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?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"Comin' From the Land of Snow" - Prince's Autobiography

After publishing my blog entry on Wednesday, I was wondering if I'd find another topic for the week. Well, ask and you shall receive.

Prince just announced that he will publish his memoir in fall 2017.

I received this news at 4 a.m. in this morning. Of course my first response was to freak out, cry and send a frantic e-mail to the professor who helped me with the book. I wondered, "Does this mean I should quit?"

However, after receiving some wonderful encouragement, I'm OK. So, in the spirit of thinking positive, here is why I will keep going:
  1. Prince's publishers, Spiegel & Grau, mentioned that the memoir would be "unconventional" and "poetic." So it's likely that our books will be different, especially given that I am focusing solely on his spiritual journey.

  2. People write books on artists all the time--even if the artists have autobiographies. It's not the end of the world.

  3. I can use this as an opportunity to push myself and finish the book before his comes out. I still have time. So, it's time to get back on a schedule
I am so grateful to have a few people who lift me up during times like these--especially people following my journey online. Here is a snippet of a nice message that I received from someone on Facebook:
"I don't think you should give up....I will buy your book....Your book is a fresh perspective: spirituality. Prince has leaned on his beliefs throughout his career to explain his talents and success. Deep exploration will be fascinating." 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"Rich on Personality" - Creating My Brand

I will not fail my 52-blog challenge! Due to my crazy, busy life, I didn't blog last week, but I am still on track! I mentioned earlier that if I missed a week of blogging, I would make up for it with two blogs the following week. So, here is one blog of two for the week!

I am always thinking of ways to improve the blog. Lately I've been trying to figure out how to make a name for myself. I want to become well-known as a respected writer. As I gain "fans," I increase the chances of getting new views on apurpledayindecember.com. Here is what I have done to reach my goal:

1) I created a Facebook page. Facebook's advertising platform is so sophisticated. I'm looking forward to building an audience and creating campaigns to drive them to the blog.

2) I got a full-time journalism job. At the end of March I will start a new job as an assistant editor at an arts and entertainment publication! This will only help my credibility as a writer.

3) I created a YouTube channel. My videos primarily showcase my opinion on new R&B and soul music. However, I hope that the audience will take me seriously as a music critic and therefore take an interest in my blog. Here is a little peek into the video series:



What album should I review next?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Another 300 Melodies" - Unreleased Prince Music & Other Projects

What a week! I started an exciting new music journalism project (more info to come), and I came down with a terrible cold. In fact, I'm still sick, so this will be a short blog entry.

Lately I've been thinking about Prince's "vault," or vast collection of unreleased songs, albums, videos and other projects. The vault is legendary, and many fans are hoping that he will begin to share some of this material as part of his new partnership with Warner Bros

I often wonder if I should analyze music from the vault, but I'm sticking to my decision to leave it alone. After all, the material is not readily available, and getting the material from a bootlegger would be illegal. Other biographers have heard the songs, but I don't want to simply use their analyses and "water down" my book.

However, I am interested in some projects that were released but are just rare. One example is the ballet featuring Prince's music. Additionally, I keep hearing about documentaries that were made about Prince. I have to find out if they were official or unofficial...

Well, I need to go take some Nyquil. Be back next week!


What is your favorite unreleased Prince project?

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Soul Psychodelicide" - The Graffiti Bridge Album

I have great news! After giving myself a much-needed pep talk, I locked myself in my house on Saturday and finally hammered out my analysis of the "Batman" movie and album. Now, all I have to do is write about the reception of the album, and Prince's 1990 "Nude" tour, and chapter 10 will be done (for the most part)!

The next step will be to add to my list of interviews. Then, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I will analyze the "Graffiti Bridge" movie. Like the film, the soundtrack contains a lot of spiritual themes, and I'm really looking forward to exploring them.


As you know, if I absolutely had to choose my favorite track on the album, I would pick "The Question of U." However, I pretty much love everything except the songs by The Time (sorry, guys) and the title track (a little too "syrupy"). Can we take a moment to applaud Mavis Staples' performance on "Melody Cool?" By the way, I am dying to see her new documentary on HBO, which will feature an appearance by Prince. I don't have cable, so I'm having my dad record it for me. I still have to get over his house to watch the Michael Jackson "Off the Wall" doc.

