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Interview with Singer-songwriter Ne-Yo

Nov 10, 2010 08:51PM ● By Anonymous

Singer-songwriter Ne-Yo has seen his fair share of the limelight lately. Beginning his career writing for other artists like Mario, he eventually landed some major hits of his own. His latest and most ambitious album, Libra Scale, is out October 19th. I sat down with him recently and discussed the album, the upcoming birth of his first child, his legal and personal feud with R. Kelly, and more.

SP: How did you feel breaking into the industry writing songs for others?

Ne-Yo: I really wasn’t trying to so much break into the industry, I was just trying to get my music out there. I’ve been a singer and dancer pretty much my whole life, so my love for that is what made me want to step from behind the scenes and come to the forefront and decide to do it for myself.

SP: Does it ever feel weird to you when a song comes on the radio that you wrote sung by someone else?

Ne-Yo: Nope, not anymore. In the beginning a little bit, you know? Because I would always listen to someone else’s interpretation of my song and then think about what I would’ve done with it. But now, to hear somebody else singing my songs, I feel like it’s a blessing.

SP: Do you write songs specifically for a person, or do you write them and they’re up for grabs?

Ne-Yo: A little bit of both. There are some artists who ask for specifics, “I need a song about this”, and then there are other artists who just say “Give me a song”. So, it really just depends on the artist involved.

SP: Getting on to the topic of Libra Scale- I read somewhere that the album is inspired by a mix of sci-fi and comic books and the music of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Could you elaborate on that?

Ne-Yo: It’s a concept album. The whole album follows a short story I wrote, pulling from my love of comic books, sci-fi films and Japanese animation. It follows these three average Joes who get this opportunity to acquire the money, power and fame that they’ve always dreamed of through becoming super heroes and protecting the city they live in. One of the rules of them having these super powers and living this life though, is that they’re not allowed to fall in love. So they’re ultimately forced to make a choice between love versus money, power and fame, which leads to the underlying question of the whole album. If you weigh it out on the Libra Scale, and you yourself had to choose between love or money, power and fame, which one would it be?

SP: What other artists from the past inspire you besides Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson?

Ne-Yo: Well, there are four that I always pull from. Definitely Stevie, definitely Mike. Also, Prince and Sammy Davis Jr. The overall artistry of Prince. I love how he has forever been unapologetic about who he is. Prince was getting booed off stages for two years straight behind doing the same thing that made him an icon. That’s amazing to me. Sammy Davis Jr., once that man got on stage and started doing what he did in a time where it wasn’t very cool to be black, he made it cool to be black.

What artists from today inspire you?

Ne-Yo: To be completely honest with you, there are not very many. I’m definitely inspired by Beyonce, she’s one of the few artists in the game that has reached success doing what she wants to do, not so much trying to be something for the people or be something that she’s not. She does what she does, like it or leave it alone.

Jay-Z is the same way. Kanye West is the same way. Also, Janelle Monae, who isn’t getting the recognition she deserves yet. But she’s such an artist, that eventually people will catch on. Lady Gaga is another one. I look up to people who are artists and make no apologies for it.

SP: You relocated at a young age to Las Vegas. How did growing up in Vegas influence your life and your songwriting?

Ne-Yo: Growing up in Vegas introduced me to the Rat Pack, which introduced me to my whole style, from my style of dress to my persona. I feel like I might have been born in the wrong era, I think I should’ve been born back then.

SP: When you write songs, do they come to you at random times or are you sitting down and trying to put something on the page? After you write a song, do you know immediately that it will be a hit?

Ne-Yo: I write songs all day long, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m writing songs right now as we speak, because I write from true-life experience. And to be honest with you, I never know when it’s going to be a hit. I know what feels good to me, but sometimes what feels good to me doesn’t always to the rest of the world and vice versa. There’s people in place that have the ear to choose the hits, I’m not one of those guys though.

SP: You're expecting a child this upcoming winter. How have you approached fatherhood so far and how do you think it will change your life and career?

Ne-Yo: Basically, I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to balance out being a dad and being a celebrity, so to speak. It’s not going to be an easy balance, but it’s a necessary balance, so I’ll figure it out, and I’m excited. I’m excited for the journey.

SP: You recently told the associated press that T.I. needs to be more wise with the people he surrounds himself with. What advice would you give younger artists coming up in the music industry to avoid similar legal issues?

Ne-Yo: Just understand that when you’re a celebrity, your entire life is lived under a magnifying glass. You’re going to get the most for the least. A regular person gets pulled over for speeding, and it’s no big deal. A celebrity gets pulled over, and it can turn into speeding with a gun in the car and running from the cops. So you just need to understand that people are paying attention, and just be careful with what you do.

You had some issues over a tour with R. Kelly in the past. Were you two able to move past these legal issues and rekindle a friendship?

Ne-Yo: There was never a friendship to rekindle. I’ve never met R. Kelly, to be honest with you, stood face to face with the man, which was one of the things that I took to be most disrespectful, took the most offense to, that he wasn’t even man enough to come to me and tell me he didn’t want me on the tour anymore. But you know what, I’m not a person that holds grudges; I’m not a person who lives in the past. That whole situation has been rectified, and I wish R. Kelly the best in all of his endeavors.

SP: Any specific message for fans in Maryland?

Ne-Yo: Just that I love you all to death. Thank y’all for all of the love and support over the years. This is my fourth album, thank you all for allowing me to even get to a fourth album. The business is very fickle nowadays, if you stay gone too long, they will forget you were ever here. So thank y’all for allowing me to still be here. And the same thing I always say, as long as my fans keep cheering me on, I’ll keep trying to deliver quality music to the world.