Published: Friday November 21, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Prince’s backing band on working with the pop legend
Ida Nielsen at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards.
3rdeyegirl gets on stage with no setlist at times.
Getting the chance to work with your childhood idol may seem like a pipe dream for many, but not for Danish bassist Ida Nielsen.
Nielsen, along with bandmates Donna Grantis and Hannah Ford, are part of a backing band, 3rdeyegirl, that records and tours with Prince.
“If I listed down 10 of my all-time favourite songs, seven of them would be his,” says the musician in a phone interview with Star2 from New York.
She recalls one of the first few moments Prince’s music struck a chord with her: “The first time I heard the song Alphabet St., it really hit me because that track was so funky. I went out and bought his album Lovesexy and after I heard that whole album, I became a Prince fan.”
Little did Nielsen know, she would one day play alongside the American pop icon.
3rdeyegirl was first introduced to the world last year at the Jimmy Fallon show, joining an elite group of music acts who have collaborated with the singer over the years, including Sheila E., Apollonia 6, The Revolution and The New Power Generation (The NPG).
Nielsen, who started performing with Prince in 2010 during her stint with The NPG, sheds light on the meaning behind the band’s name, 3rdeyegirl, which is taken from a painting by Stella Blu. “It’s a beautiful painting that Prince really likes. It talks about opening up your third eye and your sixth sense. So when it comes to music or other art forms, it could mean opening yourself up to inspirations,” she says.
The trio released its debut album with Prince, Plectrumelectrum, in September (Prince’s Art Official Age was also released simultaneously). Although the Purple Rain hitmaker wrote all the songs on the album (except for the title track), the girls were free to put their own spin on them.
“Donna wrote the title track and Prince arranged it. As for the rest, he showed us our parts, then we jammed around. He is very open to us putting our own feel on it, and if it sounds good and it’s working, then great,” she explains.
Also, a big part of the job description is being able to deal with surprises. “I don’t think we ever actually play what’s on the setlist, we’ve also gone on stage with no setlist. Plus, he likes to direct us on the spot, so he keeps us on our toes,” Nielsen reveals.
“I’ve toured with other bands, and if its a long tour, because you play the same set every night, it might get boring. But this never gets boring. Although we play in a lot of concerts, none of it is the same, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Asked about working in an all-female band compared to a mixed gender band, she responds: “I don’t see it like that. I’ve been a part of mixed gender bands but to me, all three of us are hardworking musicians. When you go to our concert or listen to our album, if you close your eyes, you can’t tell that three are girls playing. So musically, there’s no difference.”
“But maybe we talk a bit more during our breaks,” she adds with a laugh.
Prince has been making music since the 1970s, but Nielsen hopes the album will appeal to the younger generation of listeners.
“What is special about Plectrumelectrum is its rawness, as everything is recorded live. We’re all standing in the same room recording, which is not something people do anymore. If someone makes a mistake, we have to redo the whole thing. That means there’s a ‘live-ness’ to all the songs,” she says.
“I hope that young people who are used to digital music – and I’m not saying that’s bad, just different, who are not used to listening to a live band … I hope that they will discover that feel here and really like it.”
Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age is out now, distributed by Warner Music Malaysia.