Courtesy of Def-Jam Records
Ne-Yo’s new album, “Year of the Gentleman,” will be released June 24

Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Shaffer Chimere Smith, better known as Ne-Yo, said he wants to bring class back to R&B.

The multi-platinum artist came up the concept for his third album, “Year of the Gentleman,” to be released June 24, while traveling in Europe. He said the disc will be a tribute to the style of entertainers Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.

The Lantern: Why did you choose the name Ne-Yo?

Ne-Yo: A producer friend gave it to me from the character in the Matrix.

TL: How important do you think college is for an aspiring artist?

N: I think it can be important, but not always necessary. The whole point of college is to find yourself so I didn’t go because I knew what I wanted to do since the age of nine.

TL: Why did you decide to start singing instead of just being a songwriter and producer?

N: Actually, I started singing first and had a deal with Columbia Records, but they tried to turn me into something I wasn’t so I just focused on writing.

TL: Which artists are your greatest influences?

N: Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince and since I grew up in Las Vegas, the whole Rat Pack made an impression on me.

TL: What’s the best and worst advice you have ever received?

N: The best would be from my mom when she told me to not focus on the things you want because you are always going to have desires and they can turn into distractions. So by focusing on what you need, you’ll always stay on track and end up doing what you love. The worst advice would be when someone told me to do the R.Kelly tour because I wound up getting kicked off.

TL: What are some of your other interests?

N: I like to act, paint and enjoy urban art, I’m a huge comic book fan and the best bowler. I bowl a strong 200 every time.

TL: What’s next for your acting career?

N: I will be on “All My Children,” but singing at one of the character’s wedding. I’m going to be in a modern-day “Purple Rain” film, and I am also getting my own cartoon together.

TL: Since your father is part Chinese, do you think that influenced your music style?

N: Not really, I have always been a fan of Asian culture and anime, but my music comes from me.

TL: Are you currently in a relationship?

N: No, relationships are stressful and the music business is stressful enough. So I’m just laying low right now and staying focused.

L: What’s next musically for Ne-Yo?

N: I would like to work with Patti LaBelle. She’s a cool legend, and I would enjoy writing for her.

Heather Hope can be reached at