind of showing his other side. Which is always there, but he didn’t express it in the last album so he’s expressing it now.

Right. Jumping back to “Glory,” how did it feel for the song to be nominated for (he and Common later won) a Golden Globe?
Oh I was thrilled. I was really excited. We wrote the song because we really have so much love for the film, so much love for the subject matter of the film and we wanted to connect the subject matter from the film 50 years ago to what’s happening now. Common wrote a lot about Ferguson and about how we’re still carrying the torch forward and we thought that was important. We see it as inspiration for all those young protesters that’ve been out in the streets right now, who’ve learned from the lessons of Selma and of all the great activists we’ve had over the years.