'I could do without the fame'
WITH countless singers and musicians desperate for a taste of musical stardom, it's interesting to hear one who has achieved it saying he could "take it or leave it".
Having found fame with hits including So Sick, Closer and Beautiful Monster, US R&B star Ne-Yo has established himself as a gifted singer, songwriter and hitmaker, since his debut back in 2006. Still, having endured the pros and cons of the fame game, the 31-year-old - who became a father last November - says that stardom isn't all it's cracked up to be.
"I've learned that fame is something that I could definitely take or leave as far as this business is concerned," says the star, real name Shaffer Smith. "The pros and cons of fame ... to a degree, they don't balance out. Of course, there are some great pros, but there are some real major cons, which I've realised even more now with the birth of my daughter.
"I've got thick skin, so you can talk about me all day long. People have said all sorts about me, but you know, I've yet to slap a cameraman or anything like that. But if a person were to take a shot at my daughter ... that's the kind of thing that would make me smack a cameraman. To take a shot at my daughter would be completely unnecessary but it's not unrealistic because I'm in the public eye."
Whether or not anybody would make any negative comments about Ne-Yo's baby girl Madilyn Grace Smith remains to be seen. But her arrival into the world may shut down the gossip that has continued to dog the star for years; namely, the rumour that he is gay. It's a rumour that the star has consistently denied, and now, he says couldn't care less what people think.
"I don't (care) about that anymore. I feel like if people don't know by now what I am and they don't have bigger fish to fry than whether I'm gay or not, then they've obviously got issues in their brains that need to be taken care of.
"I get it - I understand that fans wanna know about your personal life. They put so much love and appreciation into your music and that's especially the case with my music. I put myself into my music so when you listen to it, you kinda feel like you know me. And then, when you feel like you know me, you feel like you have the right to ask me personal questions. I understand that, but at the same time, people need to understand that as well as being an artist, I'm also a man.
"You wouldn't ask some random person what they do in their bedroom. I feel like I should be given that same respect. Any information that I choose to volunteer is up to me. But other than that, I think I should get the same respect that any other person would get when it comes to their personal life."
It seems like a reasonable request. But in the current celebrity-obsessed society in which we live, it's unlikely that artists will ever be able to be strictly about the music. Thankfully, Ne-Yo has always been gracious in interviews, having clearly accepted that media inquisition is part and parcel of the career path he's chosen.
Naturally, the birth of his daughter sparked interest about his relationship with the baby's mother, Monyetta Shaw. Shaw, understandably, was repeatedly referred to as Ne-Yo's girlfriend. But, last year, before the birth of his daughter, the singer was reported to have denied that Shaw is his girlfriend, saying: "I have a friend. Not a girlfriend. She's carrying my child but knows I can't commit. She doesn't mind other women."
Mum on current relationship
Though Ne-Yo didn't discuss his current relationship with the mother of his child, he said: "I have the utmost respect for the part she had to play and will have to continue to play. It's not an easy thing, especially at this stage when babies are so demanding."
Of his own experience of parenthood, he added: "It's a real journey. It's the hardest thing I've ever done but the best thing I've ever done. It's an absolute labour of love.
"I don't get to spend as much time with her as I'd like. And I know there are certain milestones I'm gonna have to miss out on and I just have to be ok with that, because I need to make sure that lil mama can go to college if she wants to."
Does he fear that the time might come when his daughter will resent the fact that daddy wasn't around for certain occasions?
"That is a small concern," Ne-Yo admits. "So I just make sure that the times that I am there, she absolutely knows who I am and how I feel about her. The time I get to spend with her is magic."
Considering his current place in the industry, Ne-Yo - who will embark on a UK tour this week - is surprisingly honest in admitting that he thinks, right now, his heat has faded slightly.
"I'm not a scandal kind of guy and because of that, at the moment, I might not be as popular as some other artists. But music is all about transitions. You'll have one thing that's hot for a little while and then something else will be the hot new thing. So I feel like as long as I stay true to who I am, what I do will become the cool thing again and everything will be fine.
"In the meantime, I'll continue to do make the music that I make and get on stage and give 200 per cent. People that appreciate it will appreciate it, and for those that don't, they have other options."
Currently working on his fifth album, rumour has it the star is also developing his own line of hats.
"Yeah, I've got some stuff in the works," he confirms. "I got told that, for whatever reason, there are some guys out there that wouldn't mind dressing like me! So if that's the case, why not create my own line? That's not what I was going for. I didn't put on whatever I put on in a bid to be a trendsetter. But if I am, that's cool!"