Q&A With John Legend, Performing at the Fillmore Miami Beach This Friday

New Times recently caught up with John Legend in between all kinds of action. After his high-profile appearances at the inaugural festivities, February will find the five-time Grammy winner playing Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, the NBA All-Star Game, and the Dubai International Jazz Festival. Oh, yeah: He also boasts a new hit record (Evolver), as well as a hit artist (Estelle) on his hit label (HomeSchool). And he's hitting The Fillmore with her this Friday! Here's how he's handling things.

New Times: What was it like playing the Declare Yourself Inaugural Ball?

It was fun. It was great to see how enthusiastic young people are right now about being a part of democracy and making a difference in the world. Declare Yourself signed up 2 million young voters last year, and the youth vote was such an important part of Obama's margin of victory. I was glad to be there to recognize that accomplishment.
Didn't you also perform at the We Are One celebration?

That was surreal. We played on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where so many important moments have happened in American History, including MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech.  It was so cold outside but you wouldn't know it from the enthusiasm of the crowd. They waited out there for hours to share in that moment. And it was so cool being with all the other great performers, all of whom were star-struck at the opportunity of meeting President Obama.  You should check out my Kyte blog on johnlegend.com to see some cool candid video from backstage and onstage that day.

And then there was the performance at the Democratic Convention.

It's funny now because I thought the DNC was so historic back then, and now it's almost cliché to keep saying how historic everything is. Because many moments in the last year have been truly historic. So I don't know what else to say but I'm certainly glad to have been a part of this journey. I'm optimistic for the country. I feel like we have put the Presidency in very capable hands, and I believe Obama will be a transformative leader for the country and the rest of the world.

What else did you do on behalf of our newly elected president?

I started by playing at a big rally in Iowa before the caucuses. Then I did a few events at colleges before the primaries in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Then I did a tour of college campuses in Ohio to get out the vote for the general election. I also performed at a big fundraiser in New York with Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and India.Arie.

What other causes do you support?

My primary focus is fighting poverty. I founded the Show Me Campaign to do just that.  People should visit www.showmecampaign.org to find out all about the organization and donate or volunteer. Our principal focus right now is funding a Millennium Village in Mbola, Tanzania, to help them get the tools they need to become self sufficient.

Do you see a new-found sense of activism among people these days?

I do sense that people are ready to work and contribute. They just need to be informed about what the opportunities are and how they can participate in a meaningful way.

If you were granted one wish, what would it be?

End poverty!

John Legend, with Estelle. Friday, January 30. The Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $77.50. www.livenation.com

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