Some say that songwriting is a lost art. Gone are the days of the Smokey Robinson‘s, the Babyface‘s. Replaced with cookie cutter singers with weak vocals and telegraphed dance moves fit for the microwave generation.
But for Arkansas born, Las Vegas raised Shaffer Smith is a breath of fresh air. After going double platinum with his debut album In My Own Words, the man also known as Ne-Yo is ready to hit the masses with his second offering, Because of You. With a single released of the same name, this singer/songwriter extraordinaire sits down with HHDX as he talks about the Grammy’s, his writing muses and explains why Beyonc� is still irreplaceable in his eyes.
HHDX: Congratulations on the Grammy nomination, you must feel like your career is going in the right direction after dropping your first album?
NY: It’s going better than I had planned on it being. When my album came out, I felt like if I could get in the top 10, then I’d be good. This business is very much “love you one minute, then hate you the next. So, if I could get to number 10 of the charts, I’d be alright. But the album went number one and sold three million worldwide, so I would say that I’m doing better than alright.
HHDX: When you get a chance to have a free moment to reflect do you ever just sit back and think about the progress you’ve made? Because I remember seeing your name on the liner notes from this group called Youngstown from here in Ohio.
NY: Wow, that was my first group. I can’t believe you knew that! I remember when I met them. They had a deal. I really looked up to them. I wished that I was where they were at. That was the closest that I had been to that type of success. They were doing what I had wanted to do my whole life. I remember looking back at them and say that one day that’s going to be me. That was when I was green and didn’t know nothing. When you get a deal that’s when the problem starts. Their label was doing them all types of dirty. It’s crazy what you learn in this business. Inside � think it’s not good.
HHDX: I read somewhere that your first song was about mustard. Being that you’re in the spotlight now, could you freak that song, now, into a top ten hit?
NY: I was five years old. I don’t remember doing that, but she reminded me. That was my first song that I ever wrote. [Laughs] Could I turn it into a hit, I don’t know, probably�
HHDX: You’re one of the few young acts that is hailed as both a singer and a songwriter. Your new single, “Because of You” is really good. So, what are your influences behind these songs?
NY: Pretty much, the influence is from true to life experience. It’s something that I’ve experienced or something that someone close to me has experienced. So, if I’ve been close to someone, I have a little bit of insight. There are things that go on in life, in general, people think that because I’m in a different tax bracket that my life is different than theirs. It’s not. Not really, it’s just financially different
HHDX: Well, if you were to have to put a name behind the woman who influenced “Because of You” who would it be?
NY: Umm� you know what I’m not going to give her shine like that. It is a real person, but I’m going to respect her privacy.
HHDX: Since Valentine’s Day just passed � what did you do? Spent it with anyone special?
NY: Ahh, on Valentine’s Day, I had a show in California. There were couples, singles, everyone� I did two shows that night. I celebrated with the people who’ve been listening and following my career for a while now.
HHDX: There are critics who are coming down on Beyonc� after it came out that you wrote “Irreplaceable” and she only helped with the melodies. Why wouldn’t someone taking the credit that you deserved and earned not anger you?
NY: Because I know that she didn’t have any animosity when she said it. For example, I wrote “Let Me Love You” with someone else. But I’m credited with writing the song. So, I know that that’s the way she meant it. She did help make the song what it is. At that time, the spotlight was on her, so, who am I to take away her shine. It wasn’t on any malicious shit. I think people blew it all out of proportion. People looked at it kind of foul, so anyone who wants to say anything negative about her should save it!
HHDX: I understand having to keep your business and friendship with people in tact, but is it better to not have people praise you for your talent, in order to keep those relationships fruitful?
NY: No, I feel if someone is taking something from you that they don’t deserve, then they get cut off. Credit is everything in this business. You make more money off of publishing than you do as an artist. If someone is going to take that away from you then that is not a relationship. If I wrote the song, then I’m definitely going to let it be known. I’m telling the whole world that I wrote that. I have been through that before, that’s why I know Beyonc� wasn’t doing it in a negative light. She has credited me before.