R&B singer Ne-Yo has two platinum albums to his credit, as well as a passel of hit singles such as “So Sock” and “Because of You.” But he’s just as — and perhaps even more — famous as a songwriter and producer, with a resume that includes hits for Beyonce, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige and Mario, among others.
And over time, the 28-year-old artist says he’s learning how to balance those roles.
“The most difficult part of it is not giving myself away to somebody else,” explains Ne-Yo (real name Shaffer Smith). “If I go in the studio and just write, with nothing particular in mind, I’m just writing. Then, if I come up with something great, then of course, I’m gonna keep that for me.
“Now, if I go in the studio with the mindset to write a song for Usher or write a song for Whitney Houston or whoever the case may be, then no matter how great that song comes out, as much as I might like to just tuck it in my back pocket, that song goes to who I planned on writing it for. That’s the only way to do it, I think.”
Ne-Yo has a number of writing projects in motion at the moment. But he’s particularly excited about one — Michael Jackson, although he has no idea when or how the writing will be used.
“I’ve had a few conversations with (Jackson),” Ne-Yo says, “and it’s an absolute freak-out. I think I might sit in a corner and say to myself, ‘Oh man, I’m writing for Michael Jackson!’ over and over again and never get a song done.
“So I really have to look at it like I’m writing a song for another artist, y’know? I’m just writing a song for another artist — and then I won’t psyche myself out.”
Ne-Yo and Bobby Valentino perform at 7 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 16) at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway St., Detroit. Tickets are $45-$75. Call (313) 237-7464 or visit www.motopera.org.
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