Photo courtesy of tamardavis.com
If you're a singer trying to break into the industry, I suppose you have to be ready to perform at the drop of a hat. But what if the person asking you to perform on the spot is Prince? And what if you were in his home?
I'm freaking out just thinking about it, but it was a cinch for Ashley Támar Davis. Her singing impressed Prince at his house party around 2004.
"We went into his studio and he let a drum loop just play," said Davis, who became a significant part of his musical and social circle. "I just [improvised]."
They almost met years earlier when she was doing demo work at age 11 with Morris Hayes, a keyboard player in Prince's New Power Generation band. (During her childhood, she was also a member of the pre-Destiny's Child group Girls Tyme.) Prince overheard her demo, and asked her to record "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," one of his favorite songs, according to Davis. But they weren't able to connect in person.
Davis performed "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" during Prince's epic medley at the 36th annual NAACP Image Awards in March 2005. I consider it one of his best televised performances of all time.
However, I wouldn't learn Davis's name until she appeared a year later on Prince's number-one album, 3121. Davis recalled Prince's creation of the title track.
"He would be playing a song and he would let a groove go by for minutes," she said. "And then, all of a sudden, he was like, 'Don't you want to come, 3121.'"
Davis sings on some of 3121's most spiritual songs, including "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed," a duet with Prince that she originally wrote for her solo album, Milk & Honey.
"He challenged me to compose music, and then to write a song that was very deep in meaning," she said. "He never said anything else but, 'Go deep.'"
The result is a beautiful R&B song about creation and man's connection to God. The track also fostered a spiritual bond between Prince and Davis, who is a Christian.
"It was the most emotional connection I'd ever had to anyone," she said. "The song didn't really come to life until we were getting ready to perform it for 'Saturday Night Live' [in 2006]."
"It was so heavy spiritually for us, he was like, 'Támar, you know we can never perform this song again,'" she continued.
Though some of their religious beliefs differed, Davis attended Kingdom Hall with Prince. She also said their spiritual conversations strengthened her own convictions.
Prince left Universal Records (he had a single-album distribution deal), and Davis's album was delayed indefinitely.
Davis's album was originally advertised as
Beautiful, Loved & Blessed on an insert inside the 3121 CD.
"I was like, 'Well, what am I supposed to do, just wait until I get a call?'" she said.
After they parted ways, Davis went on to release two albums, act in multiple theater productions and compete on "The Voice." She looks back on her time with Prince as a period which enriched both their lives.
"Anyone who was [associated with] him, they would always feel like we were influenced by him musically," she said. "But what they don't know is I created all those songs [on Milk & Honey] from the ground up, except 'Kept Woman.' ... I was a vessel for him, and he was a vessel for me."
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