Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Paisley Park is in Your Heart" - Interview with Karen Krattinger

"[Prince's father] was a lovely human being. ... I think you have to have a love of God to have a heart like that."

Thanks to Prince's former press agent Robyn Riggs, I was able to get in touch with Karen Krattinger, who worked as Prince's production coordinator, road manager and general manager of PRN Productions from 1984 to 1989. She also helped build Paisley Park Studios.

Krattinger shared her experience returning to the Minnesota complex after Prince's death. I'm not sure if much of this will make it into my book, so I'll include it here:

"I absolutely lost my breath and burst into an emotional crying and heaving that shocked me," Krattinger said of walking into Paisley Park. She and other former employees took the public tour, which was a treat for the guides.

"They loved hearing our stories because everything they're going on is a script that someone gave them," Krattinger said. She also expressed that she was happy to be there even though she wasn't able to see her old office or the board room she decorated.

The parts of the interview I'll definitely use include Krattinger's details about Prince's relationship with his family. I always like asking people about Prince's dad, whose own spiritual beliefs may or may not have influenced Prince.

Krattinger said she considered Prince to be a spiritual person. Major Prince fans will know Krattinger was tangentially connected to "Blue Tuesday," an important day in Prince spiritual history (more on that in the book), so it was nice to chat a bit about that.

Because of Krattinger, I was able to get interviews with more of Prince's former employees (check back for those). I'm truly grateful for the opportunity to speak with someone so significant in Prince's career in the 1980s. And Krattinger told me her parents met in Columbus, Ohio, where I currently live! Honestly, I have experienced so many coincidences on this journey that I'm not surprised by them anymore.

Thanks for reading!

I will be presenting my research at Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince at the University of Salford in Manchester, England, in late May. Click here to donate to my GoFundMe campaign. 

"Say Yes! Say No!" - Interivew with Robyn Riggs

"He would make decisions based on what God was telling him. Sometimes all of us would just go, 'Oh my gosh, oh really?' But in his mind, in his world, with his talent, where did it come from?" 

Sometimes you have to call a car dealership to get an interview for your Prince book. That's how I tracked down Robyn Riggs, who handled Prince's media relations in different capacities from roughly 1983 to 1988 as part of the Howard Bloom Organization. While she currently sells cars, she was once in one of the most powerful positions in the entertainment industry at just 25 years old.

What stands out the most to me about Riggs' time with Prince is the importance of saying "yes" and "no." For example, before she was promoted to the position of having sole control over his media relations, Prince's camp would often respond to journalists' inquiries with "no comment." That reaction arguably hurt Prince's image at the time (see the "We Are the World" catastrophe).

"We started making statements so we could have some kind of control over what was being put out there," Riggs said. "And it changed the dynamic, I think, of the way the press perceived him to be."

Just as saying "yes" to the media proved beneficial, honoring Prince's requests kept you employed (unless, of course, he got a bad "vibe" from you, then you didn't stand a chance). Riggs worked hard to fulfill Prince's wishes, but she wasn't afraid to stand up to him. But during one situation in 1988--involving Rolling Stone journalist Kurt Loder--she felt she had to say "no," and that was the end of her tenure with Prince.

"I had fallen on many, many, many swords for [Prince]," she said. "I couldn’t fall on that one."

(More on this in the book, sorry.)

While some people who knew Prince never saw his religious side, Riggs is in the camp that vouches for his spirituality even as early as the 1980s. She also provided me with valuable insight into his personality.

It was truly a delight speaking with Riggs, and she put me in touch with another important source: Karen Krattinger, who worked for Prince in many roles over the course of five years. Check back for a summary of that interview and more!

I will be presenting my research at Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince at the University of Salford in Manchester, England, in late May. Click here to donate to my GoFundMe campaign. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Let Me Take U 'Round the World" - Purple Reign Conference

Great news! I have been selected to present at "Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince" at the University of Salford in Manchester, England!