Speaking of "The Gloved One," I'm going to an MJ tribute concert tonight, and I have more plans Saturday and Sunday. It looks like I'll be getting back to my book on Monday, but I'm not stressing about it! I'm happy with my progress, and I have a feeling I'll be knocking out another chunk of writing very soon!


What are your favorite tracks on Graffiti Bridge?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

"Have You Had Your Plus Sign Today?" - Encouraging Myself

There is no time. If I had my way, I would be writing my book 24/7. However, I don't have a publishing contract yet, and I have bills, so I need to work. I need to wash my dishes. I need to go to physical therapy twice a week. I need (and want) to spend time with my family and friends. So, there is no time.

It's been a rough couple of weeks. I had so many good intentions. I even bought a cool new calendar to keep of track of them:


However, I find myself behind schedule, upset and embarrassed, especially when people ask me how the book is coming and what is taking me so long. So, I'm going to encourage myself as I have done time and time again. I've made a brief list of some positive points.
  1. This blog entry about my book is two days late, but it's done, and I'm still sticking to my 52-blog challenge.

  2. People are interested in what I have to say. This week, I received legitimate comments on a blog entry for the first time in a couple years! Additionally, one of my sister's friends starting following me on Twitter, and expressed that she is really looking forward to my book.

  3. It doesn't matter when the book gets done; it just matters that it gets done. This is pretty much my life's work, and I'm a winner as long as I finish. I'm demonstrating a strong commitment to a project that is important to me.

  4. All of my hard work is not in vain; if I can affect one person with my book, I have succeeded. 
I hope this blog post encourages someone else who is struggling to achieve their dreams. We are going to make it!


How do you encourage yourself? 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"I Scan My Computer" - Newspaper Reasearch

In one of my past blog posts, I mentioned that I study a select view publications as part of my research process.

Back at Ohio University, I'd printed all of the Prince articles I needed--up until about 1990. Well, now that I'm almost finished covering Prince's '80s period, it's time to head back to the library.

I seriously thought this was going to be me...



For all of the young kids out there, the above is a picture of a microfilm machine, which allows you to read documents stored on film. I was on campus only six years ago, but I had to use that machine to get my articles for the book. I'm actually proud to say I know how to use it.

Luckily, my local library gives me free access to research databases, so I can just download PDFs. However, I just found out that the library doesn't carry one of the publications beyond 1992. I need articles through the year 2004! Perhaps a librarian will direct me to another place where the micofilm machine will make a comeback!

What a riveting blog post, right? Well, writing a book is full of boring research moments. Welcome to my world...


Have you used a microfilm machine?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Are There Really Angels?" - The Graffiti Bridge Movie

It is taking me so long to get through my research for chapter ten of my book. I haven't even had a chance to write my analysis of the "Batman" movie and album.

In the near future, I hope to review another Prince-affiliated movie: "Graffiti Bridge," which was released in 1990. Prince wrote, directed and starred in the film. It is a really important expression of his spirituality.



Yes, that is a VHS cassette. Yes, I have a VCR. I bought this tape thirteen years ago when I was rediscovering Prince. Wow.

I used to watch "Graffiti Bridge" over and over as a kid. In fact, I knew about that movie before "Purple Rain." I'm looking forward to re-watching it for the book. Here are three of my favorite things about the film:
  1. The guest appearances: A lot of stars are in the movie, including a young Tevin Campbell. I grew up listening to his music, so seeing him takes me back to my childhood. I also love that Mavis Staples is in the movie. I think it's really cool that Prince praises older artists whom he admires, and collaborates with them.

  2. The comedy: A lot of people would characterize "Graffiti Bridge" as cheesy, but that is part of its charm. One of my favorite parts: Prince is performing "Tick, Tick, Bang," and his rivals, The Time, are purposely looking bored. I think Jimmy Jam or Terry Lewis is even playing a Game Boy. It's just so random and funny.

