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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"Posters all Over the Walls" - Decorative Prince Pieces

Since moving to my new apartment in Columbus, I have yet to hang anything on my walls besides a calendar and dry erase board.

I think I'm going to put my old Prince poster in the kitchen. I also want to start displaying some recent pieces I've acquired. Before I do, I thought I'd share them with you below.

Back in May, my sister discovered that a neighbor was selling collectible Prince items for--get this--$1 each! Most people would have charged a fortune, especially since Prince had just passed away. Anyway, my sister bought this for me, and I plan to get it framed.

Rolling Stone, April 28, 1983

Back in October, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Herb Ritts exhibit and, naturally, purchased a post card bearing this iconic image. I was thinking of hanging it in the bathroom, but I think I'll put it in a frame on my desk, table or dresser.

Photo by Herb Ritts, 1991

I don't expect to display these items, but just thought I'd share.

More Rolling Stone magazines

Various publications

My sister was so excited to give this to me.

Actual polaroid from the Purple Rain tour


If this is your first time here, my name is Erica Thompson and I've been writing a book on Prince's spiritual journey for nearly a decade (ha, ha) and blogging about it here for over five years. I hope you'll stick around and check out some of my older posts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"When I Need Someone to Talk to" - Updated List of Interviews (2016)

*Updated 12/27/16

I figured I'd create one go-to blog entry for the most updated list of interviews for the Prince book. In addition to keeping my readers up-to-date (and myself organized), it allows me to quickly tell potential sources whom I've already interviewed.

Interview with former pre-Revoluation band member Gayle Chapman

Interviews with Rolling Stone journalists

Interview with former press agent Howard Bloom

Interview with former Warner Bros. Director of Publicity Roberta Burrows

Interview with gossip columnist CJ

Interview with former church youth group leader Art Erickson

Brief chat with a very special person

Interview with a family member

Interview with members from the Seventh-Day Adventist church Prince attended

Interview with Larry Graham

Interview with former music collaborator Chris Moon

Interview with former girlfriend Jill Jones

Interview with former set and lighting designer Roy Bennett

Interview with former business associate Craig Rice

Interview with former stagehand and production assistant Cheryl Sonny Thompson

Interview with flower girl Ali Zampino

Interview with former girlfriend Devin Devasquez

Interview with former engineer Chuck Zwicky

Interview with former associate Yarima Karama

Interview with former girlfriend Terri Ivens

Interview with friend Carole R. Davis

Interview with former press agent Robyn Riggs

Interview with former associate and girlfriend Robin Power Royal

Interview with former PRN Productions General Manager Karen Krattinger

Interview with Jacqui Thompson of Paisley Park and NPG Records

Interview with former webmaster and art director Sam Jennings

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Tears Go Here" - Rest in Peace, Prince

Re-posted from Columbus Alive

My heart is heavy because we just lost Prince, one of the most significant figures in American popular music. In the 1980s, his cutting-edge music broke down barriers in a segregated industry. He challenged censorship and social conventions with his frank, sexually charged lyrics and performances, and the Purple Rain album and blockbuster movie solidified him as a pop icon.

Prince was also a musical virtuoso — he mastered numerous instruments and genres, released over thirty albums and penned songs for many other artists. An innovator in the music industry, he fought Warner Bros. to gain control of his master recordings, and became one of the first artists to use the Internet to distribute music. Another inventive business move comes to mind: He included a copy of his 2004 Musicology album with each ticket to his popular concert tour, thus securing high album sales and the number three spot on the Billboard 200.

But more than anything, Prince has been a major part of my life. I was first introduced to Prince via his 1990 movie, “Graffiti Bridge,” the “Purple Rain” sequel that my sister and I watched frequently along with Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalker.” I am certain that I heard the song “1999” over-played on the radio, along with “When Doves Cry,” “Kiss,” and “Adore.”

However, I didn’t become a super-fan until my junior year of high school in 2002. BET was repeatedly running “Purple Rain.” I sat down to watch the movie and was surprised that I had never seen it. I thought the movie was interesting, but one scene especially caught my attention:  the performance of the song “Computer Blue.”  I was intrigued by the way Prince played guitar, and I knew in that moment that he was an extraordinary musician.  I was hooked.

I became obsessed with researching Prince’s career (listening to old albums, reading biographies, etc.). In 2004, I lied to my professor to get out of a school engagement so I could see him play at the Gund Arena in Cleveland. I was also fortunate enough to see him again in 2010 at Madison Square Garden. Call me superstitious, but I felt in my heart that this pattern of seeing Prince every six years would continue; I just knew he’d be coming to Columbus this summer, but he has passed on to a better place…

Prince is also the center of what I consider my life’s work, a book on his spiritual journey. It may seem crazy, but Prince always explored spirituality in his life and music, even in his most sexually explicit songs. He became a Jehovah’s Witness later in life, but my intention is not to convert the reader to a particular faith. The fascinating part of the story is how he overcame his internal struggles to achieve a peace which I’m sure comforted him up until his death.

I was hoping to meet and interview Prince one day, but I was prepared to finish my book if that did not happen. So even though I am distraught, I am committed to finishing what I started. Prince certainly completed what he was destined to do in his lifetime, and his amazing music will continue to be a part of my life (when I can bear to listen to it again). With that said, I’ll leave you with one of his quotes from a 1990 Rolling Stone interview:

“When I pray to God, I say, ‘It’s your call — when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. But as long as you’re going to leave me here, then I’m going to cause much ruckus!’”


What is your favorite memory of Prince?