It’s that time of year again. Oxnard’s Strawberry Festival is upon us, and co-headlining the event along with local heroes Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is a wildcard booking in the form of the E Family featuring Sheila E. Although Sheila E has had an extremely interesting and varied career, she still is best known for her work with Prince at the height of the Purple One’s fame. The Reporter spoke to Sheila about her new group, career longevity and her mixed feelings about a certain classic hip-hop film.
VCR: Could you talk a little bit about your family’s musical background?
Sheila E: My dad has played with so many different Latin jazz artists over the years. He was also in Santana for many years ‘til he started his own group with his brother Coke Escovedo who was in Santana as well. My brother Juan has played with a lot of the big R&B groups, and my brother Pete has played with people like George Michael and Lionel Richie. So now my dad, my two brothers and myself are together in the same group, and we’re calling it the E Family.
What’s it like playing and touring with your family?
It’s been a blessing. When I’m not on tour I would go play with my dad as much as I could. My brothers have always been in a lot of bands, but it’s been me that’s been coming and going. So on this new album that’s coming out Aug. 5 we just decided, “let’s make a band where all of us can go out and share the joy that comes out when we play together.”
Your career has been incredibly varied. From your success in the ’80s as a solo artist to backing up Ringo Starr in his all-star band, you seem to be all over the place. How do you maintain a fan base that way? Don’t people get confused seeing you constantly working in different genres?
It’s pretty interesting because my fan base has just been amazing. I mean, I haven’t had a record out in I don’t know how long, but I think my career has been successful because I’ve been able to go out and perform with other artists. My success hasn’t been based on record sales. It’s been about appearances and what I can bring to the table live. Thankfully, my fans appreciate that.
This is slightly off subject, but what was it like to star in the movie Krush Groove? Some of the people in that film are now legends in rap music, like Run DMC and LL Cool J, and others, like Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, are icons. You got to experience the very genesis of a whole new culture as it was happening on film. That must of been an amazing experience.
Actually, it wasn’t that fun for me. I had been out on tour for over a year and had been living out of a suitcase, so I was really tired. It was at the start of that rivalry in rap between East Coast versus West Coast, and although I wasn’t a rapper, I was a West Coast artist, so it wasn’t great times doing the movie at all. A lot people on the set and a lot of the rappers weren’t very cool. Most of them were, but some definitely were not. And even the fans that were there as extras in the movie were tough. I remember at one point we were shooting the “Love Bizarre” scene, and while we were filming that performance, the director had to yell “cut” and tell the crowd that, look, this is a movie and you have to clap for Sheila E. We’re not sitting here critiquing her. I have to say Run DMC were really, really sweet, and so was — what’s his name?
There you go! Kurtis Blow was amazing. What a nice guy. He and the Fat Boys were great, but some of the other rappers — I’m not even gonna say who they were, but they were really rude. Now we’re all friends. It’s crazy. We all grew up. Rick Rubin is one of the biggest and most famous producers now. Its just amazing what happened to everyone’s career and how they expanded from that movie. I’m lucky to have been in it despite it being a little rough at the time.
So assuming no surprise appearances from Prince or sadly even Kurtis Blow what can the Strawberry Festival fans expect from the E Family?
[Laughs.] Laughter, a good time and some great music!
The E Family
featuring Sheila E
May 18, 2:45 p.m.
3250 Rose Ave., Oxnard