Friday, July 12, 2019

"Pop Life" - Seven Questions for Laura Tiebert

"Life it ain't real funky unless it's got that pop." 


Photo by PhillipsPhotosCDP

To experience life in Prince's high heels, one doesn't have to write timeless music, sell out arenas or attempt to hit a dozen splits at the drop of a hat. Following Prince's example can mean fasting, developing a personal style and making time for play in your busy, adult life.

That's what Minnesota mom Laura Tiebert has been doing since the beginning of 2019. Each month, she completes a Prince-inspired task (she even changed her name in April), and writes about it at lauratiebert.com. She hopes to turn "The Year of Living Like Prince" into a book.

"The impetus, in part, for this project was seeing how people in a fan community can sometimes put that person on a pedestal, and in the process let themselves off the hook," Tiebert said. "[They say], 'Oh, this person's a genius. I could never do this.' Well, you know what, you can do more than you think and you have talents. And it's your job to get out there and share them."

Originally from Wisconsin, Tiebert gravitated toward Prince's music as a teenager. As life got busier with a successful writing career, marriage and parenthood, she lost track of the enigmatic superstar. But when her husband's job prompted a move to Minnesota just before Prince's death in 2016, she was drawn back into the music. A year later, she published a biography, The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988, with co-writer Alex Hahn.

Tiebert graciously answered seven questions about her passion for Prince.

1. On the spectrum from "casual fan" to "hardcore fan," how would you rank yourself?

There are still a lot of people who know much more about Prince than I do. I'm not a musician, there are things about the music that I don't understand, but I'd put myself right up there. I think I've fallen into the category of hardcore fan. ... I'm so grateful for his music and his legacy because it's led me to an amazing place where I feel like I'm serving my purpose in life. Living like Prince and spreading the word, it feels like my purpose.

2. How did your connection to Prince change when you studied his work as an adult? 

I just realized that I had missed a lot, like thousands of songs worth of a lot, and there was so much more to learn. And I think coming to it again now as an adult with teenagers [of my own], I heard the songs differently. I heard different things in the music, and it did resonate with me on a more spiritual level. It was almost like my eyes opened and my heart opened.

3. Other than wearing a "mankini," are there things you won't do while trying to live like Prince?

Working 20 hours a day--I can't. I'm a mom and I have to be up at 6 a.m. to get the kids to school. I can't stay up 'til 5 a.m. and then go to bed and wake up at noon. It's just not going to work for me.

4. As you discovered different aspects of Prince's personality while writing The Rise of Prince, did your relationship with him shift at times?

There were a lot of nights when I would be in front of my laptop, like clutching handfuls of hair going, 'Why, Prince, why?' ... We know he had a dark side and sometimes that was a little hard to stomach. And Alex [Hahn] was very good about facing that and not glossing over it. And I think it's an important part of his story to acknowledge that he wasn't a perfect person.

5. What's something you've learned about Prince that you haven't shared?

For fans, I think they would be interested to know that Prince had invited [author] Betty Eadie to go on tour with him. I think a lot of people know that he was a fan of [her book] Embraced by the Light, maybe they even know that he wrote "Dolphin" for her, and "Into the Light" was inspired by that book. But they might not know that he had taken it to the level where he wanted to give everyone at his show [in the early '90s] one of her books. Then, he was going to have her do her author presentation. It never came to be because Betty decided she couldn't hitch her horse to Prince's wagon per se. But wouldn't that have been something?

6. How does your family respond to your interest in Prince?

In the beginning they thought I had lost my mind, which is completely understandable because I had. But now they just accept their weird mother. And I think as the project develops, they're sort of seeing the greater purpose in it. We've welcomed all kinds of visitors into our home and people stay in our guest room, [which] is decked out in all things Prince. I have confined it to one room. So I'm very proud of myself for that.

I have a very patient and tolerant husband and I greatly appreciate that. The first Mother's Day after Prince died, he went to Electric Fetus [record store] and he got me Dirty Mind. I opened it up at the dining room table in front of the kids and I started sobbing. And the kids, their eyes were like saucers. They were like, "Who is the man in the bikini briefs and why is my mother sobbing?"

