Taking precautionary measures when it comes to visiting unfamiliar places, such as inspecting every square inch of a hotel room, may sound a bit excessive, or bordering on Diva-like behavior. For Sheila E., such a routine is a necessity, thanks to two overeager fans.
"There was one time when two people were hiding in my hotel room inside the (air conditioning) unit. I don't know how they got in there," Sheila E. recalled in a baffled tone during a Tuesday phone interview. (She called from SeaWorld, where she was visiting with family members.) "You could see their eyes peeking out from the AC unit ... That was weird."
However, the Grammy Award-nominated percussionist has not let the incident quell her excitement for meeting fans. She is set to make two stops in the Lehigh Valley this weekend. First up, Sheila E. will sign copies of her book "The Beat of My Own Drum: A Memoir" at Barnes & Noble in the Southmont shopping center in Bethlehem Township. Later that evening, Sheila E. perform at the Zoellner Arts Center, kicking off the venue's 2015-16 season.
She stressed that she never does the same thing twice and has different set lists for different performance situations. That does not mean completely adhering or conforming to them. "Every situation is a little different, how I play, what I play," she said. "I like being spontaneous, just going with the flow and just let it happen."
"It’s a lot of fun. We try to create (on stage) and make it exciting and change it up," she added. "I think that’s why musicians like playing in my band."
"The Beat of My Own Drum" is a candid account of Sheila E.'s journey to pop stardom, the trials and tribulations that have come with it and how her faith, family and music helped her survive and endure. (She suffered repeated abuse as a child, according to her website.)
The memoir chronicles Sheila E.'s career trajectory, one that has spanned five decades (she first performed for a live audience at the age of 5): from playing drums with her father, influential drummer/percussionist Pete Escovedo, to her famous tenure as Prince's drummer -- as the story goes, Prince introduced himself to Sheila E. after seeing her perform with her father at a concert in the late 1970s -- her successful solo career and collaborations with such icons as Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and Ringo Starr (Sheila E. has performed three tours as part of Starr's All-Starr Band).
The Oakland native, born Sheila Escovedo, decided to not shy away from providing details and intricacies of the moments and memories from her life in her memoir. She said it is important for fans to have a clear picture in their heads of what was being described, comparing it to the visual nature of her live performance. "I love showcasing and being able to entertain," she said. "So for readers, I had to get very descriptive."
The goal of the memoir, Sheila E. said, was to stress, "Family, music, spirituality, testimony, things that happened to me throughout the years. My experience being a woman in the business. Those were the elements I wanted to portray."
Sheila E. said had been sharing her story at churches, children's abuse centers and youth centers across the country. But having to translate it to the page proved to be daunting, she acknowledged. So Sheila E. sat down with her sister-in-law and reached out to other family members, and fans, when it came to figuring out specific dates. "Some stories I would have loved to go into more detail," she said, though did not elaborate. "We told as much as we could."
Her tenure in the music industry has teamed Sheila E. with a plethora of rock and R&B heavyweights -- a list that includes Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez and Gloria Estefan -- while birthing a solo career that spawned such hits as "Hold Me," "A Love Bizarre" and "The Glamorous Life." After working with Prince during the recording of his 1984 album, Purple Rain -- on which she recorded vocals for the song "Erotic City" (the B-side to the single "Let's Go Crazy") -- she joined the former's backing band as Prince's drummer and eventual bandleader before leaving the group in 1989.
She has established herself as one of music's most prolific and versatile drummers. Yet performing with her father still provides the biggest thrill for Sheila E., from whom she said she has learned the most. (Sheila E. is the also the goddaughter of legendary percussionist Tito Puente.) "When I play with my dad and play his music, that’s who I am," she said. "It starts with that foundation."
Asked to choose one song that best encapsulates her personality as a drummer, she paused for a moment, then responded, "It would be my dad’s song 'Esta Noche.' When I get to play drums, that song means everything."
Even with such a star-studded career and talented family tree, Sheila E. said she is still learning. "That's the great thing about change and learning, to be able to learn and experience things every day," she said. "I want to learn something every day."
Though technology has made a significant impact on the development of percussion instruments and instrumentation, Sheila E. said it is still a great time to be a drummer. "Anyone who can pick up a real instrument, please do. Young and old, have fun with it," she said. "Once you pick up an instrument, you can never go wrong ... I encourage people who always wanted to play. I tell them it’s never too late."
Sheila E. will hold a book signing 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at Barnes & Noble at the Southmont shopping center, 4445 Southmont Way, Bethlehem Twp.
Sheila E. is scheduled to perform 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Zoellner Arts Center, 420 E. Packer Ave., Bethlehem. Tickets cost $58, $48 and $38.