Ne-Yo Shouts-Out That Grape Juice
Sam: Having burst onto the scene little over 2 years ago, this singer/songwriter has quickly gone on to establish himself as one of the premier talents on today’s music scene. Of course I’m talking about Grammy winner Ne-Yo.
How are you, man? It’s great to finally be able to meet with you.
Ne-Yo: Thank you
Sam: You just landed in the UK a few days back, how has your stay been thus far?
Pretty good, pretty good – I like it out here. I haven’t really been able to do any of the ‘touristy’ stuff yet. It’s crazy as this is like my 10th time coming out here and I still don’t know anywhere outside of the area right here (referring to hotel locality). This is the hotel we always stay at; so it goes airport, hotel, (show) venue and hotel, venue, home.
Sam: This August sees the release your third studio album, ‘Year of The Gentleman’….
Ne-Yo: Uh uh…September.
Sam: Has it been pushed back?
Ne-Yo: September 15th.
Sam: Any particular reason for the pushback?
Ne-Yo: I was not going to put out an album that was not 100% right; and I wanted the record to be 100% right – so that’s pretty much it.
Sam: What exactly is the meaning of the album’s title?
Ne-Yo: ‘Year of The Gentleman’. That basically comes from me personally feeling that what it means to be a gentleman is a little lacking nowadays. From the way we view and treat our women, to outward appearance. All that stuff. It’s a little lacking these days. The guys that takes the time to make sure he looks at least half-way decent before he walks out of the house are few and far between nowadays. The guy that will pull out a woman’s chair for her, open the car door for her. That’s a little lacking nowadays. That effortless ‘cool’ that you used to see back in the day with the likes of Nat King Cole and the Rat Pack, stuff like that. Not this, what we have today, where it’s like ‘Hey, everybody look here, I got diamonds and money and girls…look at me’. It wasn’t like that back in the day. Back in the day it was about being charming, about being charismatic, about suave, about swagger back then. You didn’t have to try so hard to get someone’s attention; they’d just give it to you anyway because you were ‘that guy’. This album is basically me trying to lead by example and showcase what it is to be a gentleman.
With that being said, I am not a perfect gentleman – yet! I am a gentleman in training. So there are still some aspects of being a gentleman that I have to learn; but I’m willing to learn, which I guess puts me a little ahead of the curve.
Sam: Good stuff. Congratulations on hitting #1 with the record’s lead single ‘Closer’
Ne-Yo: Thank you very much…
Sam: The song has performed significantly better here than back home in the States. Why you think this has been?
Ne-Yo: Well, the song is inspired by the UK and going out here in London. I remember that night, we went to a couple of different clubs. Two clubs were very American R&B/Hip-Hop based and I remember saying to my people “I can get this back at home. I want to know what goes on here”. So they took me to another spot – I guess it was like a Techno/House club – real small venue, yet filled to the capacity. It had the whole green lasers; people had their hands in the air, eyes closed and in a trance from this music. I mean, I’ve never really been a fan of dance music, it’s just never really been my thing, but the common ground I found with that music, is that I like to make music that makes you feel something. That’s the whole M-O of the music I create – I try to evoke some kind of emotion – happy, sad, whatever. That music (Techno/House) is strictly about how the music makes you feel, to the point where the lyrics don’t even matter (laughs). There was one I heard that had but 3 words in the damn song (laughs). It’s all about the feel and what the music does to you. So I tried to capture that vibe, put the little ‘Ne-Yo’ spin on it and do my own interpretation of what I heard and felt that night.
Sam: Having served up R&B/Pop smashes with your previous releases, ‘Closer’ is somewhat left-field for you musically, with its Euro-Dance sound. Is this something we can expect to hear more of on the album?
Ne-Yo: To a degree. I did a lot of things on this new album that I haven’t done before. I think that one of the reasons ‘Closer’ has performed much better over here is that over here you guys are a little more susceptible to change, a little more open. Whereas back home in the States, people kinda get programmed into one thing and one thing only. If it ain’t 50 Cent or doesn’t sound like this, then we don’t want to know about it. That’s one of the reasons I like it out here – outside America in general because people are open to more things out here.
Sam: Ok, in general, what can we expect from the album in terms of producers, features etc.
Ne-Yo: No features. This is my first studio album with no features whatsoever. I kinda wanted to leave it like that, as I’m doing a lot of experimenting with different sounds and genres of music. So if something –touch wood (laughs) – went bad, I didn’t want to have anyone else to blame but me.
Producers, I used everyone that I normally use. My production company, Compound, Stargate and more.
As far as the sound of this album, I’ve been basically been calling the album a buffet, as there is literally a little something there for everybody. There’s something there for the cats that are strictly Urban, for the cats that are strictly Pop, for the cats that are into Alternative that don’t even know my damn name yet! A little bit of everything for everybody on this record.
Sam: Awesome. What do you hope to accomplish with this album?
Ne-Yo: I hope to help blur some of these lines, knock down some of these walls and barricades that have been put up in music. (I want it to be) Not Pop, Rock, Urban, but simply to come down to two categories of music – good music and bad music. I pray that my music is always in the good music category.
Ne-Yo: Thank you, sir.
