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!