It has been a rough year for iconic percussionist Sheila E, 58, who dealt with the unexpected blow of one-time fiancé and long-time collaborator Prince’s death in April.
But the show must go on, and in early December, she’ll bring her dazzling live act to Australia for festival and venue appearances.
She is also putting the finishing touches on her newest album, a double set called Girl Meets Boy. Girl, Sheila E. tells WHO, “is all the dance music I was initially planning to put out,” while “Boy is songs I wrote after Prince passed away.”
It’s likely you’ll hear her most famous classic hits—bangers like “The Glamorous Life” and “Love Bazaar”, when she hits the road here. “My show changes every time I do it,” admits Sheila E, “but I have been doing Prince songs in my show my entire life.
We wrote and recorded them together—and the love the fans give back is so rewarding. It’s hard to even call them fans because they are like family. How can I not keep doing this?” Apart from performing, though, Sheila E continues to be involved with Elevate Hope, the charity she co-founded in 2001.
“That is a 24-hour job in itself,” says Sheila E, “and we definitely have to step it up even more. The need is greater than ever.” The foundation, which provides art and music therapy to abused and abandoned children, recently opened a local branch in her hometown of Oakland.
“We were at a school recently, and a couple of kids came up to me,” Sheila E says.
“They were acting out, wanting attention—whatever. But once we started talking to them, they opened up and told us their stories. You realise they act like this because they don’t have both parents at home.
They’re out on the streets. Sometimes they are sleeping in their friends’ cars, sometimes they have no money to get any food.
So the need is not just for music and art—they want respect and love. It breaks your heart, but you have to keep going.” It is a lesson Sheila E learnt again after Prince’s death rocked her world.
Though she was vocal in the weeks after about ensuring his estate would be properly handled, the singer tells WHO her tune has changed. She had no involvement with the opening of his Paisley Park compound last month.
And when asked where things stand with her fight for his estate, her reply is simple: “I have walked away.”
To read more from our interview with Sheila E, pick up the new issue of WHO at newsagents now.