You recently did a duet with Anastacia and have worked with countless fabulous singers, who was your favourite to work with?
Rihanna is my favourite because she’s like my little sister. I mean, we are that close. We have corny nicknames and punch each other in the arms. There is a lot of joking and messing while in the studio but we always get the job done. BEYONCE is so frickin’ talented that the songs I do with her are the easiest work I’ve ever done. I love working with MARY J BLIGE because the sessions almost become therapy sessions. We always end up talking about really deep issues and spirituality. I don’t have those kind of conversations with anyone else. Working with MICHAEL BOLTON was the biggest surprise for me. He’s a really cool guy and I don’t totally didn’t expect him to be. I was shocked. I thought he was going to be really snooty and tell me how he wanted me to do things but he wasn’t like that at all. He’s the kind of guy I could watch a football game with. One session I thought was going to be really tricky was with LIONEL RICHIE. I totally didn’t know what I could bring to the table to someone who is such an amazing songwriter but he just told me to get on with things. I found it insane that he was taking direction from me.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
Probably the Grammy I won earlier this year for Because of You. I was very proud of that. Beyonce’s Irreplaceable is also a highlight because it became such a big female anthem. I didn’t try to do that at all. I wrote all the lyrics but she helped with the vocal arrangements. Beyonce is one of those people who is beautiful in the morning, which you can’t take about a lot of people. She was very easy to work with.
Is it true that you are going to be working with Michael Jackson on his new album?
Yes we’re currently in negotiations. I’m submitting songs and we talk on the phone all the time about the songs he likes and dislikes. Our conversations always end up with him asking me to send him more material. He’s sworn me to secrecy so I can’t say what sort of sound he’s going for but he’s a legend and I can tell you it will be good.
Is it really true that you are working on a project with Marilyn Manson?
Yes it is true. We’re trying to fit a session in the studio together soon. I’m desperate to work with him just so I can find out what he’s like. Who knows what will happen? Beyonce and Mary J Blige are easy, I could work with them in my sleep. I’m going to have to dig a little deeper with him as I have no idea where we’ll go.
Some of his stuff I dig, some I don’t.
Hey Ne-Yo, I want to know what your earliest and greatest musical influences were.
Michael Jackson, STEVIE WONDER, PRINCE. However SAMMY DAVIS JR of the Rat Pack was my biggest influence. I got into that type of music at a very young age because I grew up in Las Vegas, My mum worked as a dealer and a janitor out and started getting into the whole big band 40’s music which I in turn fell in love with. Living in Atlanta, Georgia now, I have no idea how I lived in Vegas. It’s an insane place.
What do you think of London?
I love London. I love the vibe of this place, the English accents and the fact the cars are on the other side of the road. I’ve never seen Big Ben so I want to do that soon. I dig some English food but some I don’t. I wasn’t impressed with some meat pie thing.
What are your best/worst ever live gigs?
The best was probably the very first time I played in Japan. I was doing hand gestures as I didn’t speak any Japanese. It was crazy as I did a thumbs up when I came on stage and everyone went crazy. So Sick was the first song I played and every person in the audience knew every single word. It just proved to me that music knocks down any barrier there is. My worst gig was when I fell off the stage into a trench during a show in the States. The stage was black and it was dark and I couldn’t see where the stage stopped. It was very embarrassing. They had to stop the music and security pulled me out of the trench. The show went on but my ego was bruised.
You have written plenty of amazing songs for other artists including Beyonce, Rihanna, Whitney Huston and Britney Spears. Doyou ever feel slightly resentful that you are not getting the credit for these songs?
No, not at all. There are songs that I can write that I know will sound better on other people than myself. Some songs are written with other people in mind.
Are Rihanna and Chris Brown engaged?
I think I would know if they were! Ri and Chris are both really good friends of mine. I don’t think she knows that she shouldn’t wear a ring on that finger. I have to be honest and say that when I first heard that they were together I didn’t think it was real. Just months prior to them starting dating record companies were trying to put me with Rihanna to build up some controversy. They’ve been trying to do it with me for years but I refuse to sell my soul. But I’ve hung out with them so much that I know that it’s the real deal and they’re in a relationship. They tear hair out of each other and argue. I’ve seen them kiss and make up like other couples do. I’ve seen the ups and downs.
Do you ever suffer with stage fright?
I’m always fine when I’m at the venue but the few seconds before I come on stage I do get nervous and my heart is almost pumping out of my chest. The day I don’t get nervous will be the day I’ll stop what I’m doing.
In your opinion who is the most stylish male/female?
KANYE WEST is the epitome of style. He has bought back those weird 80s glasses and sets trends. Rihanna. I won’t say that she was the first person to rock that short do but we’ve certainly seen it a lot more since she had it done. It was actually my idea to have it all cut off into that crop. When she first started out everyone was comparing her to Beyonce so I told her that chopping it all off would distance her.
Has music always your passion from a young age?
Yes, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. If it didn’t work out I’d have become a painter. I do that now when I want a release from the record industry.
Hi. Are you excited about your upcoming tour with the Pussycat Dolls?
Yes I can’t wait. It’s going to be an amazing show. The girls are all so great. I hope to do another tour of my own in the UK next year as well.
Tell us more about the plans for Venice Beach, your semi-autobiographical movie. Are you keen to get into acting?
Acting won’t ever take the place of music. I could never take the WILL SMITH route and be a full time actor. I did one movie, Stomp The Yard which was a really fun experience which I’d like to do more of. I’ve had no training but I learnt a lot from one movie I’ve done. Just got director PAUL HUNTER on board to do the film. I’m trying to work out how much of my actual life I want to put in there. I’ll play myself although the character will be called Sean and not Ne-Yo. 50 CENT’S movie Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ wasn’t really my cup of tea but 8 Mile was good.
Were you surprised Closer did so well?
No, not really. Getting to No.1 in the UK wasn’t a shock. I was surprised it did so well in the States as it didn’t get a great reception at first. We did think about not releasing it but everyone, including JAY-Z told me to stay with it and it proved to be the right decision.
Who would you most like to work with next in your career?
ALICIA KEYES because I love her. She can do no wrong in my eyes. I have a little crush on her. We did a tour together a while ago but I’d love her to star in one of my music videos.
Hey Ne-Yo. Happy Birthday in advance! What’s the best present you’ve ever received?
Two years ago my mum bought me a box with a note card inside which read: ‘Whenever life gets too much, always remember you can come home.’ Inside she had filled the box with Ninja turtle figurines and comic books from my childhood. I’ll never forget that. It was really touching that she thought to do that.
Are you a fan of Miley Cyrus?
No I wouldn’t say I was a fan but I actually took time to listen to some of MILEY’S Hannah Montana stuff recently to find out what all the fuss was about. It’s good music, obviously not what I want to listen to all the time, but yeah she’s fun.
What is your verdict on Britney’s comeback?
Body’s looking better. I’m happy for her. She’s going to come back and be massive.
What is your favourite holiday destination?
I’m going to say Vegas, just because I love going back there.
How many tattoos do you have?
I’ve got five but it’s getting addictive. I’m planning my next one now.
When was the last time you cried?
When I saw The Secret Life Of Bees I had a serious lump in my throat. I didn’t bawl my eyes out but I was close. I was conscious I didn’t want people to see me.