Ne-Yo on fatherhood and the power of music

Ne-Yo isn't getting much sleep these days.

It might have something to do with the fact that the 35-year-old R&B multi-platinum selling artist and his wife welcomed their second child into the world last month just days after the release of his seventh studio record Good Man. And somehow, he still finds time to serve as a judge on NBC's World of Dance.

Though he's swapped songwriting sessions for diaper changing (he's penned everything from Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," Rihanna's "Take a Bow," and "Let Me Love You" by Mario) none of this has stopped the "Miss Independent" singer from loving life.

Before hitting the stage tonight at Chene Park Amphitheater with triple threat Brandy, Ne-Yo chats with Metro Times about fatherhood, surviving the critics, and redefining success.

On fatherhood:
"Being a father changed the meaning of music for me. Initially, I got into the industry because it was about my love of music. It wasn’t work. After having children it took on a whole new meaning. It’s not a passion or a pastime, it's how I support my family. And that makes the music that more important."

"Fatherhood didn't change the content. I've always prided myself on making music for everyone from 4 to 14 to 40 but at the same time I’m a grown ass man and I have some songs you probably shouldn't play for young kids."

On his commitment to R&B:
"There wasn’t much of a shift musically between Non-Fiction and Good Man. I am the kind of artist that doesn't put too much merit into the genre of the music. I am music. Period. Lyric and melody. It’s all music to me. I normally am going to pick a sound that lends itself to the message I’m trying to get across. This time around it was about the evolution of a man, transforming into a better version of himself. An R&B sound was the best conduit for that message."

"Now, I've learned the power of music. You can change a person's thoughts, ideas, and beliefs with the right song."

On success:
"My definition of success has changed from when I first started. When I first got in business I had formed a definition based on what I had seen. Winning awards, magazine covers, hearing your songs on the radio all the time. That’s what I defined as success in music.

Now, I've learned the power of music. You can change a person's thoughts, ideas, and beliefs with the right song. That being said, success has nothing to do with record sales or awards. My current album, Good Man —  I hadn’t read many reviews or critiques. But someone sent me that RollingStone gave me a bad review and initially I was upset. I pulled back and I have close to 20 million followers on Twitter and at any given moment I can find positivity. This album is getting the most acclaim from the people. Even people that don’t normally like my music are saying, "I can't stand Ne-Yo but this album is hot."

But honestly, that means more to me than a critic who has probably sat in an office for 17 hours and listened to 34 albums before getting to mine and giving it 2 stars. I make music for regular people. People have said, I've made plenty of babies to your music. Knowing my music has changed lives — it's all about finding a silver lining in a dark cloud.

I don’t need to be headlining at MTV Awards. If it happens, cool. But I’m not stressing about getting my numbers up. I’ve done well for myself, I’m at the point that if I never sell another record again my kid's kids are straight."

On making music in troubled times:
"I mean I don’t gotta tell you, the world is dark right now. We are bombarded with negativity daily. It’s a lot, man. It’s the way media is set up. If I could go back-back, you would hear something terrible on the news you could just change the channel. Every time something terrible happens now there’s no turning it off.

I’m trying to be one of the people pushing back in the realm of positivity. I cannot join the ranks of people adding to negativity. I’m not a thug, never been. I’m not hung up on money, clothes, and jewelry. I’m always about finding a positive way to deliver my message. That’s what I’ve always been about."

On being labeled artist vs. a songwriter:
"There's overlap. Songwriting was my first love. Moreso above that mainly because my artistic passions have fallen outside of music, I've been working on scripts and screenplays. I’ve picked up my easel and paint again. I’ve always been artistic. In high school, my friends were into sports and cheerleaders. And I was into art and poetry and I was into cheerleaders, too. But I’ve always been this way. I am an artist to my core."

Ne-Yo will perform with Brandy at 8 p.m. tonight, July 20, at Chene Park Amphitheater; 2600 Atwater St., Detroit; 313-393-7128;; Tickets start at $46.

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