Ne-Yo FAULT Magazine Covershoot and Interview

Hat: Lock & Co hatters
Glasses: illi optics
Jacket & Shirt: MJB (Marc Jaques Burton)
Jeans: Represent
Rings & Chains: Cernucci

Photography: Jack Alexander
Styling: Vivian Nwonka
Grooming: Kristina Theo

A songwriter to the stars with three Grammy awards and a musical career spanning over 15 years of hit records, Ne-Yo has achieved the longevity that many artists can only dream of. Proving his ability to thrive within the industry despite passing trends, Ne-Yo has been at the forefront of creating timeless contemporary music and looks to continue his winning streak with the release of his new music video for single ‘Don’t Love Me’.

We caught up with the artist to discuss his career, musical journey and of course, his FAULTs.

Have you ever taken the time to sit back and reflect on how far you’ve come as an artist?

The first seven years of my career are a complete blur. I couldn’t tell you where, when, why or what I was doing. It wasn’t until I finally had to sit still and raise my children, that I began to recognise my musical achievements. It was at that moment that I had “oh, wow. I did win three Grammys. Oh, wow. We did just do Wembley Stadium, 80,000 people jumping up and down at the same time to something I wrote.” At those quiet moments, nostalgia hits but I don’t feel like I’m done in any way shape, form, or fashion.

What’s been the biggest change you’ve seen in yourself on your upcoming project when compared with previous?

My Good Man album was reflective, just me thinking about, what it was to be a husband, what it was to be a father – all of the things that hold the most importance in my life. In this album, I take the focal point of myself out and put it on other people. The name of the album is ‘The escape’ and I called it that because it’s what I want this album to be for people. I want people to be able to escape their current reality and step into this more peaceful, more serene reality that I’m creating through this music. If only long enough to just recharge your batteries before you jump back in the race.
I didn’t feel like I needed to write songs about life during Covid, I felt like you could look out your window and see that. I wanted to give the world a moment to inhale and exhale and step away from your dramas for a minute.

When you are in writing mode are you an artist that likes to shut yourself off from the world in case it throws you off your flow and what you’re working on, or are you the opposite?

You can’t ignore what music has evolved into. You can’t be that person and go, “ I’m just not gonna pay attention to what’s going on” but then also you can’t be the person that’s driven by what’s happening right now. We all know that the trends and fads are meant to come and go. If you dedicate your style to a trend or a fad, when it goes, so do you. For me, it’s a nice balance of both.

Did you ever feel pressure to have to change, to keep up with the industry?

I genuinely feel if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it . The way that we’ve done things has just always worked. So we didn’t really see any reason to do a whole lot of switching up. When you switch because the world switches, that’s how you lose yourself

You can’t ignore the fact that things are evolving and things are changing. I’m actually happy that it’s less complicated to just get music out there nowadays. You have so many outlets that were not around when I was trying to get into the business. I had to harass celebrities walking out of restaurants and silly stuff like that to get into the industry coming up.

When you’re such a prolific songwriter for others, how do you know when to stop and focus on your own music?

I have the gift and curse of a compartmentalised brain. I can write a song for myself and then within that same hour, turn around and write a song for somebody else. everything happens all at once in my creative process. Somebody will come in and play a track and as I listen to it, I hear ideas and thoughts that feel more like something that I would present to the world. I call it a gift because I’ve made a pretty decent career off it – I feel like it came from God.

How do you stop yourself from burning out on, or have you burnt out before and how did you get out with it?

I have definitely burned out before. There was a point in time when, my band, dancers, and the whole production team, were on such a high from being on the road and we weren’t sleeping or taking care of ourselves. Then came a point where regardless of what you want to do, your body will make you do what you’re supposed to do. I was in Manchester, I had a sinus infection that I just ignored. It got to the point where three songs into the show, I had no more voice and you could tell I was struggling. After that third song, I looked to my sound guy like “yo, there’s nothing left”. I had to stand on that stage and tell 30,000 people. I cried like a baby right there on stage.

That was the result of just not paying attention to my body, not paying attention to, my mind, it was insane. my body took over And I had no choice, but to sit down.

To this day, I’m grateful to the people of Manchester because that could have gone way, way bad.

You have a loyal fan base, is it ever difficult to make decisions that might be what you want but at odds with what they expect from you?

I dread that expectation. I know why it happens. And to be completely transparent, it’s not even really a bad thing. You do something really, really well and then people want you to do it again. It becomes an issue when those same people won’t allow you to show them anything else.

You have to completely commit to it. You can’t let yourself go back to what you showed them in the first place.If I ever jump genre, I know, I took the best elements of me and took them to that genre and do that RnB version of that genre.

What’s something you’ve done to benefit your mental health?

Spending more time with my loud and ridiculously rambunctious children. Before the pandemic, I was working a lot and always on the road. A lot of my relationships with my children had become FaceTime, and by the grace of God, I have very levelheaded smart kids who know that daddy would be here if he could be – but I’m at work.

Quarantine happened and I’m in the house wrestling with my three boys and sitting in and talking dolls with my daughter and getting my marriage back together. I used the time to just get back into each other and it really helped. It helped to the point that now as the world is slowly opening back up and I’m doing a bit more travelling that it hurts. I’ve grown accustomed to eating cereal with my boys in the morning so to wake up in another city and have to call them on FaceTime again hurts a little bit.

What is your FAULT?

I have quite a few, I am human. I don’t wallow in my mistakes. I don’t glorify my mistakes, but I don’t wallow in them. I use them as what they’re supposed to be, which are opportunities to learn. And, and I think that’s the most human thing about me.