Ne-Yo talks his new album, ‘The Good Man,’ how wife Crystal inspired the songs

Ne-Yo talks his new album, 'The Good Man,' how wife Crystal inspired the songs
Photo credit: Phil Knott

Ne-Yo has been a leader in the music industry for over a decade. He is an incredible artist, songwriter and producer. He is also full of wisdom, which is evident in his new upcoming album, The Good Man, set to be released in June 2018.

Featuring feel-good music, hints of reggaeton and Latin music styles, and a song dedicated to his dirty past, Ne-Yo embraces his evolution as a husband, family man, and global superstar, in The Good Man.

Rolling out caught up with Ne-Yo to discuss the creative process of this album and how a shocking first date led to a happy marriage and family with wife Crystal Smith.

What was the creative process of making The Good Man?
This album definitely took longer to record compared to any other album I’ve put out. Mainly because my free time is really not mine … I have three children, one on the way. My wife is currently seven months pregnant. Not to mention my wife and all of her needs. There’s a lot of stuff that was standing in the way of me getting to the studio to vibe out the way I wanted to. But it’s kind of good that it took longer because it gave me time to really focus on and get the songs that felt the way I needed this whole project to feel. I wanted it to feel slightly different than what’s going on in music right now. Not so different that it feels foreign, but something that evokes a little bit more emotions than [the] music [that] has been out lately. When I say music, I mean hip-hop and R&B. It’s kind of been about the same thing for a while now: sex, money, drugs, and I ’m not taking [anything] from these things. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but it’s the only thing there and that’s the problem.

For me, it’s about diversity, about warmth. I needed every song to feel like a hug. I needed to get the message across; the message of the benefit of being a good man. Not only the personal benefit but the benefit for the world. 

So it’s been a few years since the release of The Year of The Gentleman. Figuratively and literally, how have you evolved from the gentleman to the good man? Is there really a difference?
Yeah, there’s definitely a difference. There are some similarities [between] a gentleman and what it is to be a good man. Vanity plays kind of a big part in what it means to be a gentleman. Looking the part, knowing the power of looking the part and understanding that you are a walking, talking, living, breathing billboard. The work that you are selling is yourself. So, you’ve got to make it look like something. These ar,e unfortunately, things that can be used in a way of evil. Being a good man is to be responsible. Responsible for your own actions, responsible for the heart of the person you’ve made this promise to, to hold yourself accountable when you do something wrong and not pass the buck. It’s not about how much you can get away with. It’s about genuinely doing it the right way so there’s nothing to get away with. Like I said, we’re going to make mistakes, we’re not perfect, none of us are.

The album is loosely based on Crystal. Do you have one specific song that you dedicated directly to her?
Um, The Good Man record “Apology.” This song came from the very first, real disruptive conversation we ever had. This was our first official date. I kind of walked into the situation not as Ne-Yo, but as just me, if that makes any sense. No fedora, no security, no entourage, no paparazzi following me around; I was just a regular person that day because I wanted to show her the real me and make sure that she was all right with that. Here’s the thing about relationships: if you know you can tolerate all the good things about a person — you know you can tolerate how much you like his hair or his smile or how fine she is or how big her booty is, whatever — you know you can tolerate all that. That’s the good stuff. … You have to know what you can tolerate when you’re going to be in a relationship with this person. That was kind of the purpose of me telling her, when we first got together on this particular date, I wanted to lay out all of the dirty laundry — anything anybody has left you for or anything you think somebody would leave you for, I need you to lay it all out right here, right now. To my honest shock, because I wasn’t expecting her to be cool with this, but she was, is that she was with it. So, she laid out all of hers, I laid out all of mine and by the end of the conversation, I had a literal laundry list of do’s and don’ts in regard to being in a relationship with her. I pretty much just took that list and put it into a song, and The Good Man record was born.

You’re unafraid to try new music sounds. You even brought in reggae with this album with Stefflon Don and Bebe Rexha. Are there any other new sounds you want to play with?
I’m always down to try anything. We got a song on the new album called “Nights Like This” featuring Romeo Santos that the Spanish market is really going to get into, as well as the English market. But, I’m a melody guy. It’s not necessarily about the genre, but more about finding a quality melody that people are going to want to [hear], just living in the realm of what music is. So, I’m down to do any and every sound. If a polka player walked up to me and said, “Let’s do this polka song together,” then you would hear Ne-Yo on a polka track.

You seem to really have it all. Is there anything else you could want or want to accomplish?
Well, as my kids get older, there are things I want for them. But as for myself, I just want to be happy. I’m in a really happy place right now and I’m going to do everything I can to stay in this place. My kids are happy, healthy, fed, and well taken care of. My wife is in a great place; she’s got a good man in her corner and she’s a good woman to her good man, so like I said, I’m in a good place and I just want to stay here for as long as humanly possible. So, that means more albums. I don’t know about more kids. I got four now, so I might be good, but we’ll see. Definitely doing more stuff in the TV and film space, in front of the camera, as well as behind the camera. I’m currently learning how to write a script the right way, screenplays and all of that. So, in the very near future, you will see something written, produced, and starring Ne-Yo, but I’m just going to keep doing as much as I can for as long as I can. That’s what it’s been about and that’s what it’s always gonna be about.

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