Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

A Look Into the Style and Mind of Drumming Queen Sheila E.

Written by Mindy Abovitz
We asked our readers (90 percent of whom name Sheila E. as their direct role model) what they would ask her if they could ask her one question. Here is what they turned in:

 Did you ever experience pressure to be a certain way or a certain thing (career-wise perhaps) when you were growing up? How did you deal with that? 

Sheila: No, I did not experience any pressure growing up. My family was very supportive. Once I signed a record deal the record companies want you to do certain things to sell records, but I was able to work with them and help them to understand what kind of artist I was.

Mindy: Of all your experiences playing with your family, which memories stand out as most significant? How do you think they have shaped the way you approach your music? 

Sheila: There are so many great memories with my family . . . growing up with pops practicing to records and rehearsing with his band made for an amazing classroom. All of us jamming, singing, and dancing at every family function was like a talent show. 

Mindy: If you could relive an onstage moment from your past what would it be? 

Sheila: . . . the first time I performed with my father's band, Azteca. I took his percussionist player's place, and as a result of that I knew from that show that this would be my career, my passion, my purpose. 

Mindy: Of all your recent public performances which one(s) have been the most rewarding and why? 

Sheila: Every single time I perform it feels like the first time, and that’s what makes it special. Every performance is rewarding and a blessing.

Mindy: Which producers do you like working with and why?

Sheila: Life is what you make it. I love to learn, and most everyone I’ve worked with, as far as producers, has been amazing . . .  I take what I can use for me and to possibly share with others. That’s a part of life. You live and you learn.

Mindy: How have you experienced sexism/adversity (if you feel you have) in the early part of your career, and how do you think things have changed for women in music since then?

Sheila: Growing up and playing percussion, my family never told me that I could not play because I was a girl . . . [it wasn't] until I became a professional musician that I experienced words and behavior by men to make me think otherwise. The great thing about having wonderful parents is that they allowed me to speak with them about how I was being treated. Pops gave me great advice. He said, “Learn your music and be prepared so that you walk in the room with confidence, and you can hold your head up high. This will allow you to be at ease and have fun and enjoy music to its fullest. Don’t let them bring you down. You are a great player, not only because you're a girl and you're special but because your an amazing musician.  Be sure to treat others as you would want to be treated and be on time.”

Mindy: How did you confront it or deal with it?

Sheila: God has given me a gift of music and it’s something I treasure. So whatever anyone says, it's best to just play with all of my heart and in turn I know they will be blessed.

Mindy: Have people always taken you seriously as a pro drummer or not? Was it ever a struggle for you to be recognized as a pro drummer?

Sheila: My fans understand who I am as an artist. They love the diversity that I bring to the stage with everything I play. Drums are a very powerful instrument, and it takes every inch of my body to [play them] . . . . I believe people take me seriously as a drummer because I have not seen anyone else play like I do in 6" heels! 

Mindy: What role has style and glamour played in your music career?

Sheila: Funny how your next question is about glamour? Like I said, I love being a woman. It is a gift. I love to dress up. It makes me feel strong. Appearance is important to me because this brings attention to detail and who you are as a person, I went from no clothes on stage to covering up and now dress to impress. It makes a statement. Back in the day that was my statement, less is more. Now I say at fifty-four, more is better!

Mindy: Who was your stylist in the mid-80s?

Sheila: My stylists in the 80s were fashion magazines. I would get ideas from fashion in Europe and use something I saw and give it a twist to make it my own. We had fantastic seamstress and pattern makers for our tours. These men and woman on the team would also come up with amazing ideas for me. We loved taking it to the limit.

Sheila: Now my stylist for the last six years has been Roni Burks. She is incredible. I have never looked and felt so good. She has taken me to another level. It takes vision and a village, but it’s teamwork. I have a great team of people, Lynn Mabry and JoJo McCarthy, who have helped shape me to who I am now.

Mindy: How has your relationship to style/glamour shifted over the span of your career?

Sheila: Music and fashion are one. It’s important as an artist to know who you are. That is why I also think it's so important to have mentors, people who can help shape you and your music. Your look is something that people can relate to, and it brings attention to your music.

Mindy: What is your favorite rudiment or drum practice and why?

Sheila: I don’t know any rudiments, and I don’t and have never practiced playing drums or percussion. My practice is learning a song or writing down what I have to remember and then executing it onstage. I rehearse with my bands to put a show together, but those rehearsals are like actual gigs. I play them as if there are people in the room, which helps me to go all out and figure out what I need to change or not.

Mindy: What was the thing that you think took you from mid-level to top level professional gigs, as a player and an overall musician?

Sheila: I was able to be a sponge in a house of music 24/7. That helped shape me to be ready for a life of music if I so choose to be. This was not my passion until I turned fourteen. At fifteen I became a professional musician. Experience at an early age brought me from mid-level to top level.

Mindy: What are you working on now?

Sheila: I have a new record company called Stilettoflats Music. We have been blessed to release our first project entitled Now & Forever. This CD was recorded by my father Pete Escovedo, Sheila E., and my two brothers Juan and Peter Michael Escovedo. Our special guest performers on the CD are Earth, Wind, and Fire, Joss Stone, Raphael Saadiq, Gloria Estefan, Israel Houghton, and George Duke. We are very proud as a family to be able to write, play, sing and record together for the first time. We are going to release our third single "Nothing Without You" . . . I also have a book coming out entitled From Pain to Purpose. Please visit my website for my foundation. We raise money and use music and arts to help these children in foster care.

Mindy: If you could only take one instrument to a desert island, which would it be?

Sheila: I wouldn’t need one. Everything on an island I could make an instrument.

Mindy: What is one thing you are most proud of, related to drumming or not?

Sheila: I am proud of my family. They are amazing, and we are so blessed.

Mindy: Heels or flats?

Sheila: Stilettoflats 

This is a repost from the site Tom Tom


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