John Legend can now add a duet with the stars to his stellar catalog. For Stella Artois’ new holiday campaign “Give Beautifully,” the R&B singer spreads holiday cheer by tying the sounds of stars to his vocals for the twinkly ballad “Under The Stars,” a gift from both Legend and the Belgian beer brand. Billboard spoke to Legend about singing with the stars, expecting his first child with wife Chrissy Teigen, and his new HBO documentary Southern Rites.
How did the collaboration “Under The Stars” with Stella Artois come about?
Well, they reached out to us and presented the concept of being the first artist to do a duet with a little star, which I thought was really unique. I didn’t even know that stars made noises but scientists were able to record actual vibrations of the stars and make them into a real audio recording. The idea of doing a duet with one really inspired me to do something cool but I wrote the song “Under The Stars,” and Stella and I are giving it to the world as part of their “Give Beautifully” campaign.
Was “Under The Stars” inspired by a real-life date night with Chrissy Teigen?
I didn’t think of [“Under The Stars”] as a date song. To me, the holidays are not just about romantic love, it’s about family love and love from your friends and love for humankind and really coming together so that was really the inspiration for me, writing it. No matter where we are or what we’ve done, we’re all under the stars, under the same sky. I thought it was cool thinking about it in a way that we can all come together.
The holidays came early for you and Chrissy when you both learned that she was pregnant. What was your initial reaction when you found out?
We’ve been trying [to have a baby] for a while so it was something that we wanted for quite a while and for it to finally happen, it was really exciting. Of course, you’re not gonna really know how to feel till she actually brings the baby into the world but right now, we’re really excited, hopeful and expectant.
Have you been singing “Under The Stars” to the baby?
[Laughs] It is kind of like a lullaby but I haven’t sung that one yet.
Speaking of stars, you recently participated in A&E’s Shining A Light special. Why is it important for artists to come together at an event like that?
As artists, I think we always see the connection between different genres and artists of different races and we thought it would be great for us to come together, seek out more unity and less division. One of my main criteria [for doing the show] was that we do more than sing but actually talk about some of these issues that have been troubling people.
You do that often on your timeline but have been tackling tough topics as an executive producer for several dramas. Can you speak on your latest collaboration with HBO?
Southern Rites was a documentary we did for HBO. We produced it and we did a song for it as well. It’s directed by Gillian Laub and is all about a town in Georgia where there was still segregated problems until a couple years ago. Gillian had gone down to document this really intriguing story that nobody could believe was still happening in the 21st century and she found out more that happened in that same town with a young, unarmed man getting shot by an older white man. Some of the incidents shown in that town help us see [the issues] as we think about the history of race in America, and so, we were proud to be a part of launching that documentary on HBO and now, it’s available digitally so hopefully people will check that out.
There is also talk that you and Chrissy are developing a show, based on your relationship.
It’s a scripted sitcom that’s kind of inspired by our lives — not directly us but it’s loosely inspired by our lives and we’re doing it with Kenya Barris who does [ABC’s] Black-ish. So we’re developing that together and with my production company, Get Lifted. We’re in the process of getting the first script together and we haven’t casted yet or anything but things are moving. We’re just taking it one step at a time and hope that it goes well.
Listen to “Under The Stars” below.