Ne-Yo Recalls Meeting 'Down-To-Earth, Cool' Michael Jackson

'I'm still slowly wrapping my mind around the thought that he's no longer with us,' singer says.

LOS ANGELES — Like countless others, [artist id="2002414"]Ne-Yo[/artist] was inspired by [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist] — but the singer/songwriter was also fortunate enough to meet the superstar.

"I actually got the chance to sit and talk with him face to face," Ne-Yo told MTV News. "I remember it was at [Warner Music exec] Lyor Cohen's house. I was shaking like a leaf waiting for him to walk into the room. I remember thinking to myself about all the stories about his weirdness or whatever, so I really didn't know what to expect. He walked in, gave me a firm handshake and said he loved my music. He said he loved my music. It was one of those moments where you step aside and think about it. He was regular, down-to-earth, cool people."

The singer said that the two chatted about their work and during the conversation Jackson shared some of his secrets. In particular, the Thriller icon told Ne-Yo about his vision of music. Jackson said he sees sounds in shapes and tones.

"I was like, 'Me too,' " Ne-Yo said, laughing at the memory. "I hope he wasn't thinking, 'You just said that because I said it.' But it was true."

The two were trying to collaborate together on new material Jackson was preparing.. For Ne-Yo, the opportunity was a dream come true — he learned to sing after his mother gave him a copy of Off the Wall.

"[My mother] used to listen to a lot of heavier-voiced artists like Tendy Pendergrass or Marvin Gaye," Ne-Yo explained. "I didn't have that growing up. I had a tight, nasal-tinged voice, so I hated to sing. But my mom gave me Off the Wall and was like, 'Listen to the way he sings.' "

Like most, Ne-Yo was stunned by the news of Jackson's passing. He admitted that although Jackson was older, he didn't think he would see the singer pass in his lifetime — Jackson was that transcendent.

"I'm still slowly wrapping my mind around the thought that he's no longer with us," he said.

MTV will be paying tribute to MJ throughout the weekend with music videos, exclusive performances and calls and tweets from celebrity admirers and friends. For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit "Michael Jackson Remembered."

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