7. Besides turning "The Year of Living Like Prince" into a book, what are your long-term goals?

I'm starting to see that "Living Like" could become a series. This could go on and I think there are things to be learned from all sorts of successful people. Right now my life's dream has always been to have a book that came from my heart, and that's what I'm hoping "The Year of Living like Prince" will be. And if I accomplish that, then I'm giving myself a pat on the back. I hope to be able to bring people along on the journey: "Live Like Prince in 2020." Maybe people can follow along in an online class and we'll grow it from there. I also think it's possible that people could pick who they want to live like and I just simply teach how to [do it].


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Friday, July 5, 2019

"All That Glitters" - Review of "Gold Experience: Following Prince in the '90s"


As a newspaper journalist, your beat can depend on a variety of factors: level of experience, holes in coverage and, if you're lucky, level of interest. When I finished journalism school at Ohio University, I was offered a job as a crime reporter in a rural town in Ohio. I almost took it, but ultimately decided I couldn't live on the salary. I think I would've liked the beat, but I'm not sure I would have been mentally strong enough to handle the content.

Not that my job as a reporter with Columbus Alive has been 100 percent uplifting. During the last three years on the "community" beat, I've seen great loss, corruption and despair in the city. However, I've had enough fun moments to balance it all. 

I love my job and I wouldn't trade my experience for anything--except to be in journalist Jim Walsh's shoes. For nearly a decade at the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota, he handled the "Prince" beat. Most people know the late superstar was a prolific recording artist, but one might not think there would be enough content to keep a reporter busy on a weekly-to-monthly basis. 

But then again, many people don't know much about Prince after the '80s. Reading Walsh's book, Gold Experience: Following Prince in the 1990s, I got a clear picture of the artist's amount of activity during the decade. When he told a crowd at his Paisley Park abode, "It's your house, too," he meant it. At one point, he threw parties and concerts nearly each weekend at either his home or his Glam Slam nightclub in Minnesota, and Walsh was present for practically all of it.

A compilation of his articles from 1994 to 2002, Gold Experience takes readers inside those magical, late-night/early-morning events (I would've paid hundreds to see Prince lying on his back playing blues guitar during a loose jam). But the real treasure in the book is its insight into Prince's personality, and a relationship of mutual respect between a journalist and his subject. 

"It all, always comes back to God." - Prince to Jim Walsh, 1996

Taking a cursory glance at national articles and some biographies, one would conclude that Prince was a desperate madman during the 1990s. Having been on the ground in Prince's hometown, Walsh is able to present that common perspective--including his own reservations about the artist--against a more realistic look into Prince's motivations and, more importantly, his humanity. I think readers will also come away with a greater appreciation for the music (though I don't share Walsh's level enthusiasm for the album Come). 

Because Prince was fond of Walsh, allowing him to pen liner notes for his 1995 album, The Gold Experience, and once delaying the start of a show until the reporter arrived, I worried the book would be too biased, praising everything about the musician. I quickly learned that, while Walsh presented himself as a writer "always rooting for Prince, or defending him," he was critical when he needed to be. And there were times Prince made it known he wasn't happy with him.

But there's a difference between being critical and being nasty, as many journalists were when writing about Prince. It was refreshing to read a different approach. Additionally, unlike many other reporters, Walsh was thoughtful, intelligent and respectful. His two interviews with Prince--one in person and one via fax--were some of the most insightful I've read.

"The state of race relations affects me more than ever now that I run my own affairs." - Prince to Jim Walsh, 1997

One of best gifts a journalist can get is knowing their work is being read--and that it is making a difference. Walsh had the great fortune of getting Prince's attention; the artist even summoned him to Paisley Park to share his thoughts on one article, line by line! 

Related Content
Prince: The Last Interview review
Rolling Stone journalists' thoughts on Prince's spirituality
Best Prince songs of the '90s 

Obviously, Walsh's articles impacted Prince, but, more importantly, they are making a difference now that the superstar is gone. In the market of Prince books, blogs, articles and podcasts, we need more thoughtful, probing views into this remarkable talent--especially during the '90s, when so many people wrote him off. Gold Experience gets it right.


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