1. What does the name Ne-Yo stand for, and how did you come to be known by it?
The name NE-YO is a nickname that was given to me by a dear friend of mine who recently just passed away; may he rest in peace. His name is Deon Evans a producer friend of mine… and he said as a joke and then name stuck with me, “You’re like the Neo of the music industry because you can do things in music that regular people can’t do, the way Neo in the movie The Matrix could do things within the matrix that regular people couldn’t do..”
2. Ne-Yo, you are one of the most talented songwriters in the world! At what age did you realize you had this talent?
Music has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. My mum tells me stories of when I was 3 or four years old running around singing different melodies and everything. But I have been doing it my whole life. Professionally I started around 19-20, somewhere in there, right in front of the people and then I eventually decided to do it for myself; here I am.
3. How easy or how hard was it for you to break through the music industry?
It was by no means easy to get into the music industry. It was a lot of NOs and a lot of negativity. Even though you have a vision of what you want, it’s just making the rest of the world see it or even agree. It definitely took some doing to get here, it took some years and took some patience. But what I have always said is that if you are meant to do something, it is not a matter of how or if; it’s a matter of when it’s going to happen. You just have to be patient enough to let it happen when it’s supposed to happen.
4. What is the most memorable song you have so far written?
I don’t really have a favourite song that I have written; everything I write is based off on a memory, or an actual happening; be something that happened to me or to somebody else, a friend or whatever – somebody willing to tell me a story. The most memorable song I wrote has got to be Beyoncé’s ‘Irreplaceable’ just because of the way the whole thing played out. It wasn’t meant to become the female anthem that it became. It was a song that I initially wrote for myself and I later realized that this subject matter, though it makes perfect sense on either side the gate, be a girl or a guy going through that situation. But for a guy to sing about it, is not going to go over as well as a woman singing about it. When a woman sings about it sounds empowering. I gave it to Beyoncé and the rest is history.
5. At what point did you decide to break out and start singing your own songs rather than just writing them for other people?
It was fresh off Mario’s ‘Let me Love You’ which was my first number one as a song writer. I initially always wanted to be an artiste but I had a bad experience with another record label that kind of just let a bad cloud hanging over what I was to be an artiste. So I deiced, you know what, I do want to do music but I don’t want to deal with that so let me just do the song writing thing. I did that song writing thing for a little while. Actually the deal that introduced me to world was completely accidental. When went over to the offices of Def Jam just because a friend of mine wanted to reunite with an old friend of his; we didn’t even go there looking for a deal or anything of business at all. But by the time we left the building, I was signed to Def Jam. So again, it goes back to when the things are meant to happen, they going to happen. It is just a matter of when. Be patient and let things happen when they are supposed to!
6. Which artists past or present inspire you the most in the music industry?
I don’t think it is a secret to anybody anymore that Michael Jackson played a huge part in influencing me to become an artiste that I am. I learned to appreciate my voice through Michael Jackson, Steve Wonder, people that had similar sound to mine. When I was a kid, my Mum used to listen to initially a lot of old RnB, old soul and I heard that. When I was a kid I had a really small voice so I hated singing. So my mum introduced me to Michael Jackson, Steve Wonder, you know, people that had a similar singing to mine and she said ‘listen to the way they use their instruments and it will help you learn to appreciate and use yours. Sure enough, those two definitely! Also Prince played a huge part from the stand point of his performance, the passion he brings to the stage!
7. What is that one thing that people don’t know about you and wish they did?
That is a good question and a difficult one to answer because to be honest with you, I been an open book in my whole career that I don’t have any secrets. I’m a man that can and will eat cereal 24 hours a day.
8. What is your favorite hobby in life?
Favourite hobby in life; I don’t have major hobbies. I used to be a huge comic book head back in the day. I have a rather impressive collection of comic books. From the ones I enjoyed reading to the ones you put in classic that you don’t touch for years because they going to be worth some money. I love cartoons and Japanese animations. I’m a pretty good bowler too. I like to do regular stuff. I’m a regular person, all this celebrity stuff is cool, fine and good but at the end of the day I’m a person. I love hanging out with my kids most of all.
You are about to perform in Uganda for the very first time, what are your feelings about the upcoming show?
I’m excited. I have never been to Uganda before. I know that, well I know now, that I have a pretty impressive fan base out there. I want to say thank you to all my Ugandan fans, I appreciate, and I love all the support. My twitter timeline is just filled with people from Uganda excited about the show! I’m excited too and I’m really anxious to get there and do for all what it is that I do.
9. Would you consider doing a collaboration with any one of the Ugandan artist?
I would absolutely consider collaborating with Ugandan artistes. I don’t so much differentiate or discriminate in regards to where somebody comes from. My only prerequisite with working with me is that you have to be ready to do something amazing; you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone for a minute and try some things. That’s what studio is for! You experiment and discover. If you are that person and you are willing to do that, yeah, we can work. I just hate when people come to me and say ‘Just write me a song’. Okay, write you a song about what!? I want you to be a part of this too. If you just going to take a song from me you might as well just let me do it because I am an artiste too. So I definitely dig when I get an artiste that is a real artist. They have a brand; they have a way they can do things. That means it does not just going to be NEYO pulling strings. No matter where you are from, as long as you are serious about this craft we can work.
10. You have been doing quite a bit of work in Africa lately. Why is this so and why now?
I have been doing a lot of stuff in Africa lately because I have been getting a lot of requests from out there. I know I had a fan base out there but my African fans they have been active lately. And I’m this kind of artiste where if my fans speak up, and they speak louder enough and they want me there, I will do anything in my power to be there. So that being said, Uganda, I’m on the way.
11. You are arguably one of the biggest R&B singer-song writers of our time, to what do you attribute your success and how can our aspiring artists do to even start to scratch the surface towards meeting similar success?
I attribute all my success to; this might not sound as grand as you want it to be but honestly, just not stopping. That is it! A lot of people don’t understand that there are no secrets to success. Be consistent and just don’t stop. Understand that people are going to tell you no, negativity is going to happen. There’s no getting away from it, it is like breathing. So that being said, you can’t allow that negativity that you are going to come across to become a wall. I can’t count how many times I was told that I was not as good as this one or that one. You need to know what your vision is, where you are planning to be, where you are planning to go and everything that you do needs to be directed towards getting to that place. And that is the advice I would give to anybody who wants to follow my footsteps.
12. Any last words for your fans in Uganda.