Still buzzing off of last week’s surprise shows at the Dakota Jazz Club, Prince’s new rock ‘n’ roll trio—guitarist Donna Grantis, drummer Hannah Ford, and bassist Ida Nielsen—stopped by the Current to share a new track and chat about how they got together with the Purple Yoda.
There has been speculation from fans that the new all-female trio is affiliated with mystery Twitter account @3rdEyeGirl, which has been sharing all kinds of bootlegs and other goodies from the Prince camp, but the bandmates denied it. Instead, they say that their new lineup is an “untitled” work in progress, and that we can expect to hear a lot more from them in 2013.
First up? This track, “Screwdriver,” which has been teased in a few places online and is now getting an official release. Prince and his trio played it live on Friday, and it was a good representation of the punchy, down-and-dirty rock that they were whipping up that night at the Dakota. In the recorded version, the track has a bit more studio sheen (and synthesizer). It’s his first above-the-boards offering since his fall single “RNR Affair.”
Read on for more from my interview with Donna, Hannah, and Ida, and keep an eye out for more Prince updates sooner rather than later. The Purple One is back online for the first time in years, and all signs point to him enjoying a busy 2013.
Local Current: The three of you are fairly new additions to the Prince camp. Hannah and Ida, I know you appeared in Prince’s video for “RNR Affair,” but Donna, you just joined the group on guitar very recently. How did each of you get involved?
Donna Grantis: Hannah found me. She introduced me to Prince.
Hannah Ford: It was super cool. We got an e-mail saying to be on the lookout for a new guitar player, a female, the best that we could find. So my husband and I started the search, and we came across Donna on the internet, and we loved her style, we loved her look, we loved her playing and decided to reach out. And, you know, now we’re here.
And how about you, Hannah, how did you first get involved?
Ford: I got an email from the Prince camp saying that he would love for me to audition. and that’s how it happened. I made some videos and auditioned and then came into Paisley and met everyone and—you know he doesn’t really remember how he found me, but he found me. So I’m very thankful for that.
How about you, Ida?
Ida Nielsen: I got a phone call as I was at a festival saying that Prince saw my MySpace and that he would like to jam with me. So I came, and yeah that was like 2 and a half years ago. And then I joined the NPG, and now we have this new setup and it’s awesome.
Oh right, because you were actually playing guitar on Thursday night, right?
I should ask you, then, since you got to play at two different nights at the Dakota—what was your favorite song of the residency to play?
Nielsen: Ooh. That’s a hard one. I have a lot of favorite songs. My favorite song, I think, for our little band here, is “Endorphin Machine.” And “Check the Record.” I love those two. And with the other band, we did a super funky jam that’s on the internet also right now, it’s called “Chapter & Verse.”
I really enjoyed that live. Hannah, I have to ask: You and Prince were wearing these matching kind of spirit hood hats on Friday. What is the story with those?
Ford: [laughs] There really is no story. We’re goofy! I love to wear hats. His hat is super cool, so we just have fun. It’s a blast. We love the hats!
Nielsen: It’s Hannah’s natural hair actually.
Ford: I just put the little glow eyes in my hair, and it was good. [laughs]
Donna—Prince is widely recognized as one of the most iconic guitar players in the world in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, and you definitely held your own playing next to him. What is that like to be tapped by somebody who is so respected, and to have him recognize your guitar talents in this way?
Grantis: It’s just totally incredible. Just hearing him play and rehearsing and jamming and performing, it’s so inspiring. When he’s playing—you know that face you get when you’re listening to music that’s really good? I call it “the stink face.” I seriously have that the entire time we’re playing because it’s just so good. I told a friend of mine, “You know how people get laugh lines? I think I’m just going to get stink face lines.” [laughing] It’s so inspiring, it’s just amazing.
It seems like the three of you are part of a new permanent group. Do you have a name that you’re going by, or is it just “Prince’s new band?”
Ford: As of right now, we haven’t really settled on a name yet. I said the other day that, “We are Untitled.” That’s just kind of how it is right now. We’ll think of something.
I definitely get the sense from Friday night’s show that you guys have been having a lot of fun playing together and getting to know Prince. I really like how he introduced the band as “Hannah, Donna, Eda and Prince-a.”
Beyond practicing with Prince for these shows, have you gotten to spend some quality time with him hanging at Paisley Park?
Ford: Yeah! Yeah. I feel like when you are in a band and you are playing music with other musicians, there’s a bond that just kind of happens, you know? You really grow to learn each other and you get really close, just even within the music. Because music is such an intimate thing, it’s really close to all of us. So when you spend so much time rehearsing and perfecting your set and the music, there’s a bond that forms there. And then, off of the stage and behind the scenes, we all kick it and laugh and have a great time together. We’ve definitely spent a good amount of time with each other and we just continue to have a great time.
Nielsen: We play ping-pong.
Ford: Yeah. It’s super fun. Ida’s the champ. Ida and Prince go at it pretty hard. He’s ridiculous at ping-pong!
Can you give us some hints about what’s ahead in 2013?
Nielsen: A lot of great things ahead, it’s going to be a really big year. We’ve got some dates coming out—promo dates overseas. Also today, a new song called “Screwdriver” will be released.
Ford: To you first!
We are very excited about that one. Thank you so much for coming in and talking to me today!
All: Thanks for having us!
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