Ne-Yo on the therapeutic power of music

“The therapeutic power of music is the reason that I do music in the first place,” R&B star Ne-Yo tells SoulCulture as we launch OK NOT TO BE OK – a campaign to raise and spread awareness and support for the mental health of our generation.

“My initial introduction to writing came from the fact that my mother saw early on in me that I had a lot of pent up negative energy and no real outlet for it,” he explains.

“My mom and dad separated when I was really, really young and so I grew up in a house with my mother, my sister, my grandmother and five of my aunts and me. I had uncles that would come round. So it was me, and women. Not that they did anything wrong – my mom busted her ass to make sure that I grew up to be the man that I am today – but the negativity and the animosity came from just my thoughts about my dad.

“Even as a kid, I understood… relationships between men and women, people fight. It happens. Y’all can’t get along? Cool. I’m your son. Why wasn’t I good enough for you to at least stick around for me? How come you can’t call? When is my birthday? When was the last time I saw you on my birthday? Stuff like this.

“It was eating away at me – and my mom saw that. So she handed me the pen and pad and said, ‘write it down’. From there, music filled that slot.. That hole that was left by the fact that I wasn’t good enough for this dude to stick around. So any depression or any anger that I was feeling, I’d take my pen and pad and I’d write. Initially it wasn’t songs, it was journal entries and rant writing… A lot of it didn’t even make no damn sense. Whatever I was feeling, put it on the page and when I was done it wasn’t in here anymore.

“So that was my introduction to the power of writing, the power of music, period.

“Music knocks down barriers. Language barrier, race barrier… All of that. Music has the power to eradicate all of that. It’s a very powerful force. It can be used as a weapon if not used in the right way – but also on the other side of the same card, it can save a life if used in the right way.

“It could be the thing that pulls you out of a depression. It could be the thing that takes that anger and eradicates it.

He concludes, “If not for the power of music I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know who I’d be – I might be the dude breaking into your damn car. I might be one of those cats who life just went left and all I can say is ‘blame the fact my daddy wasn’t around’ or whatever the case may be.

“Music made sure that I didn’t become that person. Music is the reason that I am who I am today.

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