  3. The music: Many Prince fans say that the decline of Prince's creativity began post "Lovesexy" with albums such as the "Graffiti Bridge" soundtrack. However, I really enjoy a lot of the songs. I will discuss the album more in a future blog post. 

Do you like the Graffiti Bridge movie? What is your favorite part?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"We Can Fix This Situation" - Organizing My Notes

I'm proud of myself; prior to writing this blog tonight, I spent three hours working on the book!

In addition to writing, I also need to organize my notes. Back in July, I mentioned that I have a document of notes that I take while I'm conducting my research. That document is 45 pages long (yikes)!

I also have notes in my Gmail account. I've been getting Prince-related Google Alerts for years now, and I have not done a good job of pulling info from them and deleting them as I go along. Also, when I get a random idea for the book, I often e-mail it to myself. There are probably dozens of those e-mails just sitting there.

Finally, I take notes on my iPhone. I haven't done anything with those.

Aah!

My goal is to take all of these notes and organize them in an Excel file. Each tab will represent a different category. For example, one tab might say "Potential Sources" and another might say "Prince Quotes." Obviously, this is going to take a long time. I plan to spend a little bit of time on this project each week so I don't get distracted from writing.

Going forward, I need to stick to one note-taking method. I still like writing things down, so I'm going to purchase a small notepad (purple, of course), and keep it with me at all times. Then, I'll either use those notes right away or transfer them to the Excel file as soon as possible.

Say a prayer for me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Vicki Waiting" - The Kim Connection

I recently purchased two items for the Prince book that are connected to actress Kim Basinger. She portrayed Vicki Vale in Tim Burton's first "Batman" film, and Prince provided the soundtrack.


Hardcore Prince fans know that Basinger played a role (no pun intended) in Prince's life. Through my research, I discovered a book by her first husband that may be beneficial to me. I haven't even cracked it open yet. I'm excited to see what I find.


Basinger is also featured on a remix of the song "Scandalous." The original version appears on the "Batman" soundtrack. This "Scandalous Sex Suite" is very interesting to listen to...you really have to hear it for yourself. It is divided into three sections:


Are you starting to see that Prince has been obsessed with religious imagery for a loooong time now?


Would you rank Scandalous among Prince's top ballads?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Somebody to Talk to, Funny and Bright" - My Interviewing Process

I want to start reaching out to more sources soon. To stay organized, I keep a chart of all of my contacts, separated by categories.


My current chart is 17 pages. I want to go back through it and select those who need a follow-up message or call. After all, it took me years to talk to Jill Jones, one of the most important sources for the book. You just never know.

Next, I'm going to go through materials such as previous biographies and liner notes to come up with a list of new sources to add to the chart.

I hope to have an interview to share on the blog very soon.


Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"A Little Discipline is What You Need" - 52-Blog Challenge

Happy New Year!

My New Year's resolution for this blog is to write 52 entries in 2016--or one blog entry per week. I've been at this for five years, and I have never achieved that goal. Some years I came close; others were pretty laughable. Let's take a look back:

  • 2010: Six entries. I started the blog in December 2010, so that number makes sense. I successfully blogged once per week during that month.

  • 2011: Thirteen entries. In 2011, I was engrossed in my intense one-year graduate school program, and my internship at Billboard. For a large portion of the year, I was trying not to die in New York. 

  • 2012: Forty-one entries. I was really on my game that year. I came home after my internship and really focused on writing and getting interviews for the book. I'm proud of the work I did.

  • 2013: Thirty-nine entries. Still decent. I continued to land some important interviews for the book.

  • 2014: Nine entries. Whoa. I was about to feel ashamed of myself, but after scanning my entries, I spent most of the year writing the book instead of blogging about it.

  • 2015: Twenty-one. I got back on track, but I still spent a lot of time writing. I was really focused on finishing enough of the book to get my master's degree. I still can't believe I did it!

I'm really excited to see what happens this year. I'm very motivated. If something comes up, I'm going to write my weekly post early and schedule it to go out later, or perhaps I'll write two posts in one week. The blog calendar I created is really coming in handy so far.


Wish me luck!