Since making his recording debut in 2005, Trey Songz has undeniably become one of music‘s hottest R&B artists today thanks to an infinite streak of hit singles including ‘Can‘t Help But Wait’, ‘Successful (feat. Drake)’, ‘I Invented Sex’ ‘Neighbours Know My Name’ and ‘Say Aah’. Trey’s third album – ‘Ready’ made a stunning Top 10 debut on the Billboard Top 200 and later received a Grammy Award nomination for ―Best Contemporary R&B Album. In a candid interview, Trey tells me about his journey to stardom, how he has always been the underdog and what success means to him now.
HOW IS IT BEING IN LONDON? DO YOU LIKE HANGING OUT HERE?
I love it. It’s a place that I always thought about as a kid… the New York of Europe. For me to be able to come here and to be received so well, especially over the last few years, the trajectory has been moving forward and upward. It’s a blessing to be able to come back.
WHERE ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO HANG OUT?
Last time I was here I went crazy. I had 5 or 6 parties. It was the first time I ever got to really hang out though.
IS IT ALL A BIT OF A BLUR?
Exactly. But I’m looking forward to finding all the cool hang-out spots. I love Nandos.
HOW DO YOU FIND IT PERFORMING TO BRITISH CROWDS, DO THEY DIFFER FROM AUDIENCES IN THE US?
I think they’re more excited sometimes. The energy sometimes is different. The crowds receive me well everywhere but because I’m not here as often as I am in the States – for the bulk of my career I’ve been once a year – it’s excitement that’s built around that.
KELLY ROWLAND IS YOUR LEADING LADY IN THE VIDEO FOR YOUR NEW SINGLE, “HEART ATTACK”. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
Kelly is a great friend of mine. We’ve been friends for a couple of years now, and being 27 years old I grew up watching her become a superstar and after meeting her, her spirit is kindred. I say this every time I speak about her, but she has a smile that can light up any room. We developed a friendship and bond that comes across as real on camera. We’re real friends – I know how to make her laugh, she knows how to make me laugh. I wanted a relationship that would convey on camera as a real relationship – not as Trey Songz and an actress, Trey Songz and a model. I wanted to get somebody I had a rapport with, to make sure that I had that love and that bond…even the arguments and the tension in that relationship felt real.
IF KELLY’S THE PERFECT LEADING LADY WHO WOULD YOU WANT TO PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE?
I don’t know right now. I don’t know when I want a movie to be about me. There might be some new dope actor out by then. Either that means I’m gonna die soon or my career is over, so I’m gonna hold the movie thing off for a while.
YOU’VE BEEN AROUND IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS A LONG TIME, MAKING GREAT MUSIC, BUT I THINK IT’S FAIR TO SAY THAT YOU DIDN’T REACH INTERNATIONAL MAINSTREAM FAME AS QUICKLY AS YOU DESERVED, AS QUICKLY AS SOME OF YOUR COUNTERPARTS. WERE THERE TIMES WHERE YOU FELT YOURSELF LOSING INTEREST OR WANTING TO GIVE UP?
There never was a point where I lost interest. I’ve always felt like the underdog. Not only in music – in my life. I’m from a small, very poverty-stricken city in Virginia that is often looked down upon by other counties and cities around us. I moved around a lot as a child. I was always the new kid in school. In music it’s no different. I’ve been taught my whole life to get back up and try again. Anything that’s worth having doesn’t come easy. If it does come easy you don’t appreciate it as much as you do if you did work hard for it. For me, its always been that I make sure I’m focused. This ain’t a race for me, it’s a marathon. Those who work the hardest stay around the longest, and those who have to work the hardest to be heard, when they are heard they continue with the same work ethic. If you look at Usher’s first couple of CDs, Jay Z’s first couple of CDs, these are international superstars that didn’t instantaneously have amazing success, so I look to stories like that.
IF SOME OF OUR READERS AREN’T FAMILIAR WITH YOUR MUSIC, WHICH OF YOUR TRACKS WOULD YOU SUGGEST THEY LISTEN TO, THAT SUMS UP YOUR SOUND?
I don’t think there is one song that can describe my sound, but if I was to advise someone to listen to one song of mine it would probably be my first single “Gotta Make It”. It explains what it took for me to get here, and is very much prolific, because I say, “I just gotta make it, no matter what”. And although that album wasn’t the most successful, it gave it gave me a group of loyal fans who stayed with me from that day on. Also, speaking to people from another level, letting them know if you see me now, and look back 7 years ago I was saying I just gotta make it, and I wouldn’t stop until I did.
