Podcast Transcript

Speaker 1: A Walk and I played that show with my dad at fifteen and that was for the three thousand people, and that was that was just a spiritual experience where, you know, I just thought that if this is what it feels like to be in tavern every day, this is how I want to feel, because I had never felt anything like that in my life. And you know, to be able to play next to my dad, you know, it’s just like, wow, this is something I’ve never experienced.

Speaker 2: Welcome to the Taking a Walk Podcast, the podcast where your host Buzznight talks with musicians and gets the insight scoop on moments in music history. On this virtual episode, the greatest female drummer of all time, Sheila E, joins Buzz Night. Sheila has new music and talks about the creation of it, and she also dips back into her career talking about the greatest night in pop, the recording of We Are the World, and also her career with Prince. Here’s Buzz Night and Sheila E on Taking a Walk.

Speaker 3: Hi, Sheila, it’s so nice to have you on my Taking a Walk podcast.

Speaker 1: Thank you nice to be here.

Speaker 3: We would like to be in person taking a Walk, but we’ll accept virtual now where are you at this moment.

Speaker 1: I’m in Los Angeles, tremendous.

Speaker 3: Well, I want to congratulate you on your new project, which we want to talk about. It sounds so exciting with the legendary Gloria Estefan, two legends, Sheila E and Gloria. Are you excited about the project?

Speaker 1: Beyond excited? I’m beyond excited. This project has taken me almost two years to finish, and I’m just so honored to be able to do this. I mean literally, because I think this is probably one of the best albums I’ve done. With the help of Tony Sukar who co produced this record with me, and he did an incredible job getting the musicians together and the arrangements and it’s just amazing what he’s done. So I’m really excited about this project. I mean, this is something that’s been on the back burner for a very long time up to now. It’s taken a while, but a lot of people can’t believe it’s my first ever sols the record, but it is because I’ve done so many records and there’s tons of music that I have, but this is something really special and true to my heart that it took a lot to do, so we’re excited about it.

Speaker 3: Tell me about the collapseative process that took shape here for this project.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Speaker 1: So, Tony Sukar I met many, many years ago and he was doing a project Assaults, a tribute to Michael Jackson for PBS. I was like, oh my god, the arrangements and the musicians. I said, if I do a salsa record, I want to do it with you. And that’s how it started. Then two years later with Biden. Then finally we got together two years later after that and and here we are now. But the collaborative effort on doing this project. I kind of knew what I wanted to do in a sense as far as doing a couple of cover songs, I only wanted to do maybe three, and those three songs were people that were very influential in in my life, which was cell You Cruz and that is this next single called Bembacoloda that features Gloria Stefan and Mimi Sukar. The other song that I did was Tito Puente song called El Rey del timbald and that was with Hiberto Santa rosa amazing singer, and he came and did that song with me. And then the last cover song was is called Anacona by us Chelle Feliciano and like Finial All Stars That Vibe and Ruben Blade saying that song. It’s just been amazing to be able to have these artists like this on this record because they’re the ones that are still doing this music and this music. I want the young people to understand what this music is about and the richness of it as and the culture in the community that comes with this music. And it’s just amazing to be able to represent the people in the community with this music. So it’s very firing and humbling at the same time.

Speaker 3: Can I tell you something, Sheila, When you speak Spanish, it puts a smile on my face.

Speaker 1: Oh, thank you so much. I’m still learning.

Speaker 3: It sounds so beautiful when you speak Spanish.

Speaker 1: Thank you so much.

Speaker 3: So take me back to that moment when you were five years old, five years old and you had your first public performance in front of three thousand people. What was that experience like, Well, it was.

Speaker 1: With my dad. My dad had a band called the Escavito Brothers with his other two brothers, and this actual performance wasn’t three thousand. That was the other one when I was fifteen with my dad, but this one was more like, you know, three hundred people, and it was in a place called the Sam’s Ballroom and it was in downtown Oakland, and my mom took me there because my dad wanted me to sit in and play with him. So I remember getting dressed with at my grandmother’s house and my mom putting all my new clothes to go perform with my dad. And I remember going into the venue and hearing my dad’s music from the street, and when we got to the top, they opened the door and I saw these people. I was like, Wow, this place is big, this is huge. And next thing, you know, my dad introduces, you know, my wife just walked in and my daughter’s here, Sheila, She’s going to perform with us. So I just remember walking to the stage and my dad lifting me up to the stage and putting me on a chair so that I could play the Congress. And I don’t remember playing. I remember more getting dressed in my new outfit than I did performing.

