How does this record compare with what you’ve done before?
I can’t really compare from project to project because as a person I change from day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year, so I’m not the same person I was when I did ‘Heaven’ as far as where my life is. Of course, I’m older, people are different. ‘Heaven’ was more like a smooth jazz record and the record before that, ‘The Writes Of Passage’ that was more like Latin jazz/fusion, so every project is a little bit different. So musically every album is going to be different and not be the same. That’s a part of growing musically and being able to continue to grow. I will stay a student of music and life for ever and I will always be able to learn so hopefully that shows itself to be true in my music as well.
Tell us about guitarist Bobby G, who co-wrote one of the album’s highlight tracks, ‘Lovely Day,’ and features on ‘Rockstar.’
He is a guitar player who actually used to be in my band years and years ago and he’s been playing with me off and on now for the last 15 years at least, if not 20. He’s a great guitar player. and one of my favourite guitar players. He’s from the Bay Area as well. He understands me, he gets me, and his tone and his melodies, when he plays a solo, they are memorable solos, so when he plays something you can actually sing those lines. He’s a great songwriter as well and collaborating with him on this record, I was very, very happy to do so.
‘Mona Lisa’ is another standout song on the album. What was the inspiration for it?
I wanted to write something different – not necessarily about me but telling a story and maybe something that could be true or not true. I was on the Internet just looking at things and I just came across the picture of the Mona Lisa and said to myself: “I wonder what that smile really meant.” So I started asking myself questions about who was she really and once I started to find some information about her I wrote a song about her. Some of what I wrote about is actually true but then I decided to put a twist to it and say that that smile on the face could have meant something else – she was not really excited about being famous for that picture; she was really more excited about being a dancer, but no one really knew that. And she loves Latin music. (Laughs).
Prince appears on ‘Leader Of The Band.’ How did his participation in the project come about?
That was a song we did together several years ago. Initially it was going to be on my family’s record and that was probably at least four years ago if not longer. I still play the song in my show and when I put it on this record I actually re-cut the whole thing. We did a couple of different things from the original one but I left Prince’s vocal and keyboard and we added some piano and added the band and my family and it became what it is now.
You’re coming to the UK in November when you play Under The Bridge. What can we expect to hear from you musically?
You’re going to be in for a surprise. You know what? I just love to have fun and being on stage is like being at my house and inviting you guys to come over and hang out. It’s going to be a little bit different for me this time because I’m going to play almost as many songs as I can from the new record and because it’s not even being released until the day that we get there a lot of you will not know the songs. It’s going to be interesting because this is all new music for the fans and that’s a hard thing to do; to come and do an entire show of songs that no one really knows but hoping that they will like them, so this is a little bit different. I will have most of my band. It will be a smaller band because it will be like a promo introducing my record but when we come back next year we will have the entire crew. But we will be playing some of the old songs and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I love playing the songs but you also get to see us create live on stage and there’s a lot of energy and a lot of little surprises and things. I’m putting together the show now and I’m very excited about it. I can’t wait. We’ve played ‘Leader Of The Band’ before – we play it in the show now – and we played ‘Mona Lisa’ once, for the Playboy Jazz Festival this summer. We got a standing ovation; that’s what we ended with and it was great to be able to play that song but we haven’t played any of the other songs since we recorded them. For me it’s just as exciting because once we go to rehearsal, we get to play these songs for the first time ever and that’s really exciting for us.
In the second part of her SJF interview – which follows soon – Sheila E talks about her early career, working with Prince and playing alongside ex-Beatle Ringo Starr.
SHEILA E’S NEW ALBUM ‘ICON’ IS RELEASED VIA MOOSICUS RECORDS ON NOVEMBER 11TH.
CATCH SHEILA E & HER BAND LIVE @ LONDON’S UNDER THE BRIDGE ON SATURDAY NOVEMBER 23RD