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MAY
18
2 YEARS

'Duets' Judge John Legend Says Replacing Lionel Richie 'Was Pretty Crazy'

The singer describes what it was like to come into the ABC singing competition after it had already been in pre-production for several weeks.

John Legend Headshot - P 2012
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John Legend

Grammy-winning singer/songwriter John Legend took on quite the challenge when he replaced Lionel Richie in late-April on ABC’s new competition series, Duets.

“It was kind of a whirlwind coming in at the last minute, because a lot of pre-production had already been done. So, I had a lot of catching up to do,” Legend tells reporters. “So, it was pretty crazy for the first couple weeks.”

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Richie had to leave the show due to scheduling conflicts. And Legend didn’t come in and pick up where Richie left off. Rather, he had to do everything the other judges (Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Nettles and Robin Thicke) did, but at an escalated pace. But when it came to choosing his singers, Legend insists he wasn’t at a disadvantage.

“They gave me a large pool of people,” he says. “So I did have a lot of say, because they gave me a large pool of people to look at and then I decided who were the best ones of those folks.”

Legend explains what he was looking for: "Somebody with a great voice. I was looking for someone with some flexibility as far as what they could sing and what styles they could sing. But, just as important was somebody that would sound good with me, so that we would have a nice blend."

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Through no fault of their own, Legend’s singers had to jump in pretty quickly as well. Consequently, the star says that the quick pace gave him the chance to get into the mentoring mode.

“The first five shows we recorded in like two and a half weeks, so it’s all really rapid fire,” the 33-year-old says. “Especially because I came on late, they literally had a show right after they were selected. And so they had to really operate well under pressure. So part of my job to me was to make them feel as at ease as possible because they are already in a high-pressure situation.”

With several pre-taped shows under his belt, Legend says that things have become much more manageable. “I’m really having a good time,” he says.

“I’m really into the competitive aspect of it as well,” he continues. “Trying to make sure the [singers] that I picked are successful on the show and do really well. And we are really having fun, thinking of new songs to do every week and all that stuff, it’s really a good time.”

Duets premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro