AHHA: Of the two, what do you enjoy more: songwriting or singing?
Ne-Yo: Wow, I dont think I can choose one. In the beginning I would have said songwriting, because that was my comfort zone, thats what I know. But Ive always loved to sing, and Ive 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 dont 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, its 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 its 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 youre 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. Thats 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. Its no hard feelings, I take all of that stuff as a learning experience. You cant hold grudges, I honestly think that if that didnt go down the way it did I wouldnt 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 youve written that become ringtones?
Ne-Yo: Oh wow, I dont 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. Its 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 Im 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 aint broke dont fix it, but at the same time I just recently started working on my new project and Ive worked with Stargate [Sexylove and So Sick] and Shay Taylor [When Youre Mad] again. A lot of the cats from the first album Ive already worked with again, but I still want to venture out and find that new theres this cat named Science and hes one of the newer cats that Ive worked with. His whole sound is R&B but it has Rock elements in it - music gumbo is what he does and its ridiculous. I love working with this cat, weve done a good six or seven songs already thats 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 dont want to go over anybodys head. Just because Im a lover of music, its not just Hip-Hop and R&B with me. Its 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, theres speculation that it wasnt 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 wasnt intentional, somebody hacked into my Sidekick and stole those pictures. Its 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 Im sending the pictures out." I was like, "For one, you need to higher your standards a little bit, you dont go around asking people for $7,000 - thats not like thats a lot of money. Thats like saying, "Give me two dollars or Im sending the pictures out." Hello? I got little paper over here. [laughs] You coulda got a whole lot more. But I aint give that dude no money - I was like, "Dog youre not gonna hurt me with that, so do what youre 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 shes all good and Im 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? Thats stupid to me.
AHHA: Youve 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 Ill be the first to tell you, Im not an actor - Im a R&B singer. Im a songwriter. I could fake it real good, but Im not an actor. One of the cool things about it was the other actors on set were real helpful. It wasnt about egos and, "Let me try and steal this scene [from] this R&B dude, lets 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 its a dance film based around the Black colleges in Atlanta and the fraternities in a step show. I play a cat thats 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 dont know, Im not good enough to do nothing crazy dramatic yet, so I dont 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 Martins character in Bad Boys.
AHHA: Obviously youre working on your new album, anything you want us to know about that?
Ne-Yo: Its really not a whole lot to tell yet, because I dont really have a direction just yet. Like I said earlier I dont want to do the same record again, but then again I dont wanna go so far away from what people have already come to expect from me. You dont do your first record this way, and then on your second record youre over here somewhere, because you could lose the fan base that you just got. So Im still really trying to figure it out - I dont know exactly what its gonna sound like yet or when its coming out. Theyre trying to push for like around Easter or something like that, but I dont 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.