Ne-Yo first hit the charts in 2006 with his hit single “So Sick”—and ever since, every album he’s released has hit the Top 10. A lot of people know that.

A lot of people don’t know he’s also a talented and acclaimed songwriter who has penned hits for Mary J. Blige, Beyonce and many others.

Ne-Yo will be performing at Fantasy Springs on Saturday, March 14.

Ne-Yo (Shaffer Smith) was born in Camden, Ark.; his mother was from Arkansas, and his father was from Nevada. His parents, both musicians, split up when he was young, and he was raised by his mother in Camden before they eventually moved to Las Vegas.

“There wasn’t a whole lot that was going on out there (in Camden),” Ne-Yo said during a recent phone interview. “It was the skating rink or the parking lot of the post office where the young people hung out, and that was pretty much it.”

Music runs in his family, he said.

“My mom sings; my dad sings; my aunts and uncles—everyone does it,” he said. “I guess it was hereditary.”

However, that doesn’t mean he’s always been confident in his singing abilities.

“I didn’t like my voice, because I didn’t sound like the kind of heavy-voiced artists that my mom used to listen to,” he said. “It was my mom who introduced me to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and how they sang. It helped me get a little bit more comfortable with my own voice. The first artist where I was really in love with music (was) Michael Jackson.”

He used a journal while growing up—which helped develop his songwriting abilities.

“I was kind of a pent-up kid, and I was aggravated and irritated,” he said. “My dad headed out really early, so it was just my mom, my sister and my grandmother. I didn’t have much of a male role model to vent all this aggravation to. My mom gave me a pen and a pad and told me, ‘Write it down.’ Journal entries became poetry, and poetry eventually became transformed into songs.”

While he’s written hits for himself and others, he said he hasn’t written his best song yet.

“I feel like with every song that I write, I grow a little bit,” he said. “I get a little better at what I’m doing, and as far as my best song, I don’t know what it is yet.”

Ne-Yo has worked with numerous artists, and he admitted that he has some favorites.

“Rihanna and I always have a lot of fun,” he said. “… I just love that she’s so honest. She’s all killer and no filler. She makes up her own mind and makes no apologies for it. … With her it’s, ‘This is how it is; this is how I feel, and take it or leave it.’

“I haven’t worked in Beyonce for a while, but she’s super-sweet and the nicest person on the planet. Despite the fact she’s a megastar, she’s just regular people and really down to earth. She has an untouchable thing that you feel  … but she’s the kind of person who would get up and go to the kitchen and get you a glass of water if you asked her to.”

In January, Ne-Yo released his latest album, which collaborations with artists including Pitbull, Jeezy and David Guetta.

“The album is called Non-Fiction, and I call it that because just about every song is a true story,” he said. “The songs are a story that’s mine, or stories from my fans that I got through social media. As far as the sessions went, I wish I could say I know when I’ve made the hits, but I really don’t. I just do what I feel and let everyone else do the same. “

What can you expect from Ne-Yo’s live show?

“Expect a show that is mainly about the music,” he said. “I’m not really the bells-and-whistles guy. I don’t do a lot with pyrotechnics, special effects and all that. It’s me, a band, dancers—and that’s pretty much it. We have a really good time, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Ne-Yo will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $49 to $109. For tickets or more information, call (760) 342-5000, or visit

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Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...