During the conference, which takes place May 24-26, scholars will discuss topics from "Prince as embodiment of the post-modern blues aesthetic" to "Prince, the representation of male pop stars and the discourse of girls’ magazines of the 1980s and 1990s." Of course I will present on Prince's spiritual journey, but only from 1958-1988--the span covered by my thesis at Ohio University.

The conference will also feature a Q&A segment with former Prince guitarist Dez Dickerson. It's funny because I've been trying to interview Dickerson since 2010. He even autographed his autobiography for me. I wonder if I'll get that interview now.

This is definitely one of my greatest accomplishments, and it will happen just four days after my birthday! I've had a really rough year, so this is a blessing.

I won't have time to visit London (it's five hours away), but I hope to hop over to Liverpool for some sort of Beatles tour.

As far as my book, I'm getting close to being done. I have an awesome agent who really believes in the project. We're still pitching publishers. I have a good feeling about one in particular; we're waiting for an answer. I'm also hoping I'll meet some publishing contacts at the conference.

I've accumulated an impressive list of interviews and I'm hoping to add more soon. I'm definitely going to lead with my participation in the conference when I submit requests.

As a journalist, I live a very modest lifestyle, so I've started a GoFundMe campaign for travel expenses. It's really for friends and family members who have seen me cry, scream and stress out over my book for years and want to help. However, I'll accept donations from any supporters.

I'll be sure to share pictures and video from the conference here. I'm also planning to ramp up my blogging.

As always, thank you for reading!

P.S. For those who haven't seen it, below is a picture of my tattoo, which honors Prince and represents the importance of music in my life. Wow, it's almost been a year since Prince died. It has gotten easier, though I nearly cried listening to "Diamonds and Pearls" the other day.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Come 2 the Park" - Interview with Yarima Karama

"It was a blessing to be able to meet greatness and greatness that was so humble." 

Sometimes I get really lucky finding sources for my book. For example, when I interned at Billboard in New York, I just happened to live 20 minutes away from Prince's former press agent Howard Bloom. Also, years ago, I took a chance and looked up one of Prince's family members in the White Pages and sent him a letter. I'd actually found the right person and he called me! While he didn't give me an interview, he encouraged me to keep going with my project.

I was similarly lucky to chat with rapper and poet Yarima Karama back in May. I'd been watching Karama's YouTube videos for months before I found out he'd met Prince. Karama brought it up in one of his videos after Prince's death, and I immediately reached out. I fully expected to do a telephone interview, but Karama mentioned he lived in Columbus, Ohio, where I currently live! I'd just assumed he lived far away. So, we actually met up at the Old Worthington Library.

As a college student in Minneapolis, Karama was introduced to Prince at Bunkers Music Bar & Grill. Afterward, he spent time at Paisley Park having "down-to-Earth conversations" with the superstar. While those conversations never touched on spirituality, hearing about them has allowed me further insight into Prince's dynamic personality.

Lately I've been fortunate to land several new interviews based on valuable referrals. I will be blogging about them soon. Stay tuned and happy New Year!

Follow me at "ericawrites" on Snapchat for updates on the book!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Tonight is the Night for Making Slow Love" - Interview with Carole R. Davis

"Prince was a hyper-religious person and a non-conventional religious person." 

Back in May I had the pleasure of interviewing actress and singer Carole R. Davis, who met Prince in the mid-1980s and became his friend. She also co-wrote "Slow Love," which is on Prince's Sign O' the Times album.

The funny thing is that I'd already had quotes from Davis in my book. They were from an old Rolling Stone article. She actually asked the publication to quote her anonymously, but through talking to her, I made the connection. I love the mystery-solving aspect of being a biographer.

