Black Lives Matter protests part of 'years of fatigue' with US President Donald Trump leading America - John Legend

Musician John Legend says the Black Lives Matter protests are part of "three years of fatigue" from US President Donald Trump leading the country, and stoking "the fires of racism".

In an exclusive interview with The Project, the 'All of Me' singer says the protests are a culmination of how Trump has handled racism issues and the "atrocious" video showing George Floyd dying at the hands of a "callous-looking" police officer.

"I think part of it is three years of fatigue from Donald Trump being president. His instinct is always to stoke the fires of racism and bigotry and xenophobia. His instinct is always to make it about himself and his own power and his own self-aggrandisement."

But Legend says the protests feel different than before because they've gone more global and there's greater diversity.

"When you see the racial makeup of the audiences out there marching in the street, the protesters marching in the street, you just feel like there’s this whole multi-generational, anti-racist coalition of protesters coming together that’s saying 'we need to do better'. And that makes me hopeful."

A big part of the latest protests has been the distinction between not being racist - which he says can be done passively without any action - and being anti-racist.

"[It's about] going beyond just not being a racist and also being anti-racist, meaning you take explicit action to help repair the wrongs caused by racism, that you call it out when you see it, that you think about it when you're hiring people, when you're making other business decisions or other social decisions," he says. "So being anti-racist is more than the absence of racism, it's saying let's actively do things to promote equality and justice for everybody."

Legend wrote his "hopeful and optimistic" new album Bigger Love before the Black Lives Matter protests and the COVID-19 pandemic began, which made him think whether it was the right music to release.

"You wonder, do [people] want to hear this music that celebrates love and hope and optimism, and I decided that people might need to hear this right now. And music can't save the world or cure a virus, but it can help people deal with the pain they're going through and hopefully this album can help people do that."

Legend says he first fell in love with music as a young child, something his parents had a hand in. He became steeped in gospel and soul music while he attended church growing up.

"I was going to church with them, I was drumming with the choir, my mother was directing the choir, my grandmother was the church organist, and my grandfather was the pastor," he says.

"And we had a piano sitting in the living room… I started taking lessons when I was four and I just never gave it up because I loved the feeling it gave to me, and I loved the feeling that I saw it gave to other people when the music was right."

Watch his full interview on The Project above.