Well, what’s there not to say? She was a musical prodigy darn near since birth and, we’re sure you all know about the whole Prince stint, as well as the slew of solo hits she has to her credit.
Recently the musical impresario sat down with EURweb.com’s Lee Bailey for a conversation about this and that. Practically everything except sneakers and hats. First and foremost though, she talks about the Playboy Jazz Festival as well as her music and a troubled event in her youth that inspired her. However, upon doing research for the interview we came across a piece of information that even we didn’t know about. An Emmy nomination?
“I got a call from Bounce (TV network), as well as the White House, to be musical director for a performance called Fiesta Latina for TBS and Terrence Swift, and other people from Bounce, asked me to be one of the producers as well,” she explained. “It was very cool to be honored and be acknowledged in that way for the first time ever, being nominated for an Emmy.”
Being nominated is one thing, but winning is another. It’s likely we didn’t hear more about it because she didn’t get the award.
“It’s pretty ironic actually,” said Sheila. “Everyone always asks me if I wasn’t playing music what would I be doing with my life. I was running track early in my years and I was breaking track records in sprint running. I was training and I wanted to be in the Olympics. I thought I was going to be able to win a gold medal and my mind was pretty much set on ‘this is what I want to do’. I loved running track, and I loved sports. I got that part from my Mom. The Emmy that I lost, and I can’t remember his name, I lost to the man who did the Olympics. So, it was great to lose to him. It’s the Olympics. ”
By the way she lost to composer John Pearce, musical director for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Sheila E. (The E is for Escovedo) has performed with so many talented, Rock and Roll hall of fame bound, musicians and in renowned venues that it is a bit hard for one to fathom that she would be in awe of any event. However, she told us that playing at the legendary Playboy Jazz Festival is a little different.
“You grow up and you see on television these performances where someone has played the Hollywood Bowl,” she explained. “I didn’t live in Los Angeles, I grew up in the Bay Area, so to see it on television you see all the greats performed there. Then, when you finally drive up to the actual venue and see this historical place where you’re going to perform, and the great thing is for it to be called the Playboy Jazz Festival. It’s music! It’s part of the foundation of who I am as an artist, growing up listening to Latin jazz because of my Dad. It’s just an incredible place to be and I’m just honored and thrilled to be a part of it for so many years.”
Part of the reason why Sheila has so many fans from different backgrounds is because she is great at playing a multitude of musical styles. So, what can attendees at the Playboy Jazz Fest expect? The unexpected, of course.
“Actually, I have five different bands. I put bands together, like I’ve done for Beyonce, Prince and whoever. So people call me to put bands together or, for corporate things that I do, I just love playing music so much. Sometimes it just depends on whose available. My band members are incredible players, and they play with so many different people that I had to have like 5 bands. Some for just Latin jazz or salsa music, maybe one for some R&B or funk music, some Sheila E music. This band (that I’ll be playing with) is a band I put together more recently, I’d say about a year. We’ve been playing, on and off, for about a year now. It’s a great group of people that I think everybody is going to enjoy and, yes, my Dad (percussionist Pete Escovedo, a legend in his own right) will come and play a song or two with me. I gotta have Papi there.”
“You’re going to hear music that has inspired me over the years as far as me being an artist,” she continued. “My genre of music is very eclectic. I might play some latin jazz, or just go into a spontaneous jazz thing. That’s the thing about coming to one of my performances. Not every show is the same. The majority of my show is improvising. I can have a set of songs that we’re going to do, but a lot of it is just enjoyment. Part of it is interacting with the audience. I bring people up on stage. There’s a lot of improvising and that’s what keeps it fun for me. I don’t play the same thing all the time.”
For those that don’t know the Hollywood Bowl is … well, a bowl shaped outdoor venue in, where else, Hollywood … at the base of the Hollywood hills. It has been the home to the Playboy Jazz Festival for 34 years. We asked Sheila what unique challenges does playing outdoors present.
“One time I was playing on a tour with Ringo (Starr) and it was so hot that I had to be taken off the drums. The paramedics were there. That was the first time that ever happened. It wasn’t only the heat, but also the heat from the lights. I like it being hot, but temperature does play a role in how I play. When it gets cold outside, and it starting to get cold, and I’m playing the drums, because of the moisture on the drums you actually have to play harder. It doesn’t give you something back because of the moisture in the air.”
We understand not everyone can get out to Hollywood to check out the Jazz Festival to end all jazz festivals, but if you’re hankering for some Sheila E sounds then there is good news.
“I did want to mention that the E family has out a new CD called ‘Now and Forever’. We have such guests as Earth, Wind and Fire, Joss Stone, Raphael Saadiq, Joyce Gibbs and Israel Hoover.”
One of the incredible things about being in this line of work is finding out things about people that you otherwise would have never known. Sheila told us about her charitable endeavor, which is no big surprise really. Many artists have charities. It’s a widely recognized tax shelter. But this one goes much deeper than that. Way deep!
“People can go online to my foundation,” she explained. “It’s called elevatehope.org. We raise money and use that to bring music to children in foster care. It’s to give them tools and give them hope to be creative and express themselves. One reason that’s important to me is because my Dad, for a couple years, he was left in an orphanage. Early on he put all our instruments in the car and said ‘As bad as we have it, even though we’re on welfare there’s always someone who is worse off than we are. So, let’s just go to these facilities and play for the kids and give them something. I know how it feels.’ My manager and I did Elevate Hope together. We found that the more people we talked to, more than half were molested or raped. I was raped at the age of 5 by a babysitter, and she was molested as well. Music was one of the healing parts of my life. It’s not like a book that we just read. We understand because we went through the same things. We know how music helped us to heal. Some of them have been so abused that they don’t know how to communicate and they don’t know how to express themselves. Music is a speaking piece for them to allow them to break down those barriers and those walls.”
If you want to catch Sheila at the Playboy Jazz Festival, along with Ramsey Lewis, Boney James, Robin Thicke, the Dap Kings and many, many others, there’s still chance. The fun doesn’t start until June 16th and runs through the 17th. Log onto www.elevatehope.org to find out how you can help bring music to a child who really needs it.