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Taken from New York Post (June 20, 2019)

Sheila E. still drumming up new music and hot collabs

by Michael Lello


Sheila E. Courtesy Photo
Sheila E. Courtesy Photo


Sheila E. might be known for "The Glamorous Life," but the star percussionist and singer has battled her share of setbacks - including physical injuries.


"Last tour, I sprained my ankle and messed up my Achilles as well a year and a half ago, and it just got better a month ago," Sheila E. tells The Post - ironic for a woman who is the CEO of an entertainment company called StilettoFlats. "I wasn't able to wear heels, I had been performing with no shoes."


"Drums and percussion are very demanding physically, almost abusive, especially playing congas with your hands," she continues. "You have to really love it because there's a lot of pain."


Growing up in a musical family in Oakland, Calif. - her father, Pete Escovedo, is a percussionist; her uncle is rocker Alejandro Escovedo; and her godfather was the late percussion legend Tito Puente - Sheila E. played with jazz greats and Marvin Gaye before connecting with Prince and recording on his "Purple Rain" album. Her 1984 debut album, "The Glamorous Life" - Prince wrote the title track - made her a superstar, and she went on to a prolific solo career and collaborations with A-listers ranging from Ringo Starr to Beyonce and a reunion with Prince. Her latest album, the inspirational "ICONIC: Message 4 America," features her takes on classic songs, with guest appearances from Starr, George Clinton and Freddie Stone, a cofounder of Sly and the Family Stone, among others.


On the heels of her recent performance at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Sheila E. chatted with us in advance of her free concert at the Only in Queens Festival, which will also feature Musiq Soulchild and Kranium, Sunday at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The event is part of the SummerStage series.


There aren't many women who have become famous drummers. Why have drums and percussion been viewed as a "boys' thing"? Do you think that's changing?


We've definitely progressed tremendously. I'm always inspired by young people playing - young women, teenagers and adults. At this time more women are playing [percussion] and other instruments, like trumpet. Percussion tends to lean more toward males. The issue with that was a lot of young girls and women I spoke to have shared with me were told, even by their parents, that it was just for boys, while the teachers said, "Why don't you play something more dainty?"


Did you have a close relationship with Tito Puente?


Absolutely. Him and my dad, I think they first became friends in their late teens, and my dad just loved and admired and respected Tito. What I was inspired by with Tito was when I was the only woman playing with him, [musicians] said, "You can't come here and play, you're not blah, blah, blah," and Tito looked at them like "shut up and mind your own business." He took me under his wing.


Did you study with him?


I didn't study with anyone. My learning was watching, performing and listening to records.


Prince maintained a mysterious image. What's something about him that people might be surprised to hear?


Umm, I don't know. A lot of people ask me that question and it's something I probably wouldn't share. I'm going to write another book, so I'll leave it for that. I hope to be done with it by the end of the year. (She published "The Beat of My Own Drum: A Memoir" in 2015.)


When was the last time you saw him?


I couldn't say. I don't know. But I spoke with him frequently.


You recently posted a photo with Snoop Dogg on Instagram. What were you working on with him?


I had him perform a section feature on one of my new singles coming out, and we shot a video. CeeLo is going to do something as well. I'm also going to lay something down on Macy Gray's new single. Just working with my friends.


You've worked with nearly everyone. Who else would you like to collaborate with?


A while ago, Bruno [Mars] and I talked about doing something. I really want to do something with Ed Sheeran. I think he's an amazing singer and songwriter.


Looking back on your career - the videos on MTV, the hit songs, working with Prince - what was the best moment?


Definitely the first time I played with my dad. It changed my life at 15. I realized that what I should do is play percussion and that was the beginning of who I am. That definitely stands out.



 
 

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