Ne-Yo Interview

– You grew up in Las Vegas and started singing in a group, when did you discover your love for singing?
Very early, my mom said I was singing before I started talking. She said I was humming and singing different melodies and stuff. So I was very very very young.

– When the singing didn’t pop off, you guys started writing for others, you kept doing this and Columbia picked up on you and signed you. Was this as an artist yourself or as a songwriter?
They signed me as an artist. I wasn’t really songwriting, I was writing for myself as an artist.

– The album was never released with Columbia, did you use some of those songs for other artists or for other purposes? Or is it what we can now call “unreleased Ne-Yo songs”?
You can definitely call them unreleased Shaffer songs, cause back then my name wasn’t Ne-Yo, it was just Shaffer. Yeah the album never came out, it was just a real negative situation.

– So are the songs still good enough for you to still be able to use them?
I don’t know, I’ll have to listen cause I’m not the same person I was back then, now. I’m grown now. It probably might have worked a little while ago but I don’t know about now.

– You have a long list of artists you wrote music and lyrics for, too much to mention really. Who was the first big artist, for you, that you had the opportunity writing for? And how was that for you?
Uhm, damn, uhm, it would have to be either Mary J. Blige or Beyonce, one of those two. Because working with powerhouses like that, that’s big. There are almost no words for that, for the level of respect, just how exciting it is. Someone like that singing your song, its incredible. You never get used to that, with every big artist, it’s a new feeling. Keeps you hungry.

– Your first big hit as a songwriter was Let me love you from Mario. After that, Def Jam showed interest in you. And you were finally able to release your own album. In your opinion, what was the deciding factor for a label finally signing you as an artist and releasing something?
Hmm, I don’t know. I mean, my main concern going into Def Jam was them trying to turn me into something else. But L.A.’s exact words to me were: “I signed you because I like what you do, it wouldn’t make sense to me to try and change that. If I didn’t like what you were doing, I would never have signed you.” And that made a lot of sense to me. So it was a cool situation. Cause that’s normally the case with labels. They sign you as who you are. But when you see the public again, you’re a whole other person. I didn’t wanna do that, I needed my own identity. And Def Jam allowed me to have my own identity.

– The album “In my own words” was a pretty big hit worldwide. As a songwriter you are more behind the scene, but now you were in the spotlight. What was that like for you?
Man, it was another one of those beyond words type of feelings. Just beyond overwhelming, it took me getting used to it. In the background I got comfortable. I was the guy nobody knew and I didn’t have a problem with being the guy that nobody knew. So when I became the guy that a lot of people know, it just took some acquiring, dealing with the fact I can’t go to the movies by myself or I can’t just up and go to the mall by myself. Just dealing with that.

– So you had to adjust your life a little bit?
A lotta bit. Yeah cause it’s like, once you become a public figure, even in the smallest scale of what it is, you kind of become “of the people”. There is no “I’m having a bad day I don’t feel like signing autographs.” You gotta sign autographs, you gotta smile and take a picture. If I was the kind of person that had an issue with that type of stuff, it would have been a major problem for me. Luckily I am a friendly person, I am a people person.

– What is to you the biggest difference between scoring a hit through someone else, or yourself?
The difference….for me there really isn’t a difference. To me a song that comes out to number 1 and I am singing it or a song that comes out to number 1 and someone else is singing it, it’s still me. Yeah it’s another voice but it’s still me. There’s really no difference to me it’s a blessing either way.

– Is it easier for you to hear the number 1 song, that somebody else sings, all the time on the radio, or the number 1 song that you sing yourself, all the time?
Again that’s the thing, be it my song or a song I wrote for somebody else, it’s still my song, it’s not easier or harder either way. I don’t have a problem hearing myself all the time, I like myself haha.

– You did a lot of collaborations, with rappers.
Yeah I just did one with Fab, that should be coming out relatively soon. But not really whole lot of rappers this time around. I try to keep my focus as far as the album coming together and what not. I am not trying to get too much sidetracked.

– The new album “Know me” is coming up, the first single is out there already. What can you tell us about the album?
To listen with an open mind when you get it. To know that I’m aware of the fact that I have a sound now with So Sick and Sexy Love, but at the same time I can’t do So Sick and Sexy Love over. Those were moments, they lived and they passed. It’s time to create new moments, I’m not trying to create old moments. You let it be what it was and then you move on to another moment. There are definitely songs on the record that are in that lane of So Sick and Sexy Love but there are other songs that are in a whole other lane by themselves. And these are the songs that might strike people as a little different. The music can’t be boring it’s gotta say something. It’s gotta make you wanna do something. That’s what I tried to do.

– There are a lot of hot producers nowadays, and the formula of combining R&B with rap is also a winning one today. What can you tell us about the production or featurings on the new album?
Production wise I used pretty much everyone I used on the first one. Couple of new names here and there. I was supposed to work with Timbaland but it ended up not working out schedule wise and what not. His schedule had him going left and mine had me going right. With Jermaine Dupri it was the same thing. So again, you might not see a lot of big name producers on this record, but you’ll find everybody I worked with on the first one. With one or 2 new people. As far as the features, I don’t wanna give it way man…

– You don’t have to, I mean…
Oh ok cool. But you know what, I’ll give you one, since you’re being so nice about it. Jennifer Hudson and I did a song together. It’s a real good song.

– Wow that’s nice. When is the album dropping?
April 24th.

– Any outlook on a big world tour already? Or if anything, coming back to Amsterdam after your new album dropped?
We are certainly putting it together. There is nothing set in stone yet but they are putting it together right as we speak.

– You also wrote for the soundtrack of the movie “Steppin’ up: Save the last dance 2”, and you had a part in there. Do you have any plans for doing more movies or soundtracks?
Yeah, why not. I had fun with it, I had a lot of fun with it, especially the people on set, if every movie is how that movie was, you can put me in every movie you put in my direction. It’s just a matter of making things work with the music cause the music has got to stay number 1. That’s what its always gonna be. If the acting coincides with the music, then by all means. But if not, then the acting’s gonna have to wait.

– Besides the release of the new album, are you currently working on other projects? Featurings with artists, songwriting for artists?
I’m still writing for other people but my main focus is to finishing up this record. I gotta finish this record. Don’t have a lot of time left. I gotta go in maybe like 2 more times, see what comes up. I have what I need to be done now. But for me personally, there’s some personal stuff that I wanna try to add, if it doesn’t work it doesn’t, but if it does then we can add it. But we will see.