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Sheila E. talks ‘Sheila E. TV,’ Prince and mentoring young musicians

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Since she burst on the scene in the mid-1980s with her own hits and as collaborator, percussionist and eventual musical director for Prince, Sheila E. has been a constantly positive force when it comes to uplifting and empowering women in life and music.

Her new weekly series, “Sheila E. TV” debuted on her birthday, December 12, and her new single “Little Drummer Girlz” finds the percussion legend collaborating with three young female drummers on a song designed to aid the girls’ musical education.

Sheila Escovedo was a child prodigy with music in her genes. Her father, Pete Escovedo, bridged salsa, Latin and rock as a member of Santana, a band that had a hit with a song (“Oye Como Va”) written by her godfather, the late Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz pioneer, Tito Puente.

Sheila E. was a member of The George Duke Band in the late 70s and early 80s, a period in which she also recorded and performed with Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, and Marvin Gaye.

After Sheila E. was introduced to Prince at an Al Jarreau concert in 1978, the year Prince released his debut album “For You,” he prophetically vowed that she would one day join his band. She opened for him on his “Purple Rain” tour in 1984, and they worked together on her albums and hits that included, “The Glamorous Life,” “The Belle of St. Mark” and “A Love Bizarre.” She became Prince’s musical director during the period that included his albums “The Sign O’ the Times” and “Lovesexy.” She left Prince’s band in 1989 but they remained friends and occasional collaborators in the studio and onstage through 2011.

“We pretty much recorded every single day and loved it, it was like clockwork in a sense,” Sheila says of her work with Prince. “I mostly lived in Minneapolis, and if we weren’t out on tour, we were at the studio recording and jamming. Those jam sessions would become songs sometimes.”

Sheila can be heard throughout the recently released super deluxe box set for Prince’s 1987 double album “Sign o’ the Times,” which includes a wealth of unreleased music, including live concerts from the Netherlands and from Prince’s Paisley Park studio, but she has very mixed feelings about the prospect of listening.

“I haven’t heard it to be honest,” she says. “Putting together the original version with Prince, and being his musical director, the live version is what ‘Sign o’ the Times’ was for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to listen to it (the new box set).”

Sheila E. says her web series “Sheila E. TV,” which airs new episodes each Saturday at 7 p.m. on YouTube and on her website SheilaE.com/TV, was created as a response to the pandemic.

“I really miss playing live and connecting with fans in person, that’s the other half of me that isn’t getting fed,” she told me during an interview. “Writing, recording and producing is a big part of what I do, but the other part is connecting with a live audience and seeing and hearing their response. It feeds my spirit and it’s the whole reason for starting this show.”

The first two episodes of Sheila E. TV found Sheila welcoming guests including her parents Moms and Pops Escovedo, comedians and actresses Kym Whitley and Sherri Shepherd and former Beatle Ringo Starr. Sheila is a veteran of three tours as a member of Ringo’s All-Starr Band.

“Throughout all of these episodes, you’ll see more celebrity guests that I know and some from social media that I have yet to meet in person,” Sheila says.

Sheila says she follows a number of young musicians on social media that inspire her, and she in turn gives them inspiration by using her platform to bring attention to their music. Her new single “Little Drummer Girlz” is an example of Sheila using her high profile to turn the spotlight on three young drummers: Geneva London, Sarah Thawer and Chitaa (pronounced chee-tuh).

“I’ve always loved playing ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ at Christmas time, but I always change it to ‘The Little Drummer Girl,’” Sheila explains. “I reached out to these three young ladies I know through social media, and I spoke to their parents. I told them I wanted to record a song with them.”

“Little Drummer Girlz” features the classic Sheila E. snap and swagger as she and the girls play together on a three-minute instrumental dance version of the holiday song. The song’s video depicts the four drummers in unison, each performing remotely.

“It’s available on every digital platform and every penny goes to further their musical education,” Sheila says.

Sheila says she’s looking for more young musicians to promote through her TV show.

“I’m asking the fans that are musicians, singers and songwriters with something to present, to check out Sheila E. TV. We may present your video on the show. It gives people an opportunity to share their talents, and I will help them any way that I can.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 December 2020 07:10

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