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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 www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Published in Previews

It’s March … so we all know what’s comin’, weather-wise. We strongly recommend getting out and enjoying some fantastic events before the broiler gets turned on.

The McCallum Theatre’s schedule is full of music events in March. While Johnny Mathis’ March 7 and 8 performances are sold out, here are some other shows to consider: At 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, singer-songwriter Don McLean will be stopping by. McLean wrote the 1971 hit single “American Pie,” for which he’s widely known; however, he’s written many other great songs, too. After catching his performance at Stagecoach last year, I can say he’s worth seeing. Tickets are $25 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang will be performing. Tickets are $65 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some great stuff going on in March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge will play. Etheridge won an Academy Award for her song “I Need to Wake Up,” for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14, R&B superstar Ne-Yo will be stopping by. Ne-Yo has won multiple Grammy Awards; this is one you don’t want to miss. Tickets are $49 to $109. I was very excited when I heard about the next event … but there’s a twist: At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, ’60s pop group The Monkees will perform. Here’s the twist: The show is slated to include only Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. Michael Nesmith, with whom Tork and Dolenz reunited with after the death of Davy Jones in 2012, will for some reason not be taking part in this show, barring a change in plans. Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple can’t-miss shows scheduled, too. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, comedian Kathy Griffin will be returning to The Show for what should be a very funny performance. After a successful run with her reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Griffin is still going strong. Tickets are $65 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, the ’90s-swing-revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will take the stage. If you don’t remember, swing music enjoyed a very brief comeback in the decade thanks to acts such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has continued on successfully since then. Tickets are $40 to $70. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 had a strong February—and that strength continues into March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, you’ll be happy to find a night of “country music without prejudice” with Big and Rich and special guest Cowboy Troy (pictured above right). During the ‘MERICA! years of the previous decade, Kenny Alphin and John Rich rode the charts, and also had several successful collaborations with Cowboy Troy, an African-American artist who does rap country music. Tickets are $80 to $100. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, plus-size comedian Ralphie May will be performing. May was the runner up on the first season of Last Comic Standing. He was also a contestant on Celebrity Fit Club. Tickets are $25 to $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one event in March that leads to this question: Are you ready to rock? OK, just joking: At 9 p.m., Friday, March 13, Kenny G (pictured below) will be stopping by. That’s right: The smooth-jazz sax man will be performing here! Despite harsh criticism from some of bop-jazz’ notable musicians, Kenny G has captivated audiences while selling millions of records around the world. Haters gonna hate! Tickets are $60 to $70. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will host some amazing musicians in March. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Dave Catching and Rancho de la Luna will be taking over Pappy’s with performances by Earthlings?, Dinola and Rancho de la Lunatics. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, there will be a much-anticipated performance by Gang of Four. The English post-punk outfit just released a new album. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

Copa has several interesting events booked for March. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, Copa will be hosting performances by actress Molly Ringwald. Actually, she’s more than just an actress: Ringwald is also a decent vocal jazz singer! Her 2013 album Except Sometimes included a jazz-style cover of the Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from her ’80s film The Breakfast Club. Tickets are $45 to $75. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-322-3554; www.coparoomps.com.

Be sure to watch the websites and social-media presences of venues not listed here for newly announced events. Have a great March, everyone!

Published in Previews

Season is finally here! As you make plans for Thanksgiving and prepare for the other big holidays just around the corner, you should also plan on attending some of these great shows.

The McCallum Theatre has an amazing variety of events booked solid through the month. One show that definitely won’t disappoint music-lovers is an appearance by Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Graham Nash at 8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 18. While he may be best known for his work with Stephen Stills and David Crosby, he’s had a long and successful solo career; his 1971 solo debut album, Songs for Beginners, was critically acclaimed and reached No. 15 on the Billboard albums chart. Tickets are $35 to $75. Herb Alpert will also be stopping by the McCallum, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, along with his wife, singer Lani Hall. The jazz trumpeter, known primarily for his years with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, was a pioneer in jazz because he mixed Latin, funk, pop and R&B styles into his sound. While jazz has been on the decline with audiences over the years, Alpert is still going strong. Tickets are $35 to $75. The Kingston Trio will be appearing at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. Before folk music became political in the 1960s, putting the genre on the path to a major revival, The Kingston Trio was paving the way for that revival. One downside: The original three members are long gone from the group, so the trio continues in a “third phase” with collaborators who worked with the original lineup or were otherwise affiliated with the trio. That shouldn’t stop you from going to see them and taking in some of the songs that inspired the folk revival of the 1960s. Tickets are $25 to $45. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Aaron LewisAgua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is hosting some big events, too. Theresa Caputo, aka the “Long Island Medium,” will be there at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15. What can be expected from Caputo? Well, it’s a safe bet that she’ll be communicating with the spirits and talking directly with their living relatives in attendance. Tickets for the event were $60 to $100, but we received word just before our deadline that the show is sold out. (I do NOT suggest shouting out a request for “Freebird” to her.) The following night, Neil Sedaka will take the stage; the “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” crooner will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. Sedaka was a pop icon before the British Invasion and rock ’n’ roll took America by storm. He’s still a success today; he’s been involved with American Idol and had his first big-hit album in two decades in 2007 with The Definitive Collection. Tickets are $50 to $75. For those who remember the band Staind from the infamous nu-metal era: Aaron Lewis, the frontman of the band, will be there at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30. Lewis became a hit after he did a live duet at Korn’s Family Values Tour in 1999 with Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit of a song Lewis penned called “Outside.” He turned in solo acoustic performances in the later part of the last decade and has now transitioned to country music while Staind is on hiatus. Fun fact: In July 2012, Lewis had a bitter feud with Carrie Underwood after she released her song “Last Name,” which he said “made her sound like a complete whore.” Whoa! Tickets for the event are $25 to $55. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

The Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has two big music events booked this month. Modern R&B superstar Ne-Yo will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. The three-time Grammy Award-winning artist is currently touring behind his latest album, R.E.D., an acronym for Realizing Every Dream. He has crossed over into pop and dance-pop; his recent single with Sia Furler, “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself),” was well-received and even included a successful music video—in an era when the music video isn’t appreciated much any more. Tickets are $49 to $109. Burt Bacharach will follow in Ne-Yo’s footsteps a week later, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23. Like Sedaka, Bacharach was part of the pop scene that came before the British Invasion and rock ’n’ roll, but he always stood out because of his unique songwriting. With 73 Top 40 hits in the U.S., Bacharach has also won Grammys, Academy Awards and pretty much every other award a singer-songwriter can win. Tickets are $29 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a light music schedule for the month of November; however, the resort’s Free Friday Concert Series kicks off with a Johnny Cash tribute by Rusty Evans at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15. Admission is free. Also, the venue will be hosting The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience: Moonwalker at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9. With a live band and a cast of singers, the show is a must-see for Michael Jackson fans. Tickets are $15. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has just one big scheduled November event: The Cabazon resort will host comedian and TV host Craig Ferguson for a standup performance at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8. Ferguson has established himself as the host of The Late Late Show and is a possible replacement for David Letterman if The Late Show host ever decides to step down. We’re dying to know: Will Ferguson bring along his robotic skeleton sidekick? Tickets are $55 to $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s has booked Cass McCombs for a gig at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 12. McCombs blends folk, rock, blues, country and several other different styles into one big, awesome mess. He’s toured with the likes of Band of Horses and Cat Power—and he’s definitely someone you should see live at least once. Tickets are $15. (Read my review of his latest album at CVIndependent.com.) The following evening, at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13, Bill Callahan will take the stage. The underground rock artist, who has also performed under the moniker of Smog, continues to push the boundaries of simplicity in songwriting; it’s said that he can repeat the same chord progression throughout the entire song. He’s another musician who has tried his hand in writing, releasing a novel, Letters to Emma Bowlcut, in 2010. Tickets are $15. After an appearance earlier this year at The Date Shed, Reverend Horton Heat will be playing Pappy and Harriet’s at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. The Texas trio and warriors of the road never disappoint and always put on a great show. I saw them on the same night as the 2009 Academy Awards when they played the House of Blues, right down the street from the awards ceremony and Vanity Fair after-party; the show was packed despite the traffic and all the Oscars craziness. They’re truly one of the hardest-working independent bands in the business today. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

The ExpendablesThe Date Shed hosts The Expendables at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. No, this group does not include Sylvester Stallone, the Governator or any of those guys; it’s the Santa Cruz surf-rock band that mixes reggae and punk. The resulting sound is similar to that of Sublime. Tickets are $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza continues to get some great bands thanks in part to their booking genius, Brandon Henderson. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, the Palm Desert venue hosts a retro-themed show going back to the big-band and rockabilly eras featuring Vicky Tafoya and the Big Beat, the Jennifer Keith Quintet and the Deadbeat Daddies; the show will include a pinup contest. Admission at the door is $10. Guttermouth plays at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. Guttermouth’s shockingly humorous and offensive lyrics reportedly got them booted from the 2004 Warped Tour; you never know what to expect from the Huntington Beach group. Antics aside, they’re a great punk band that shouldn’t be underestimated. Admission to the 21-and-over show is $10 at the door. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com.

Azul Tapas Inspired Lounge and Patio features a November party that is not to miss—Bella Da Ball’s Star Dedication. It will take place at 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, in front of Azul, followed by an all-star concert at 7:30 p.m. with food and drink specials. Performers such as Allison Annalora, Doug Graham, Keisha D, Marina Mac and others are all scheduled to perform. Admission is free, and the full menu is available, but reservations are suggested. Azul Tapas Inspired Lounge and Patio, 369 N. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs; 760-325-5533; www.azultapaslounge.com.

The Hard Rock Hotel is open for business and moving forward with events. The hotel will kick off an entertainment series titled The Edge at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, with repeats on Friday and Saturday the following two weekends. The Edge is variety show that brings together actors from the screen and the stage in a production of rock classics, similar to Rock of Ages and other Broadway productions that include classic rock and stage performance. November’s show is titled “Top Rock.” Tickets for the event are $45. Hard Rock Hotel, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; www.theedgepalmsprings.com.

Neil Sedaka

Published in Previews