But the retro-soul CD, while a critical and commercial success, didn't have any true breakout hits, and didn't grow his audience like he had hoped.
So with his new CD, "Evolver," Legend is aiming to become an artist that can fill arenas, not just theaters. He has some big-time help: Not only is friend and mentor Kanye West back for an assist, Legend also called in Andre 3000, Ne-Yo and Pharrell.
AP: You say your new record features a new side of you.
Legend: One of the things that I was thinking was, "You know, I wanna go from a theater artist to an arena artist." And, part of my thinking when I was doing this was what album do I have to make to make that transition? First of all, (I need) to make songs that are going to fill up an arena and feel like they belong in that big space, so I wanted to make bigger sounding songs and more anthemic sounding songs. And then I just wanted to be more successful even then I've been in the past. ... But when you actually get in the studio, it's not really about the overall goals, it's about going in trying to make a great song, trying to make a great record.
AP: Estelle is your artist and she made a big debut on the charts this year in the United States. How did working on Estelle help you in your creative process?
Legend: We finished Estelle's album pretty much before I even started mine, so I think I actually learned from making her album with her, because I was very involved. I think it actually helped me realize that my writing voice could be applied to different beats than what I was using on the second album. It made me realize that because I wrote the chorus for "American Boy" - why I can't I write the same kind of chorus for myself over the same kind of beat? So I think it opened me up to different kind of songs.
AP: Do you think to be an arena artist you have to put yourself out in the media more, or in the tabloids?
Legend: I don't want to. Coldplay doesn't have to. You don't read about read about Chris Martin every day in the tabloids, Bruce Springsteen, any number of artists. You read about for instance, Britney Spears all the time and her last album didn't even sell that well. You read about Lindsay Lohan all the time her last album didn't sell that well, nor have her movies sold that well, so "I don't think there's that strong of a correlation between tabloid coverage and album sales.
AP: You've been an active Barack Obama supporter. Did you plan to be as involved as you have been?
Legend: Truth be told I actually haven't done that many events. But they've been high profile things, particularly the "Yes We Can" video was very high profile and seen by so many people. So it seems like I've been working nonstop for Obama even though it's only been six or seven days out of my time. But I'm glad to have even been able to have done that much, because we have been able to make an impact.
AP: Your "Show Me" campaign is designed to stop poverty in Africa. Do you ever get frustrated about affecting change through your charity?
Legend: It's hard. These people are living on less than a dollar a day, and there's no solution that's gonna end poverty right away. But the thing we decided to do was take small steps and try to change what we can in a controlled situation, so the money and villages allow us to do that, because they focus on a certain geographical area. ... Am I gonna solve the entire problem? No, but I'm going to make a difference in the lives of the people in that village, and if I can help save the lives of those people and help them live a better life and get them on the ladder to economic success, than it's worth the effort that I put in.
AP: Kanye is singing on his new album and your new CD. Have you given him any critiques on his vocal skills?
Legend: (laughs) No, I haven't given him any critiques. I'm letting him do his thing. I think him and Auto-Tune are doing just fine together, and I guess I'm out of job now, he's going to be able to sing all of his own hooks.