Trey Songz knows what his fans want -- though it's usually him. Since his 2005 debut, the R&B heartthrob has offered a master class on the art of seduction with albums stuffed with steamy bedroom jams and sexy club bangers.
His latest album, “Chapter V,” debuted at the top of the charts when it was released in August -- his first to do so. The album is the singer, born Tremaine Neverson, at his best: balancing soulful melodies that explore matters of the art with tracks best reserved for after hours.
Having kicked off his Chapter V tour last week, the singer took a break from prepping for a Las Vegas stop to call Pop & Hiss and talk about the show, which he brings to the Nokia Theatre on Sunday.
The tour just kicked off a few days ago. How are you feeling about it?
The thing about tours, it’s like school. You get excited for the first day, you figure out what you’re going to wear and how you’re gonna show out. With a tour, you’ve got your kinks and the things you want to change in the show from the first night. I didn’t get to rehearse as much as I wanted to, but I was impressed. From Elle Varner to Miguel, and my set. I was very impressed with us pulling it together in such a short amount of time.
What did you want to offer fans with this show?
Every time I come out, whether it's an album, video or single, it's about evolution. The thing about the tour is you get to bring the songs that these people love so much to life and as a writer and producer sometimes you want to change the structure of the songs and make something new. I’ve essentially been on tour for my whole career. Within the last three years alone I’ve been on five tours. With my fans, I’m trying to read their mind. Do they want this record to be performed, or do they want this song performed differently. As an artist, we sometimes get bored of the monotony of playing the same thing the same way, so it’s a battle between creating something new and giving the fans what they want.
Creatively, what are you doing on this tour that you haven’t done before?
I’ve added a horn section; I have more live background vocals. A couple of dancers. I’m not a dancer, so I didn’t want to portray the dancing in a way where there was too much choreography. I wanted it to be built into the way the music feels. I’m playing the old hits as well as some of the album cuts from "Chapter V" that I feel touch the people in a certain way. I also did a poll on Facebook and Twitter to see which records fans thought should be performed.
You’ve offered a lot of free content to fans with rap mixtapes and EPs. When you create your setlist what kind of balance do you try to create between those projects with the official releases?
[Music executive] Kevin Liles and I were just having a conversation about this earlier. Like you can play a radio show and do all the hits because everybody is there for a wide variety of artists. The beauty of having your own tour is everybody is there to see you. So you can do the records that weren’t smashes and you can give them the gratification of doing the records that are career-defining that they love so much and made me the artist that I am. So, it’s a smooth balance between creativity and rationale.
The ladies go crazy for you onstage, so I have to ask what’s been the craziest thing a female fan has done at one of your shows.
Man, I’ve seen it all. At the beginning of my career, I would perform in clubs and I would be getting my pants pulled almost all the way down. On a tour probably a year and a half ago, a fan tight-roped a lighting fixture to get my attention. She literally risked her life. I had a segment in my show where I pulled a girl onstage and gave her a massage to a record [obviously titled “Massage”]. That was her way of showing me that she wanted me to choose her. So I picked her. But they arrested her after that.
Have there been recent tours from other musicians that inspired your live show?
A show that was really inspirational to me was Sade. She don’t have too much going on as far as movement or dancing, but the show is beautiful. From the lighting to the precision of her placement to her horn section and her guitarist. Kanye [West] and [Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne] show I enjoyed a lot. Being on tour with Jay was inspirational for me. Touring with Usher was inspirational as well.
You’ve seemed to tour consistently, even in-between albums. Is there a strategic plan in place?
My tour process has been like my album growth. Its very gradual. I appreciate the space that I’m in. I’ve toured theaters of smaller sizes, like 2,000 or 3,000 seats, before that House of Blues [venues], and before that clubs. I’ll do like two runs around in this space. When you’re an artist that’s consistently giving your fans something that they love, you’ll always have a crowd that comes to see you. But if you’re out searching for a type of success where you may want a radio record or a [Billboard 100] record or try to go experiment with this, that or the other and you abandon the people that supported [your early music], I think that gives you a possible weakness in touring.
Have you already figured out what’s next for you after the tour?
Ah, man. After the tour … it’s a long one, which means I’ll definitely be right back in the studio. I can’t stay away from the studio too long, baby.