Canadian guitarist Donna Grantis, taken under the wing of Prince, performs on new LPs | National entertainment
TORONTO – Donna Grantis grew up in the bustling suburb of Mississauga, Ont., And honed her considerable guitar notes at McGill University, but now has both feet firmly planted on the planet Prince.
She remembers the first time she was propelled into the orbit of the pop icon: she received a trivial email asking if she wanted to come to the famous Paisley Park studio in Prince, Minnesota to jam . A phone call soon followed with a short list of songs to learn.
Of course, she was skeptical. But then a ticket arrived for a one-way flight.
His fortune didn’t necessarily become easier to believe when he arrived – the sense of surreal fantasy was only heightened when the chameleon pop star walked into the room, introduced himself, and they began to act.
It’s been almost two years now since Grantis became a member of Prince’s skillful accompaniment group and the all-female trio he led, 3rdEyeGirl.
But no one really gets used to playing with Prince.
“Anytime we play a song, anything can happen anytime,” Grantis explained in a recent phone interview. “Prince is a conductor, so we learned to really follow him. He could break songs down anytime. He could solo anyone. We could start with a setlist but I don’t think that. we have never played a concert where we followed him.
“He’s playing a song and we just have to jump in. Sometimes he even plays something we’ve never done before, like a groove, and we have to react.
“We are ready for anything on stage.”
This week, Purple One spearheaded the release of two albums: “Art Official Age”, a solo record from the multi-instrumental and multi-genre master; and “Plectrumelectrum”, a very groovy record performed by 3rdEyeGirl but written and produced by Prince.
Grantis met with The Canadian Press to discuss the files and help sort out some of the myths surrounding his legendary leader.
CP: You are engaged in a guitar-solo fight match with Prince at the end of the new track “Anotherlove” on “Plectrumelectrum”. How was it ?
Grantis: It was like 4 in the morning one night when we all played the song together. And I was playing the rhythm guitar part and I knew by the end that this whole long jam-out section was going to be one huge, epic solo. And Prince asked me if I wanted to record the solo there or the next day. And I thought, “OK, I’d like to record this tomorrow because I thought it would give me some time to come up with some solo concepts, try different ideas, maybe come up with some stuff.” And he said, “OK. Let’s do it now.” (Laughs)
Prince has this way of getting the best out of everyone he works with. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush or the great sense of urgency behind it. But I’m really proud of this part. And the ending solo features Prince and I swapping guitar parts every four bars. It’s really cool.
CP: I know he can call any song he wants live. Do you know how many songs you’ve learned since joining his bands?
Grantis: No, I don’t know, I lost track. I know it’s in the hundreds.
CP: I want to check out some of the rumors I’ve heard about working with Prince. I read 12 hour jam sessions. Guess you don’t get much sleep while working with Prince?
Grantis: No, you don’t. Sleep is overrated.
CP: Is it true that you play a ton of ping-pong together?
Grantis: We play a ton of ping pong and it’s pretty intense. But he is an exceptional ping-pong player. And I guess since the first time we all joined the group until now, our ping pong skills have skyrocketed.
CP: And I heard he was sending the group short, funny emails?
Grantis: We fully forward messages by email. Yes, he has a great sense of humor.
CP: You are joined in 3rdEyeGirl by Hannah Ford and Ida Nielsen. This is not the first time that he has assembled an all-female group. What do you think motivates him to do this?
Grantis: I think he likes the energy that we bring to the table. I have heard him say that he admires the strength of working with women. And I think it’s so cool to have a balance of male and female energy in a band – and anything for that matter.
CP: He’s famous for playing “secret” club shows on the same night as practice sessions in a big arena. How far in advance do you know that the second show is taking place?
Grantis: Maybe a few hours before? It’s funny because when we were in UK we did a “Hit n Run” tour. We were there for about a month and just played pop-up shows that were announced on a very short notice. And sometimes we found out about these gigs via Twitter, thanks to fans posting.
CP: You studied jazz at school. Where did you see your career end?
Grantis: I absolutely dreamed of it. People asked me, “If you could play with anyone, who would it be?” And my answer was always Prince. He has a reputation for playing with the greatest musicians on the planet. And I thought it would be a privilege and an honor to study and play music with him. So it was always something I hoped for. And it’s amazing that the dream has come true.
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