Sam: Next single?
Ne-Yo: A track called ‘Miss Independent’. (Coyly) You heard that one?
Sam: Uh huh (Sidenote: I’m not sure I’m supposed to have nodded as the track wasn’t supposed to have ‘surfaced’ at the time LOL).
Ne-Yo: …the track sees me pay homage to a woman that’s got her own. There’s something very sexy about that to me. Nothing worse than a chick you’ve got to (completely) take care of.
Sam: Ok. Like many, you recently put your own spin on Lil’ Wayne’s ‘A Milli’ track. However, your version in particular has garnered more attention than others, with many questioning who exactly you’re taking aim at…
Sam: For the record then, Mr Ne-Yo, what was the deal with that?
Ne-Yo: There was no deal (laughs)! Everybody swears I was talking about Chris (Brown). It wasn’t about Chris; Chris is my homeboy – why would I shoot at him? I actually said in the line “To anyone in general, this is not //But if you claim A Milli you ain’t got, this red dot is on your forehead”. That’s basically me saying, don’t think I’m talking about anyone in particular, I’m just talking shit. It’s one of those records you get on and basically talk shit. Everyone was talking about how much money they got, I was like ‘Hold on!!! Lemme talk about how much money I got!’ (laughs)…
Sam: As I’m sure that ‘Irreplaceable’ cheque guarantees (laughs)…
Ne-Yo: There you go (laughs)…
Sam: Your performance at this year’s BET Awards had many people talking, as you were largely considered to have stolen the show, so to speak, in comparison to more established acts. That said, do you feel you are in competition with the Usher’s, the Chris Brown’s and whatnot?
Ne-Yo: Yes, but it is a friendly competition – it’s not competition that’s based on animosity. We don’t do what the Hip-Hop cats do, where it filters into the music, then goes beyond the music. There is no such thing as “R&B Beef”. I mean, come on, we sing for girls, take our shirts off and shit. We don’t fight, no, that’s stupid.
I consider Chris Brown to be one of my close and dear friends. He’s like my little brother. Usher, I’ve met him and have the utmost respect for him – he’s done it better than anyone else. He set the bar for everyone else. It is competition, but it’s not angry competition. We can be compared to boxers; we can be friends outside of the ring, but everyone knows there is only one (#1) spot, which means there may come a point where you may have to get in the ring with your homeboy and knock his ass out! Don’t mean you ain’t friends no more, just that there is only room for one #1.
Sam: As we’re pressed for time, quickly, are you currently dating anyone?
Ne-Yo: Nope, unfortunately no.
Sam: Ok, I mean, you’ve been snapped with a few ladies, but I won’t probe…
Sam: Mhmm…Ok. Moving on; with the success of So Sick, you were catapulted into the limelight and haven’t looked back since.
How have you adjusted to fame, particularly in your personal life? How you deal with the inevitable fair-weather friends and family?
Ne-Yo: Wow. Good question. (I try and deal with them) One at a time. It’s something that is a part of this game, it’s gonna happen. There’s no real way to avoid it; you make a little money and everyone finds out about it. All of a sudden you have 90 new cousins! “I’m your favourite aunty. Don’t you remember I changed your diapers?” “No I don’t and no you cannot have a Mercedez Benz” (laughs). I mean you just deal with it; the rumours, accusations, the invasions of privacy and all that stuff, it’s really just part of the game. You can’t stop it. What are you going to do? Go beat up everyone that has ever said anything negative about you? That will be a lot of beating up you have to do (laughs). So you just kind of roll with the punches. It is what it is.
Sam: Craziest fan encounter, briefly?
Ne-Yo: Craziest fan encounter? This young lady broke into my hotel room and was there waiting for me, when I showed up. It was in New York, during the promotion for my first album.
I must have walked into my room and she was like “Oh my God” and I was like “Oh MY God, what the hell you doing in here?” She replied “I’m your biggest fan, I love ‘So Sick, yada yada yada, can you sign this? Can I have a picture with you?” I was like “Ok, we can do all of that, slow down. How did you get in here” (laughs). She didn’t want to tell me at first, I guess she had a friend that worked at the hotel that told her I was there and gave her the key to my room and she didn’t want to get this person in trouble. I was like ‘Ok, I won’t say anything, but, for future reference, you may not want to be breaking into people’s hotel rooms. Had I called the cops, it could have been a really bad situation for you.” It was all good though; she apologised, (I) took a picture with her, signed her thing and she left. The girl was 15 years old…
Ne-Yo:…that could have been really, really, really bad for me, you know what I mean?
Ne-Yo: That’s the craziest thing – thus far! Well, that and a chick that got my name tattooed on a (long pause)…region that you just wouldn’t show (laughs). She came to one of my shows and took it upon herself to show it to me while I’m on stage singing (laughs). I was singing ‘Sexy Love’ and I looked at her and she gave me one of these (gestures to his chest) and said to look at the tattoo.
Sam: I’ve just been notified that we’ve run out of time. Thank you very much for your time.
Ne-Yo: No, thank you.
Ne-Yo’s awesome new album ‘Year of the Gentleman’ is in stores & iTunes now. Do be sure to pick up a copy.
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