Since making his recording debut in 2005, the Grammy Award nominated US star Trey Songz has crafted some of the most acclaimed and compelling R&B slow jams of the decade. Having already released four studio albums, including the most recent, Passion, Pain & Pleasure, winning the prestigious title of Best Male R&B Artist at the 2010 BET Awards and starring in his own hit TV show
My Moment on BET, at 26, Trey Songz is more than ready to claim his place as one of the R&B greats. Flavour catches up with the Virginia-born heartthrob at an exclusive London location…
It’s fair to say Tremaine Neverson, better known as Trey Songz to you and me, or Trigger, if you’re very lucky, has developed a bit of a reputation for sexy lyrics, risky videos and making millions of female followers around the world weak at the knees.
‘I think from the beginning of my career to now a lot of people have had the chance to see how I diverse I am both musically and as a person. The same guy that sings songs like “Love Faces” can sing tracks like “Bottoms Up” and “Successful” too. I listen to a broad range of music and that helps me to make records that have a broad appeal as well.’
After supporting Ne-Yo on his recent UK tour, Trey will return to headline his own show this April – and even though we’ve already seen several US R&B stars bring their racy tours to these shores so far this year, he isn’t the slightest bit phased by the competition.
‘I do me, baby. Usher and Ne-Yo, they do them, and I do me, so we’ll see… What I love about performing is the intimacy of it. One of the best parts of my show is the connection made with the fans – the crowd’s response at The O2 was phenomenal and I felt like I was on top of the world. Expect more of what you got, only this time in more depth.’
But spare a thought for Trey’s mum whenever she is sat in the audience. She’s probably among a wave of screaming girls, declaring their undying love for the star while he’s performing sexually charged tracks and tearing open his trademark vest to reveal his stunning physique.
‘My family have come to a few of my shows. When my mother comes to the shows she closes her eyes on certain parts. My grandmother came to a show too, but they had to walk her out and then walk her back in. They understand that’s the business and it’s the difference between the person that’s on stage and the person they know at home.’
But where did this sex god reputation come from? Trey suggests his album artwork could have had something to do with it… ‘My breakthrough album Ready was very sexual, from the cover being shirtless to two very sexual videos. I’m not afraid of people thinking I like sex, because I do and everybody does. I sing about it [laughs]. But I sing about other things too.’
And for those ladies who long for a moment between the sheets with Trey, don’t expect his sex playlist to include any of his own material. ‘I actually had a situation where my song came on while I was having sex, and it was the weirdest thing,’ he reveals. ‘I actually had a woman ask me to play my music, but that gets weird. You feel like, so into yourself. Am I the guy who really wants to have sex while my song is playing? I’m not that guy. That’s like, so arrogant – it feels that way, even if the woman wants that, it feels… man, I can’t do it.
‘On my sex playlist there is a lot of R Kelly, a lot of Tank’s second album, Sade, Isley Brothers and some Jodeci too, but it depends on the woman and the mood I am in.’
Trey never seems to be in one place more than a couple of days at a time, and his diary is littered with photo shoots, concerts, interviews, award shows, you name it. It’s typical of the artists today who reach fans all over the world, so it’s just as well he can pen lyrics and song concepts just about anywhere.
‘Inspiration for my music comes to me all throughout the day. There’s no really specific environment for writing a song, especially nowadays when artists do so much. I might do 15 interviews in a day and then go to a show, then go to a party and then go to a different city, so there’s really no set atmosphere. I like to have candles lit, I like to have the lights low, and I like to have some wine on hand, but that’s if I have set studio time, and that rarely happens.
‘It’s very sporadic,’ he adds. ‘You might get two days here and three days there. It’s just God’s gift to me to be able to draw inspiration from so many places. Like, if I go through something today, I might put a note in my phone. If you’re with me for long enough you’ll hear me say, “That would be a dope song.” I say it a lot.’
Though finding traditional time in the booth may sometimes be a challenge, he admits his music has been known to be inspired by his own sexual encounters. ‘“Neighbours Know My Name” was definitely written from real experience. My old assistant walked in on me having sex once. She was coming in to clean up my room and didn’t know I was in there, and yeah… The room had these French doors but they were open. She walked in, and walked straight back out. That was definitely an embarrassing moment!’
You’ll be delighted to know that Trey even revealed a weakness for UK women! And he went as far to tell us what it would take for a girl to catch his eye. Ready?
‘The style over here in the UK is definitely unique. It’s a confidence. That’s not to say American women don’t have confidence, because Lord knows they do. But there’s a certain style, a certain way that you carry yourself here, it’s very intriguing, very sexy. It kind of pulls you in.
He continues, ‘I just want a woman to be a lady and be herself. I don’t like stuck-up women, it’s crazy, because I don’t know what people expect, but I’m very humorous, I like to laugh, have fun and be stupid. I don’t want a woman to take herself too seriously. I think women probably expect more from me because of what I do. I think I have raised the bar for a lot people. I think guys really have to step it up.’
Tickets for Trey Songz UK Headline Tour are available from AEG Live from www.aeglive.co.uk or call 08444 775 775
Tuesday April 5, London HMV Hammersmith Apollo
Sat April 23, Liverpool Guild of Students
Mon April 25, Birmingham Academy
Tues April 26, London HMV Hammersmith Apollo
Follow Trey Songz on Twitter @TreySongz
Words by Claire Bloomfield
Photography by Jordan Roach
In London Trey attended an event hosted by BET International, as part of the ‘Global Good’ campaign, and the Damilola Taylor Trust. As well as guest speaker Mayor of London Boris Johnson, there was a Q&A session with Trey, plus performances from Mobo winner gospel rapper Jahaziel, Mizz Camara and poet Dean Atta. Here’s what he told a hall full of young people about his journey:
‘It doesn’t matter where I go in the world, my voice is heard and that’s important. I heard about the trust and wanted to use my voice to do good.
‘I’m from a small town called Petersburg, Virginia, and singing was a hobby, something I liked to do. It was such a farfetched dream that I never even thought about pursuing it as a career. That’s a crazy mind-set to have because anything is achievable. Not everybody can be a singer or a ball player, but if success is what you wish to obtain, you can have it.
‘The road to where I am hasn’t been easy. My mother was a single parent. My father was nowhere to be found. He had fallen victim to the drug game. My city is poverty-stricken; despair is in the air. The number one employer is Wallmart, everybody is earning minimum wage. To dream outside of that was irregular, it wasn’t for me – that’s what the world had me believe. I’m here to say no one can stop you getting what you wish for.
‘I moved around a lot with my mother and went to a different school every year until high school. My mother met a military man; she was married for a while but that relationship wasn’t strong and he wasn’t really a father to me. I was always the new kid and got into a lot of trouble, I rebelled. That’s a problem for a lot of young people from broken homes, there’s no guidance. My mother is a very strong woman and goes everywhere with me. She’s the light of my life and reason I am the person I am. That’s kept me humble throughout my success. She sacrificed her own goals to make sure mine were realised – a lot of people don’t have that.
‘Not only as a performer but also as a citizen, a person, a human being, it has been instilled in me that’s it my responsibility to make sure I help the world. Every individual out there can do something to help and you help the world by helping yourself.
‘The fact my voice means something at all is very special to me. I’m talking from the heart. I didn’t know anything ‘London’ till I was 10. All I knew was my hood. I’m here to show you all there is a better ‘everything’ out there. Whatever you want, you can have, whatever you want to achieve, you can grab. Nobody can stop you if you put God first and all else after.’
Text “Trey” to 70007 and donate £2 to the Damilola Taylor Trust