Speaker 3: Now, was that the moment though, that really cemented it for you that you would be a musician?

Speaker 1: No, that wasn’t until I was fifteen when I played that other show with my dad at fifteen, and that was for the three thousand people, and that was that was just a spiritual experience where you know, I just thought that if this is what it feels like to be in heaven every day, this is how I want to feel, because I never felt anything like that in my life. And you know, to be able to play next to my dad and at that time he was assigned to Clive Davis with an eighteen piece band, you know, it’s just like, wow, this is something I’ve never experienced and wanted to do it every single day. And two weeks later went out on tour with my dad and never looked back. That was the beginning of my career.

Speaker 3: That’s tremendous. Tell me about the impact to you that the musician George Duke had on you, and tell our audience those that don’t know who George Duke is. I do, but tell our audience about him and the impact that he made on you.

Speaker 1: Yeah, George Duke I met early on in the seventies as well. He was an amazing musician, artist, piano player, singer, songwriter, and he was from San Francisco and I met him through Billy Cobham, who was an amazing drummer who actually uh produced my Dad and I our first record ever. And so I met George through through Billy Cobham, and with George Duke, I ended up going out on tour with him. After I played with my dad, I went out on tour with George, which was my next biggest tour ever. And George h played different types of music and which was amazing because I was he allowed me to grow as a musician and an artist. Being in that band musically, I learned so much. It was incredible what I learned with him. Besides my dad, George Duke was very influential in my life. He played funk music, but he played jazz, Brazilian Latin jazz, gospel music, R and B. He did everything, and his musicianship, the caliber of music that he had written throughout his years was incredible and also producing so many artists. So it was just a joy and an honor to be able to play with him most of my life.

Speaker 3: Do you feel to some degree that his work is not recognized enough?

Speaker 1: Absolutely? Yeah, yeah, No, I feel that way absolutely. Again, It’s so hard that I kind of had the same situation happened to me being a solo artist, Like the record company says to you, well, we have to put you in a category, so we have to categorize where you’re going. And I’m like, but you can’t because I’m not just signing as an R and B artist. But that’s just not who I I am. As I’m many things, you know, and trying to explain that to the record company is very challenging. And I think that George had the same issue because he did so many different types of music. You know, he did Brazilian movies, so he put out a Brazilian album, then he did an R and B album, which was a funk album, and then you know, it’s just so many different things and it’s hard to It’s almost like the industry does not allow us to be more than one thing. And it’s being in the Bay Area. Being from the Bay Area, we listen to so many different genres of music and we create with all of that influence, and that makes us who we are, and that’s the Bay Area. So you can’t just be one because that’s not who we are. And I think that that’s the downfall of the music industry, is not allowing us to be all of who we are.

Speaker 3: Tell me about the challenges of female faces in the music industry.

Speaker 1: The challenges are never ending. I mean the beginning for me was more of no one had really seen a woman play a percussion uh, and even maybe drums. Uh. So you know, I’d walk into a room and the drummer would be at his kid and I would go in to check my percussion instruments. And when I walk into a room, the guy would say, excuse me, can you give me a cup of coffee? And I’m like why, I mean, I can, but I’m not the receptionist. If that’s who you think I am. I don’t work here. Oh okay, well, and I’m like I’m the percussion player, Like what what do you mean? And it’s always like girls don’t play percussion, Well yeah I do. So it’s it was a thing at the beginning, like wow, you know uh. And so even the different ways of you know, trying to get your music out there, and every it comes to a point again with men, oh yeah, well you know you’re great. But you know what, I’ll give you these offers. You know, if you would be with me and I can get you to big places like you know, just different things like that. It was very challenging, and then not wanting to pay us what we’re worth. Even there’s two other percussion players. They’re making more money than you are, but because they’re male, they’re going to make more money. It’s all of those things. But the challenges are there, but there are so many opportunities. And it’s the way that you present yourself as a woman and respect, you know. And if you give out respect, no matter if they’re being disrespectful, you show them what respect really is. It changes their the way that they treat you, you know, and they treat you with respect, you demand respect, you know, and that’s very important as an artist to be true to who you are and be respected.

