We had an exclusive chat to legendary singer and drummer Sheila E about her first album in a decade ‘Icon’, her classic work with Prince and more...
Your last album was in 2001- why the wait and why now?
Honestly, I hadn’t realized it had been that long. It’s funny how time goes by. Being busy on other projects and other ventures kind of took me away from being a solo artist. But then I began working on my autobiography, which will be released in 2014, and I guess in the process of a lot of self- reflection and soul searching, I realized that I had much to share and say, through literature and music.
You are a legendary percussionist in a male dominated world, did you experience any sexism at the start of your career?
I would say so, but I always looked at it as a symptom of the limitations that those people placed on themselves, on their own life, not mine. I never sought male approval, but I demanded and deserved their appreciation, respect, and acceptance.
Can you tell me about the first time you met Prince?
It was backstage at a show in The Bay Area. When I introduced myself, he interrupted saying he already knew who I was and had been following my career. It was a cordial introduction.
Were you scared about making the leap into becoming a solo artist?
I’ve always been two things, hopeful and faithful. When various opportunities or request come, I would not view them as scary. Challenging maybe, but not overwhelming. I knew that with hope and faith, that whatever the challenge, I would make it through. And music is what I loved to do so, no not scared, blessed.
What are you memories of recording Erotic City?
Musically, I always thought it to be amazing straightforward in it’s funkiness. Lyrically, like many others I was like, “Wait, what are you saying!?”
The Glamorous Life was recently named as one of Questlove's favourite albums. What are your memories of recording the album?
It was a growth period for me as an artist. What I had been asked to bring forth for other artist, either on their records or in performance, I was now being asked to do for myself. And in being able to bring together Latin rhythms to Funk/R&B gave me a sense of freedom and accomplishment. We knew we were doing something new.
Your style was wonderfully unique then. How would you describe your style then and did you have close relationships with designers?
Like the music, the style was another art form where I could express myself. I had a lot of input to convey who I was and what I wanted. That, coupled with very talented people, produced the style that was seen.
How has your relationship with fashion changed over the years?
I love fashion; it’s part of who Sheila E. is. Over the years, I think I’ve developed a better sense of what fashion is and respect for it’s ability to express and create a “cause and effect” reaction. It is the packaging of the persona, it is a way of showing the inner you.
What are your memories of recording A Love Bizarre?
We knew it was a hit. It was fun and a great follow-up to Glamourous Life.
You were integral part of the Lovesexy touring band- what are your memories of that?
You know, as a child I always thought of being a Sprinter in track and field. While that didn’t happen, I would say that being the drummer for that tour was like running in a track meet every night. And at he end of every performance, we were proclaimed the winners of that race.
You came out publicly as an abuse survivor, why was that important to you?
At first I think I did it for me. To boldly stand and say I was a survivor, to face that pain and take away it’s power and influence in my life. But now I do it for us, for all of those, women, children and men who are burden with the pain of abuse and bring awareness to this problem that afflicts so many.
Can you tell me about putting together the new album and what your favourite track is?
Each track is special and unique in its own way. Each has it's own purpose for being on the album. To choose a favorite would be like asking a mother to pick their favorite child. I'm sorry I can't do it, but for reference...
'Lovely Day'- Brings me joy and happiness. Every time I listen to it I'm left with a smile on my face or just a good feeling inside. I am certain you will feel the same.
'Mona Lisa'- A way to show off my Latin roots and celebrate the joy of being a Latina. It's a song that is guaranteed to make you dance. Viva!
'Who I Am Now'- It express what this album is at it's essence, and I think everyone can relate to this song. Everyone experiences growth in their life, change. But sometimes people want to keep you where they think you belong or you become afraid to change. This song is beautiful in it's message.
'Nasty Thang', 'Old Skool', 'Leader of the Band', 'Heart & Soul', 'School Is In Session'. They take you back to what that genre of music should be artistically, and they are Funky!!!
'I'll Give You That', 'Rockstar' - They are my fun, feminine songs for all the girls and boys to enjoy. And besides, hey, I'm still looking for my husband.
'Girl Like Me'- It's my way of sharing about abuse and healing, not only for myself, but others. It's a song of empowerment, and in some ways is the catalyst for a few of the other songs on the album.
Then there are the interludes and the debut, and duet with my mother in, 'Now Is The Hour'. I know I will always cherish this cut.
What dreams do you have left to achieve?
I have new dreams and ambitions everyday. I’m grateful for those I’ve realized and await those challenges and dreams ahead.?
‘Icon’ is out now. Sheila plays Under the Bridge on Saturday 23 November. For tickets click here