Ne-Yo: The Hero, Pt 2

AHHA: Of the two, what do you enjoy more: songwriting or singing?

Ne-Yo: Wow, I don’t think I can choose one. In the beginning I would have said songwriting, because that was my comfort zone, that’s what I know. But I’ve always loved to sing, and I’ve developed such a craving for a stage. I love to perform and be on stage, just to get out there and give all of that. I don’t think I can choose one.

AHHA: Yeah, you can see your comfort level developed over the last year – you’ve come out of your shell.

Ne-Yo: Yeah, it’s funny. We tried to videotape every show – and I had forgot where we put ‘em, we just found ‘em recently. So we were watching the first show and I was like “God, could I be any stiffer? Damn.” But yeah it’s cool though, I love it.

AHHA: In retrospect, was there a song that you wrote for someone else, maybe even before you started performing, that you’re like “God, I wish I would have saved that for myself?”

Ne-Yo: Honestly not really, pretty much any song that I wrote that went to somebody else was meant for that person except for “That Girl” that went to Marques Houston. That was the one that was supposed to be my first single when I was over at Columbia. That’s really the only song that I can say that about.

AHHA: Has anyone from Columbia come up to you since those days?

Ne-Yo: Yeah, you know I had like nine different A&Rs by the end of it, I run into them all the time. Like Mark Jordan, Lenny Nicholson and all them cats. Mark Jordan is actually working with Rihanna, so yeah I see that dude all the time. It’s no hard feelings, I take all of that stuff as a learning experience. You can’t hold grudges, I honestly think that if that didn’t go down the way it did I wouldn’t be where I am today. [But] somebody over there is real mad at theyself.

AHHA: Right now since the RIAA has made the ringtone game [certifiable], how is that working for you? Also how much of a piece do you get of the songs that you’ve written that become ringtones?

Ne-Yo: Oh wow, I don’t know if I should give this information away. [laughs] I might have a better deal than somebody else and I don’t want them to go over there trippin’. I get to keep a decent little chunk of that, a very, very decent chunk of that. It’s doing real good – the ringtone game is trying to catch up with the regular record sales right now. Ne-Yo ringtones have paid a few bills.

AHHA: You used a lot of unknown producers on your first album. At this point I’m sure their status has changed a little bit. What is it like for you now? Are you gonna be like some of these artists and go dig up some new ones, or are you gonna stick with your original team?

Ne-Yo: My whole thing is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but at the same time I just recently started working on my new project and I’ve worked with Stargate [“Sexylove” and “So Sick”] and Shay Taylor [“When You’re Mad”] again. A lot of the cats from the first album I’ve already worked with again, but I still want to venture out and find that new…there’s this cat named Science and he’s one of the newer cats that I’ve worked with. His whole sound is R&B but it has Rock elements in it – music gumbo is what he does and it’s ridiculous. I love working with this cat, we’ve done a good six or seven songs already that’s definitely next level. Some of ‘em might even be too next level to even put on this record. I might just have to put that in the safe because again I don’t want to go over anybody’s head. Just because I’m a lover of music, it’s not just Hip-Hop and R&B with me. It’s Hip-Hop, R&B, folk, alternative, country, rock, heavy metal, all of that stuff. I could find something about every genre of music that I dig. It would be cool to be the guy that does music as opposed to the guy that just does R&B.

AHHA: The sex footage of you that was leaked out, there’s speculation that it wasn’t really leaked and that it was purposely put out to kind of negate that boy next door image that you have. What do you have to say about that?

Ne-Yo: [Laughs] Do I have a boy next door image, really? That wasn’t intentional, somebody hacked into my Sidekick and stole those pictures. It’s crazy the dude that hacked into it said he was trying to get some money out of me, it was a very stupid price. He was like, “Give me seven grand or I’m sending the pictures out.” I was like, “For one, you need to higher your standards a little bit, you don’t go around asking people for $7,000 – that’s not like that’s a lot of money.” That’s like saying, “Give me two dollars or I’m sending the pictures out.” Hello? I got little paper over here. [laughs] You coulda got a whole lot more. But I ain’t give that dude no money – I was like, “Dog you’re not gonna hurt me with that, so do what you’re gonna do,” and naturally he sent the pictures out. The person I felt for the most was the girl in the pictures, because her dad had to see that, but she’s all good and I’m all good with the whole situation. Why would I purposefully put my business in the street? People all in my business anyway, why would I add fuel to the fire? That’s stupid to me.

AHHA: You’ve worked on a couple of movie situations. Do you have any more plans for acting outside of just doing the soundtrack stuff?

Ne-Yo: Absolutely. Save The Last Dance 2 out on DVD right now, I helped executive produce the soundtrack to that, and they also wrote me in a small little part in the film. Like a really, really little part – you’ll look down and turn your phone off and look back up and my part is gone, and you gotta rewind. It was my first acting thing, I had a little five lines. It was actually pretty easy, because the character that they gave me to play was basically me, only me as a club owner. I play a character whose name is Mix, and Mix owns the hottest club in the city where everybody comes to get their dance on.

Then Stomp The Yard is starring me, Chris Brown, Meagan Good and this new cat named Columbus Short who is also starring in Save The Last Dance 2. That one was a little more difficult, because they gave me a character. “This is your character and how he is, how he dresses and talks.” I really had no leeway to do what I want, this is who you are in this movie. I was definitely out of my element and it was kind of difficult at first, because I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m not an actor – I’m a R&B singer. I’m a songwriter. I could fake it real good, but I’m not an actor. One of the cool things about it was the other actors on set were real helpful. It wasn’t about egos and, “Let me try and steal this scene [from] this R&B dude, let’s see what he gonna do.” Everybody was like, “Okay on this part, dude you wanna think about it [this way”] and just really like trying to help me so that it looked as good as it possibly could. The movie is called Stomp The Yard, and basically it’s a dance film based around the Black colleges in Atlanta and the fraternities in a step show. I play a cat that’s on line trying to get into this fraternity, and it should be out around January.

AHHA: Now that you got a bit of the acting bug, if there was any movie in history that you could put yourself in what would it be?

Ne-Yo: I don’t know, I’m not good enough to do nothing crazy dramatic yet, so I don’t know about that. Maybe some kind of action film, so I think Bad Boys would have been dope, something like that. My character in Stomp The Yard is the comedy relief for the film. That was one of the cool things about it, I got to just be kind of silly. I think I could have played Martin’s character in Bad Boys.

AHHA: Obviously you’re working on your new album, anything you want us to know about that?

Ne-Yo: It’s really not a whole lot to tell yet, because I don’t really have a direction just yet. Like I said earlier I don’t want to do the same record again, but then again I don’t wanna go so far away from what people have already come to expect from me. You don’t do your first record this way, and then on your second record you’re over here somewhere, because you could lose the fan base that you just got. So I’m still really trying to figure it out – I don’t know exactly what it’s gonna sound like yet or when it’s coming out. They’re trying to push for like around Easter or something like that, but I don’t know. I definitely want to bring some other elements of my personality out like I said – gradually bringing out these other facets of who I am.

Listen to Ne-Yo’s new song, “Make You Dance” from the Save The Last Dance 2 Soundtrack.

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