NEW YORK – World famous singer and drummer Sheila “E” Escovedo is releasing her first new album in 12 years, "Icon." She's also reflecting on her life story and musical journey in the memoir “The Beat of My Own Drum.” In it, she talks about the legends she learned from, and her famous relationships, including with Prince, who proposed to her on stage during a performance of "Purple Rain."
FOX411: You’re marking 40 years in the business, what the milestone means to you?
Sheila E: It’s amazing. I can't believe that it's been 40 years. It feels like I'm just starting. Every time I do something it’s like it’s brand new. This is a new time, and I'm thankful for it but I've done so much and I look forward to the next 40 years.
FOX411: Obviously so difficult to share the story of abuse in your childhood, was it therapeutic at all?
Sheila E: When I started to write it in my thirties, the first time I wrote it, once I read it back I only started the first part of that story and I was going to share it as my testimony for a church bible study and I spent two hours just writing and I stopped for a minute and I looked and I read it and then I just broke down because I didn't realize how crazy it was and deep it was. Reading about yourself when you really write it out it was just heartbreaking and I couldn't believe that I was talking about myself. I wept for like three days. I cried and then that began the process of like peeling off layers of things that you held onto, of feeling guilty and ashamed and dirty, and 'was it my fault?' And at 5 years old, no it's not your fault, and forgiving, and so it was a process. That part of it was a process. So once I started that, I started sharing my testimony and talking about it and helping others and realizing, ‘wow I am not the only one, there’s 10 people in this room and seven to eight of them have been abused in some kind of way.' I always say this, it had nothing to do with my parents, my parents are the best. They're great, they are amazing, this just happened to be with a babysitter and you know, it just happened. So I really, try to share and tell people if anyone is in an abusive relationship or have been in that situation, to talk about it because that begins your healing, your growing, your changing, living your life in its fullest that you can live it.
FOX411: So at age 3 you picked up your first drumsticks? Then at age 5 you were on stage?
Sheila E: My dad plays. He still does. So he would practice around the house every day like this table, there were congas and timbales and percussion and all kinds of stuff and then he would have jam sessions so people were jamming in the house all the time, and then he would have his band rehearsing in the living room so it was always music but I never really wanted to be a musician. I didn’t think that I was going to be. I wanted to be the first girl, or astronaut, on the moon. Then I wanted to be an Olympic athlete. My mom is an athlete. I was a sprint runner running track and I competed a lot so, I was training to be in the Olympics at the time and I played this one important show with my dad at 15 and that’s when I realized, ‘oh my God, wait, music is my passion’.
FOX411: You talked about some of your relationships, Carlos Santana, Prince...
Sheila E: Yeah I think it was important to share my side of the story and not as much as saying, you know, I wanted to talk about anybody, it's just this is something that happened and to share like I would never do this, it was just something that happened. I fell in love, my first love, and I didn't realize that he was married and I was devastated. It took a lot… it's just, you give your all to someone and then all the sudden you find out it’s… wow you're not the only one and then you're married? I can't even begin to tell you what that's like, at 18. It would be devastating now at 56 years old.
FOX411: What does it mean to have had Prince be so much a part of your life? Influence on your music and then you met randomly but you had a poster of him…
Sheila E: It's pretty interesting everyone says how he influenced me, but actually I influenced him first. He was following my career. I just wanted to meet him, and he had just come out with his first record and he actually came to the bay area to record his first record. When I went to introduce myself he already knew who I was which I was shocked and he said, ‘I know who you are already. I've been following your career for a long time, and you're amazing and I'd love for you to play in my band,’ and he asked me how much I made and I told him and he's like, ‘I can't afford you,’ and I said, ‘well things change’.
FOX411: His lyrics at a certain point it took a departure from your style right?
Sheila E: Absolutely, yeah. After a while, there's so many words, you get tired of saying the bad words it's like OK 'can we do something else?' I just felt like it was time for me to leave and that wasn’t the direction that I wanted to go.
FOX411: ...You were sort of engaged at one point? Can you tell a little bit of that story?
Sheila E: We were out on tour, the Purple Rain tour. I’ll tell you this, what happens is, there are only a handful of people that when I play with them I go to this place, which is why when I played with my dad it’s like I couldn’t believe it-- that’s when I knew I wanted to play. You get in that moment where you don't even realize anyone is around. You forget that there's anyone there, and you're just in that moment and so in Purple Rain playing drums… there were a couple of songs during the show that I would get in that place. I was playing drums and in the midst of Purple Rain song he turned around and then asked me to marry him, I didn't even know my eyes were closed and I looked, and I think we both hit this one part of… and he turned around and asked me to marry to him.
FOX411: The new music. It was your first album in 12 years!
Sheila E: I didn't realize it had been 12 years. I had been so busy that I didn't know I hadn't done a record but while I was writing the book I realized that there were stories in the book that should be a song and then the same thing, oh wait I wrote some songs that should be in the book because they are stories. So they kind of worked together hand in hand.
Every time I play and I have a new song, I have a new record, I have a new performance, playing yesterday or tomorrow whatever those butterflies and that feeling is just like the first time I played with my dad. That passion-- that's what I love so much. It's like. ‘I still love it, yes I’m nervous, I’m excited, let’s go!’ I know that day when, if that ever comes and that feeling goes away, then I know that I’m supposed to stop but I hope it never leaves because it’s amazing. That feels like home to me.
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