How hard is that to have one foot in Motown and then one foot as a solo artist at Def Jam? How does that work?
I’m not going to lie man, it’s not easy. I will definitely say that I’m genuinely being two different people. The only aspect of an artist that I can take to the boardroom is my love and understanding of music. Everything else has to be executive. The mind of an executive is a practical mind. The mind of an artist is a mind based off being alive and emotional. That’s what being an artist is about. Being an executive is about number-crunching and what makes sense, two plus two is four. That’s what an executive is. I’ve been an artist. That’s always the mind that I have. So, again, me going through the fronting process understanding what it is to be an executive and trying to apply that without condemning my artistic integrity at the same time. It ain’t easy. It definitely ain’t easy. I will say that.
You couldn’t pick a dude in the garage and make him the manager at a restaurant. So why would you put a dude who doesn’t know about music and put him as head of a label?
That sounds like a crappy job for a creative person like yourself. Is there any fun part about being an executive?
The fun for me is the setup that they got right now. For a real, real long time it’s been cats who are all about money, all about numbers, and a whole bunch about practicality. But none about music in the job scene, which makes no sense whatsoever. You couldn’t pick a dude in the garage and make him the manager at a restaurant. So why would you put a dude who doesn’t know about music and put him as head of a label? That don’t make no sense, right?
With this particular thing we are trying to do with Motown is put the power in the back of the hands of the people who actually do music. Everybody on my team is either a producer currently, or writing for this one and that one. The whole team is that. So sitting down as A&R management with these cats is like sitting down and having a intelligent conversation with people who know music. That’s a lot of fun to me.
To sit there and talk about the new acts and we just bringing something the label should have done years ago. Artist development, spending the time and spending the money to make sure that there’s not a lot of confusion as to who this artist is or what this artist does. Back then, when an artist came out, you knew what it was without having to explain it. We are trying to get to that point.
I am actually having a ball from that standpoint. The thing I am worried about is there’s a time an executive’s life where he has to think about, “OK, the music that feeds an artistic soul versus the what puts money in the label’s pockets and is a hit on the charts.” The two are not always the same. It's not always the same music. Rarely do you get music that does both. In those instances where you don’t, I got to be real with myself. Am I ready to put out music that I don’t believe in, but I know it’s going to sell? I’m not looking forward to that day. If I had to make that decision tomorrow, it wouldn’t go good at all.
So I’m not gonna turn on the radio, hear a Motown song, and think, “How did Ne-Yo let this record out on his watch?”
[Laughs] Let’s hope and pray we never see that day.