John Legend didn't have to look very far to find his next protégé. After two years of helping him develop as an artist, the R&B singer is gearing up to introduce his younger brother, Vaughn Anthony, as the second signing to his HomeSchool Records imprint.
"[Vaughn] has a great voice and a great talent for writing, and I've seen that grow over time because he just worked so hard at it," Legend tells Billboard.com. "I think he's ready now."
Legend officially signed Anthony to HomeSchool in November 2007, just weeks after unveiling the label's first signing, U.K. singer Estelle. Since then, the 28-year-old has cut his teeth as one of Legend's background vocalists on tour and released a six-track E.P. on iTunes in 2008 entitled "Mr. Everything." A debut album featuring music by the Runners and Phatboi Productions is in the works.
"Just being on the road and watching John, it helped me develop a lot," says Anthony, whose first single will be "In Your Shoes," a song co-written with his brother and currently featured on his MySpace page. "It's been longer than I've wanted to wait, but now I feel like it's really my time."
"All that experience is kind of what I did when I was with Kanye [West]," adds Legend. "It's like an apprenticeship, where you're learning the ropes before they put the spotlights on you. That's real artist development, and that's what we do at HomeSchool."
To introduce Anthony, Legend will host a showcase for industry executives at S.O.B.'s in New York on Thursday night (May 14) in the hopes of securing a distribution deal. "It's an important venue for me," says Legend. "It was one of the places where I really launched my career." Chrisette Michele, Ryan Leslie and Kat DeLuna are among the VIPs expected to attend, and both Legend and Estelle are rumored to be performing in addition to Anthony, who will debut seven tracks from the upcoming album.
As for the inevitable comparisons between siblings, Legend insists he's not concerned. "I think people make too much of it," he says. "Of course our voices are similar, we have the same genetic material. But the songs reflect his personality, and he's not me."
Anthony agrees. "Not only do me and John sound alike," he says, "but we sound like my uncles and my father. There's nothing I can really do about it but just be myself--which is far left from where [John] is--and try and make the best music I can make."
Estelle's "Shine," the first album by a HomeSchool Records artist, has sold 210,000 copies in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan. John Legend's third album, "Evolver," has sold 603,000.
Legend also shared his excitement with Billboard.com over the success of "Magnificent," his unlikely collaboration with rapper Rick Ross that currently sits at No. 12 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this week. "I think it might have surprised people because [Ross] is not really associated with our movement as much," says Legend. "I have a lot of respect for him. Rick has really put himself in the upper echelon of MCs right now; his new album is really good, and I'm proud to be part of it."