I spent about $100 calling Davis long-distance--she was in France at the time--but our chat was worth the expense. Through my interviews, I've learned that Prince showed different sides of his personality to different people, which I guess we all do to some extent. As a result, some of his friends and associates describe him as religious, and others do not. Luckily, Davis saw the spiritual side of the artist during his early career; as an atheist, she disagreed with his strict beliefs and they often argued.

Davis shared some pretty funny stories about Prince. She was also forthcoming about his personality flaws, which I appreciated. I think some people are hesitant to present the full picture of the musician now that he is gone. And that's not to suggest that I'm trying to paint him as a villain. It's just that the more honest people are, the more likely I will be able to convey his spiritual journey, which included some internal struggles and setbacks.

As always, you'll be able to read more from this interview in the book.

Difficult question: If you could only listen to one song from the Sign O' the Times album, what would it be? (I'd go with "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" because of the instrumental section at the end).

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"Tell Me a Bedtime Story" - Interview with Devin Devasquez

Whenever you hear about "Prince's women," the same handful of names are mentioned: Vanity, Mayte Garcia, Sheila E., Carmen Electra and, if you're really informed, Susannah Melvoin. However, there are countless others who have stories worth telling, including Devin Devasquez.

Devasquez is a former Playboy centerfold who dated Prince in 1985, but remained in touch with him off and on through the late 1990s. You can read her People magazine story here. I spoke with her shortly after Prince passed, and it was one of the most important interviews for my book.

Yes, you read that right. As you know, my book is about Prince's spiritual journey, and Devasquez and I talked for two hours on the subject. Our interview demonstrates that every source is worth contacting; you just never know who is going to have the insight you're looking for, or connect you with other valuable sources. And you can't dismiss someone because they aren't well known in Prince lore.

People often complain that I don't share enough details from my interviews in my blog posts. Well, I have to give people a reason to read the book, especially so they can grasp the full story. So, unfortunately, I can't really go into the specifics of my conversation with Devasquez. What I can say is that the interview provided more support for my initial feeling that Prince's oscillation between the sacred and profane in his art was informed by an internal struggle.

In fact, as I transcribed the interview, I kept thinking of Ephesians 6:12: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

I can also reveal one unrelated tidbit: Devasquez said Sheila E.'s song "Bedtime Story" was composed by Prince and the story is about Devasquez. It has a jazzy feel because Devasquez is from Louisiana.

As a biographer, it's always exciting when you find that one source's story corroborates another, especially when you weren't even trying to make that connection. That's what happened when I talked to Devasquez; her experience with Prince validated some information I received from Jill Jones.

Before speaking with Devasquez, I never thought I would help people who knew Prince find closure or make sense of their time with him. I experienced that with Devasquez as I shared some of my findings with her. It was such a cool feeling.

Finally, I am so grateful for her encouragment. I always wondered what Prince would think of my book. I guess I'll never know, but it always feels good to get approval from those who knew him.

"When you e-mailed me, I immediately felt--and I am very, very intuitive--that this is something he would want," Devasquez said. "These are the kinds of interviews and the kinds of things he would want to see out there on him now that he’s gone."

Follow me at "ericawrites" on Snapchat for updates on the book!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"I Want to Play You this Old Song" - Interview with Chuck Zwicky

It's been a while since I published a sneak peek at an interview I've completed for the book. A few months ago, I spoke with Prince's engineer, Chuck Zwicky, who worked with the artist from 1987 to 1989.

I ask everyone if they think Prince was religious or spiritual during their time with him. Some say yes, some say no and others don't know. Some had conversations about God with Prince, others didn't.

Of course I can't give it away here, but Zwicky had one of the most unique answers to that question. He made me think about Prince's spiritual music and performances in a way I hadn't before. In fact, he had a fresh perspective on a lot of topics, including Prince's method of working and the way in which his staff received credit for recordings.

I will share one random, interesting fact: Prince had strep throat when he recorded "Elephants and Flowers" (I've always loved his voice on that track, ha!).

Stay tuned for more interviews; at this point, I have four more to transcribe.