Ne-Yo wants you to get to know him more personally. The R&B singer-songwriter's platinum debut last year, In My Own Words, showed the world his songwriting ability, but he laments that no one knows him as a person. 'Nobody got to know what makes me tick,' he says. So to put things right he's put more of his personality into the songs on his recently released second album, Because of You. 'Once you've listened to the whole thing, you can feel like you know me personally a little bit more,' he says. It's hard to imagine that Ne-Yo wants to make more friends. He already has 458,463 of them on his MySpace page and has admitted that he doesn't keep close tabs on them. 'I'm always working,' he says. 'I don't get to go on MySpace a whole lot. But I do go on there from time to time and chat with the fans. Every day I meet someone who's trying to get into the business and every-body has a MySpace page. If I meet somebody and they say, 'Please, go on my MySpace page. Check out my music!' I'll go listen to it. If I dig it, I might respond. If I don't, I probably won't. Real talk.' Real talk is what the 24-year-old Las Vegas native is all about. Not long ago, when he was still known as Shaffer Chimere Smith, Ne-Yo was in the same situation as all those people trying to get into the recording industry. But now that he's had two albums debut at No1 and received a couple of Grammy nominations, Ne-Yo's real talks need to be pre-recorded. His record label, Def Jam, distributes a 20-minute interview and three-page biography of its young money-maker to media outlets. Questions flash on the screen like subtitles to a silent film. Then Ne-Yo, seated in an armchair and wearing a letterman-style jacket and driver's cap, answers thoughtfully. 'What would I like to say to my fans around the world?' (The questions perhaps aren't as thoughtful as the answers.) 'I want to say thank you so much for all the love and all the support. Thank you for picking up In My Own Words and making it a huge success. And let's do it again.' And so they have. In My Own Words has sold 1.4 million copies since its release in February last year. Because of You sold 250,000 copies in its first week on sale, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That's not as good as his debut album's 301,000 copies in its first week, but by all other accounts Ne-Yo is pleased with the way things are going. 'The transition from being in the background as a songwriter and being an artist took a little getting used to,' he says. 'It's a lot different from being the guy that nobody knew two years ago, but I'm not complaining.' He's had little reason to complain at any juncture in his brief career. He wrote Rihanna's Top 10 hit Unfaithful, and co-wrote the Beyonce anthem Irreplaceable, which spent 10 weeks in the top slot on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. That has led to gigs composing songs for Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Usher and Whitney Houston, to name a few. He's also rumoured to be helping out with Michael Jackson's comeback album, due out later this year. Last year, he won Billboard's male R&B/hip hop artist of the year, and In My Own Words received Grammy nominations for best contemporary R&B album and best male R&B vocal performance for the single, So Sick. The eponymous first single off Because of You was released 10 weeks ago and has climbed to No2 on the Hot 100. 'I never wanted to do anything but music,' Ne-Yo says. 'Real talk. I also draw and paint a little bit, so maybe I'd be one of those painter guys with long dreadlocks and no shoes living in a studio in New York somewhere.' Already, though, his career is reaching beyond the recording industry. He made his acting debut in the recent film Stomp the Yard, and says he's looking for more film opportunities. He also mentions 'a few other side ventures' he hopes will take off. But music remains his main interest and he'd obviously rather talk about his latest album than his next acting role or anything else. His music best showcases who he is, he says. 'I want to show that I've grown, that I've evolved as a singer and songwriter, as a person in general,' Ne-Yo says. 'At the same time, due to the fact that In My Own Words was so successful, I now have a sound. And people want to hear your sound. They want So Sick every time. They want Sexy Love every time. So I had to find a way to toe the line between staying true to my sound and trying some new stuff so that the music doesn't become boring or so that it doesn't sound like 'In My Own Words Part 2'.' The album was nearly called Know Me. That's the title Ne-Yo uses throughout his pre-recorded interview, but it was changed shortly before the disc went to the printers. Know Me is, arguably, a more appropriate title - Ne-Yo's new album is more about him than anyone else. He cites three songs from it that are special to him, either for being odes to his musical heroes - Jackson, Prince and Frank Sinatra, among others - or for being about a particularly trying time in his life. 'Crazy - it's an unofficial ode to Michael Jackson - is basically a love song. The line is, 'If loving you is crazy, then crazy is what I be'. It's a sweet song,' he says. His other unofficial dedication is to Prince. He doesn't say what makes the song an ode, but he doesn't hide his admiration for the Purple One, nor mask his desire to work with him one day - something he makes sound like an inevitability. 'There's one person above everybody - if I could work with him then die the next day I'd be cool with it - and that person is Prince,' he says. 'It hasn't happened yet, but I'm really looking forward to working with him at some point in my career.' The ode is called Angel and he says it came from having 'crazy thoughts' one day about what it would be like if he were in a relationship with an angel. 'You got to imagine it would be the closest thing to bliss possible,' he says. 'But at the same time this is a person you can never claim as your own because angels belong to God. As much as you love this person, you'd know that they eventually have to go back up to heaven. So it's absolute bliss and absolute pain at the same time.' It's the closest we come in his promo interview to seeing inside Ne-Yo's psyche - except, that is, when he starts talking about his love life. He and his girlfriend separated last year, we learn, either before or after his son was born. The feelings and emotion from that time found their way into several of the tracks on Because of You, starting with the eponymous single. 'Because of You is about being with someone that, for whatever reason, you probably shouldn't be with,' he says. 'Be it that person you're cheating on your boyfriend or girlfriend with, or that ex-boyfriend or girlfriend that, you know the relationship has no future, but if that person calls you at three o'clock in the morning you know what it's for and you know you probably shouldn't go, but you go anyway.' It's apparently a continuing theme in Ne-Yo's life. He's said he wanted the track to pick up where Sexy Love left off. 'It's about being in love with a person so much that it turns into an addiction. No matter how many times you might break up you keep going back because you just can't help yourself.' The tortured tunesmith dramatises his wracked emotions in a video for the song that shows him being lured into a nightclub restroom by a scantily clad seductress, leaving his girlfriend alone on the dance floor. Likewise, another likely single off the album, Do You?, picks up where the previous album left off. 'My ex-girl is getting married, but still I'm writing her a letter telling her I care, while wondering, 'Do you?'' Do we care? His 458,463 MySpace friends do, as do a million others who have bought his albums. That's enough to keep Ne-Yo working all the time writing songs, so that we can get to know him a little more personally. Towards the end of his armchair chat he's asked what he'd do if he had a week off. 'Damn, a complete week off? Knowing me, knowing myself, I'd probably end up working. Real talk.'