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John Legend has a way of writing songs that create a sense of intimacy. The Grammy-winning soul singer recently performed at one of NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. The performances are exactly what they sound like: just a musician in a cubicle with an audience that's really, really close — no frills, no fuss.
While the setting may have varied greatly from what the singer-songwriter has grown accustomed to over the years, Legend says the intimate performance reminded him of his days as an up-and-coming artist.
"I remember when I first came out as an artist, back in 2004 or 2005, the record label used to take me to all the radio stations and just have me sit in, like, their lunchroom or their conference room, and play for the whole staff," he says. "Just to introduce them to me so they would play my records. So I've been doing it since 'Ordinary People.'"
A singer and performer since the age of 6, Legend says he considers the connection he shares with his audience to be an essential part of his performances, and an organic experience that he embraces.
"Some artists I know, they would rather not see the audience or envision them. But for me, I'd rather see them," Legend says. "I feel like part of the reason I perform is to feel that connection. It's the reason I love it so much."
In addition to discussing his Tiny Desk Concert, Legend recently spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin about how the new film 12 Years a Slave hits a little too close to home for him. Click the audio link to hear more of their conversation.