IT'S rare for a song to take John Legend's breath away.
The nine-time Grammy Award winner, who wrote one of the decade's most pervasive hits in All Of Me, surrounds himself with a wide variety of genres as he snakes his way around the world on the All Of Me tour.
But, after being on the stage and in the studio for almost a decade, it's hard to switch off the part of his brain that breaks music down into its parts. Unless he's listening to Nina Simone.
"I've been creating music for so long I'm pretty analytical about stuff I listen to - I'm thinking about the production style, I'm thinking about instrumentation," Legend tells Weekender from the coast of South Africa.
"But the most powerful music is the music that makes you forget about analysing it and just lets you love it. Nina Simone really does that for me.
"I was listening to Lilac Wine the other day and it was just so moving."
Judging by the success of his current world tour, which begins its Australian leg in Sydney before coming to Pokolbin's Bimbadgen Estate on December 6, Legend's music evokes a similar feeling in fans around the world.
"Music spreads and music is really global - it transcends culture, it transcends language differences and geographical differences," Legend says, the morning after a massive arena show in Durban.
"I've always known that, but I've never had a song of my own that was this massive . . . it's pretty amazing to see it play out [with All Of Me]."
After a rare break this week, where he heads back to the US to take in Thanksgiving and his wife's birthday, Legend says he's looking forward to the crowds and the weather waiting in Australia.
And, although Bimbadgen Estate is a large venue with open air, Legend says his fans can expect an intimate show.
"This tour is stripped down, unplugged: that's what we've been doing for the last six to eight months and it's been going so beautifully," Legend says.
"Even in the larger venues, we still do a stripped-down show . . . just me on the piano for some of the songs and then a string quartet and a rhythm section as well.
"So it's relatively scaled back musically and production-wise, just to heighten the amount of storytelling and intimacy even though the venues are still pretty large."
After his tour with Alicia Keys last year, Legend is again supported by female artists in the form of 2013 X Factor winner Dami Im and singer-songwriter Megan Washington. The pair, who are also presenting stripped-back shows, provide a welcome contrast to Legend's own vocal style.
"I've toured with male artists, like Ne-Yo and I did a tour years ago, but most of the time my opening acts have been women and it's nice to have that kind of yin and yang of the male and the female going on," Legend says.
Though the 35-year-old has been famous for almost a decade in the US, after 2004's platinum Get Lifted, was nominated for a jaw-dropping array of Grammys, 2013 single All Of Me launched Legend to worldwide fame: a transition he has been adjusting to.
"I get noticed everywhere now, especially with the success of All Of Me," Legend says.
"Before, in some countries I had some level of anonymity, but now there's not very much anonymity anywhere. Which is fine.
"It's not oppressive in any way, people just want to come up and tell you they love your music and tell you how much they like what you do, and if that's the worst thing that can happen to you in a day, then you have a pretty good life."
Attention is also focused on Legend through social media, where he and wife Chrissy Teigen regularly make headlines on gossip websites through their posts. Legend is philosophical about this increased interest in his personal life.
"I think Twitter gives you a chance to communicate with your fans. I like it that sometimes I say some things that might be a little bit controversial politically - it gives my fans a chance to know me a little better and know what my values are," Legend says.
"They may not agree with everything I say and they have the right to disagree. I feel good being connected and being communicative and letting people know how I feel about certain issues."
While changing landscapes and new experiences have provided plenty of inspiration for future material for Legend, he hasn't had a chance to work on any tracks for a new record thanks to his exceptionally busy schedule of travelling wide distances and performing two hours a night, five nights a week - the exception being the song Glory, a collaboration with rapper Common for the upcoming Oprah Winfrey film Selma.
As he contends with a seven-hour time difference for his week home, before jumping forward almost an entire day for his time in Australia, Legend says he is now an ad hoc expert in sleeping on planes and taking naps in the middle of the day.
"I just find it wherever I can get it, even if it's not a very normal night-time sleeping hour. And it's funny because as soon as you start adjusting to the time zone, it's time to move on. So, you know, you just have to be creative."
In all areas of his life, creativity is something Legend has in spades.
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