Speaker 3: She would tell me about the first time you met Prince. What was that experience?

Speaker 1: I met him in the Bay Area in Oakland and my dad was playing with Carlo Santana at the time and they were recording their record and Prince was in the studio next door. He was influenced by Bayry musicians. Again, pretty amazing to be able to come to the Bay Area to do your record because he wanted to be in the space that Carlo Santana have recorded and also sly Stone. So I met them met him soon after that in the Bay Area and I was watching him perform and introduce myself. And when he was after he was done playing and went backstage and I got ready to introduce myself and he said, oh, I already know who you are. And I said, hon He goes I’ve been following your career and I was like, oh, thank you. And they said I saw you with George Duke and he started name and all the George Do stuff. You saw me playing with George playing drums and percussion, and that’s how he met.

Speaker 3: Tell me how close to reality the Dave Chappelle Prince depiction really was to the tea.

Speaker 1: It was absolutely nothing. There’s nothing that would change about it. There’s nothing to be said other than that’s what it was.

Speaker 3: Does it still put a smile on your face when you watch it?

Speaker 1: Absolutely? I crack up laughing. It’s hilarious. I love it absolutely.

Speaker 3: And he Prince had his own unique sense of humor.

Speaker 1: I’m imagining absolutely, he is very funny.

Speaker 3: So in the recent documentary that came out about the Greatest Night in Pop, how did you feel watching that? You know, when it came out.

Speaker 1: Oh, it was amazing. I loved it. I didn’t know who was going to be in it, how it was going to be put together. Because I had left probably by four am that actual night or morning, I didn’t know some of the things that happened after the fact, so it was really good to watch. I was by the towards the end, I was very emotional. Actually brought tears to my eyes because just realizing being a part of something that big, that moment in making history in that time. You don’t realize it because you’re in it until after you leave and you go, wow, that’s what that was, you know, Because the very next morning, I mean I had left once I left at four am from the studio. Within the next two hours, we were going to the next city. I was out on tours. We got in the tour bus and left. I had been up for three days, so I was delirious anyway, kind of go through the motion. It was the first time for me ever performing as a solo artist for the American Music Awards, and that was a huge thing for me, and I was very nervous about it and playing in front of all of these people and something that you dream about and when you’re a solo artist while you get the opportunity to play on one of the biggest shows ever. So there was a lot going on that night.

Speaker 3: Do you think Bob Dylan regrets showing up?

Speaker 1: That whole scene was hilarious. I mean, really, for Stevie to have to emulate Bob Dylan in order for him to understand what he needed to do was that was a whole other thing that was so funny to me.

Speaker 3: It’s just it’s a mind blowing collection of people, right, Yeah.

Speaker 1: Yeah, it really was. The wonderful thing about it was I mean, everyone did come in in a place of just gratitude and really understanding you know, why we were there was so powerful, you know it really like, you know, when you really thought about why we’re here, Okay, these are all celebrities and blah blah, and we’re fans of each other and this and that. But then when you think about why we were there and the purpose for it was humbling to say the least. And it really put everything in perspective.

Speaker 3: So when you think of your career and you think of your day to day work as a musician, what are you still trying to learn I’m not.

Speaker 1: The thing is I always say I’m continuing to be a student of life. And you sometimes want to learn specific things, but then out of the blue you’re learning stuff you never even thought you were going to learn, and that’s just life in general. So I just say I’m a student of life forever. I will continue to learn whatever the essence, be hard or challenging, it’s always something. And when you’re open to allowing yourself to learn, it’s it’s you put yourself in a whole nother place and uh, it’s pretty amazing and you actually enjoy the process. So there’s a lot to learn, a lot to learn.

Speaker 2: Well.

Speaker 3: In closing, if a musician who’s really trying to make their mark and breaking in is listening to this podcast, what advice would you give them?

Speaker 1: Become an attorney. That’s that’s that’s my two cents, and I’m mis stick to it.

Speaker 3: It’s brilliant. Well, you are the best female drummer of all time. You’re one of the greatest drummers of all time, Sheila E. Congratulations on the new project. It’s an honor to speak to you on the Take on a Walk podcast.

Speaker 1: Thank you so.

Speaker 2: Much, Thanks for listening. To this episode of the Take a Walk podcast. Share this and other episodes with your friends and follow us so you never miss an episode. Taking a Walk is available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.

About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.