YOU’VE COLLABORATED WITH SOME HUGE ARTISTS, FROM NICKI MINAJ TO T.I. – WHICH WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE AND WHY?
It was with Aretha Franklin, also on my first album. Current artists, from Nicki Minaj, to Drake, to T.I., Lupe, Lil Wayne, they have all been memorable for their different reasons.
WHO IS LEFT ON THE LIST OF DREAM COLLABORATIONS?
Beyonce will always be on the list of dream collaborations.
WHAT CAN OUR READERS EXPECT FROM YOUR NEXT ALBUM “CHAPTER V”?
Actually it’s interesting you say that, because we’re listening to it now. We’re doing the sequencing and putting songs in order, mixing and mastering. It’s an album that feels very good. It’s an album you can live to. Do you know what I mean by that? You can party to it, you can laugh to it, you can cry to it, you can make love to it, and it’s an album which very much embodies what I’ve been known to do as far as my work is concerned.
DID YOU FIND IT AN EASY ALBUM TO WRITE?
It was very fun to make – I wouldn’t say easy. I did it over such a course of time – I spent almost two years making this album, and I’ve been travelling in between and having tours in between, so its been an album where I’ve had a chance to live my life at the same time. Being stuck to time constraints and having to make an album within a certain time, going back to the same studio every night, is the usual deal, but actually being able to live life has proven a great strategy for this album.
WHAT TRACK ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT?
Wow. There’s a couple that I’m very excited about, but I think one that a lot of other people will be excited about is “Simply Amazing” and also “Pretty Girls Lie”.
WHAT ARE THE MOST PLAYED SONGS ON YOUR IPOD AT THE MOMENT?
I could probably look at that right? It’s probably “Return of the Mack”. My iPod is not really radio driven. It’s not about what’s current. I resort to the radio for that. I listen to the radio in every city that I go, just to know what’s going on, but my iPod consists of the same music I’ve always listened to from D’Angelo, Jay Z, Jeezy, Kings of Leon, Biggy, Marvin Gaye, R Kelly, Sade. Music that I’m very familiar with. Throughout the process of recording this album I haven’t really been focused on what’s current. I’ve just gotten back into listening to what’s new – there’s a whole bunch of new guys out there.
YOU SING THAT YOU INVENTED SEX BUT YOU ALSO SING THAT SEX AIN’T BETTER THAN LOVE. I CAN’T IMAGINE YOU HAVE TROUBLE HOOKING UP WITH THE LADIES BUT DO YOU FIND IT HARDER TO FALL IN LOVE, WITH YOUR WORK SCHEDULE, FAME AND TEMPTATION OF GIRLS EVERYWHERE?
It’s very hard. Especially when you go anywhere and women are available. Finding love is hard to do, but I welcome friendships and I’ve tried, and I do have people in my life that I do care about.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SIGNATURE STYLE, FASHION-WISE?
Fashion is definitely important to me, but at the same time it’s also like whatever the hell I feel like wearing. It’s not really from the standpoint of what’s fashionable, it’s more what I feel comfortable in. From sportswear to suits, I love it all. I own a couple hundred pair of Jordans and over a hundred pair of dress shoes.
CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING NO ONE KNOWS YET ABOUT TREY SONGZ, SOMETHING EXCLUSIVE JUST FOR IDOL?
I try to keep as much to myself as I can because I tend to share everything with my fans. They know everything from the way my hair grows in the front of my head backwards, to what cologne I wear. Every day is getting a bit harder to give something about myself that nobody knows. But… I love orange juice and cranberry juice mixed together in the morning.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS?
Next week I’m shooting the videos for my third and fourth singles, “Simply Amazing” and “Dive in”. The album is coming out in America the month after that, August 21st. Stay tuned for my tour dates.
WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?
I was brought up in a way where I didn’t idolize people I didn’t know. So my grandmother, the women that helped raise me, were definitely the idols for me, as far as giving me morals and making sure I was taken care of. They are very strong women and it was a pleasure to be raised by such beautiful people. As far as music is concerned, Troy Taylor, my producer, who signed me and found me. Kevin Liles is an idol of man, now my manager, a very influential businessman and one of the highest ranking black men in the executive position in music, ever. He taught me that it’s not only about what you do artistically or creatively, you can also use your mind and he did that very well. And lastly, I’d say Jay Z who turned something out of nothing. A trendsetter, business mogul, entrepreneur-extraordinaire. How someone can use their influence to conquer so many different fields.
Interview by Holly Rubenstein
Photography by Elliott Morgan
Original interview can be found at www.idolmag.co.uk