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05 August 2013

The Rest of My Life: Gayle Chapman Talks About Events After Prince




 Gayle Chapman has no regrets about her time out of the spotlight.
 Chapman, a keyboard player in Prince's first touring band, worked with the artist for two years before she left the band in 1980.
This was only a few years into The Purple One's evolution into a musical icon and before he released a string of wildly popular albums that began with 1999 (1982), accelerated with Purple Rain (1984) and lasted well into the 1990s.
  Chapman has been active in the music scene in Boise, Idaho, where she has lived for more than 25 years. She is bringing her act to Washington and headline an upcoming show at 7 p.m. Aug. 9 at The Mix, 6004 12th Ave. S., Seattle, with special guests Old Blue and Clayton Ballard. She will play original music, as well as three songs from the unreleased album "The Rebels" (1979), recorded during her time with Prince: "If I Love You Tonight, "You" and "Lovin' You."
  Dyes conducted an interview with Chapman last month, by both phone and e-mail, where the musician discussed why it was hard to leave Prince's band, trying to make a living in New York City in the 1980s and her upcoming album:

  ?: How did you get into Prince's first touring band?
  GC: I was standing in my living room and I was listening to Prince's record (For You), full blast. I was home alone and this still, small voice shot through my mind. (It was) just like an arch from above that went through my head and back out again. It said “In order to tour, he's going to need a band.” 
  I turned off the music and looked around. God had spoken to me. (Laughs). I'm not kidding. I mean it was wonderful and spooky at the same time, because, I was home alone and I heard a voice. I was in pursuit of what it would take to be in (his) band from that moment on. 
  I auditioned (for Prince) and didn't hear from him for three months. One day, I was in my apartment, in bed and it was probably noon. The phone rang. I wasn't expecting a call from Prince. He said “Gayle, this Prince. What are you doing?” I said “Oh, hi. How are you?” He said “I'm good. Can you make it to rehearsal?” I didn't have to think about it at all. I said “Where is it?” and he told me where it was. I said “Yeah, what time?” He said “1 p.m.” It was noon. I was 45 minutes away, had to load all my gear and get dressed. I made it there in probably 35 minutes. (Laughs).
  I had the thought (to be in Prince's band). I went after it and then, I waited. And waited. I basically gave up. Then, the phone rang. I think what happened in the meantime was that he hired Linda Anderson (Andre Cymone's sister). She was there before I was, but, I didn't know about that until last year. 
  At one point, in my own frustration in working with him, I asked (Prince) “Why did you hire me?” He said “You have blond hair, blue eyes and you can sing. You're the funkiest white chick I've ever met.” I guess that's a compliment. I'll take it. I'm hard pressed to believe that now, because, there are a lot of funky white chicks out there. 
  ?: Do you remember the moment when you decided to leave Prince's band?
  GC: Do I remember the moment? No, I don't. What was I thinking? God only knows! I realized that I wasn't growing and I needed more. That's about the sum of it...I was in Prince's world and if I stayed, that's where my growth and energies would be and I wanted more.   (People) always ask me “Did you leave, because, of Dirty Mind?” I'd like to roll my eyes and say “No, it wasn't my Dirty Mind, it was his.” Yes, I did tell him that I did not want to sing that song (“Head”) but, I sang “You.” So, what? (Singing lyrics) “You get so hard I don't know what to do.” How stupid was I? “Take your pants off!” (Laughs). No, I really digress...
  I don't know if it was the mother instinct, because, it didn't feel like that. But, I wasn't growing. I was in a band, touring and it was the most fun I had in a long time... But, I needed more and I couldn't put my finger on what it was. I just knew I had to go.
  I look back now and I probably would have been wise to stay another couple of years. I could have hung in there. But, I needed to grow. So, I left. And now I wax poetic...
  ?: How did you tell Prince that you were leaving?
  GC: We met at his house. He lived on Orono Bay on Lake Minnetonka. I told him I needed to talk to him, because, I was thinking about leaving (the band). I asked if would he have time to sit down with me. He said yes. I lived about a mile and a half down the road from him in a cabin on a resort.  I went over and we sat and talked. He wasn't happy that this white chick was leaving. The last thing he ever said to me was “Gayle, if you ever need my help, you just let me know.” 
  ?: When you decided to move on was it a tough decision for you?
  GC: It was a very difficult decision to leave. It was a job. If I was going to have “jobs” the rest of my life, there were jobs where I could make a lot more money. I just happened to like that one a lot. That's why it was such a tough decision. The perks were amazing. 
  The perks of working with Prince were that you were paid, whether you performed or not, because, you had to be kept on the payroll. You would continue to practice and rehearse. When Prince got back from L.A. and said “We're rehearsing,” you would rehearse. That would be it. 
  I flew (on an airplane) every time I traveled and had my own hotel room. There were drivers that would pick me up and take me wherever I needed to go... It was the beginning of what I thought stardom was like. It was work, yeah, but, it was fun. It was attention getting. How many people would show up to a record store to do an interview dressed in their rock-and-roll gear and hop out of a limo. That was me. It's like that to this day. Maybe they show up in minivans, I don't know. 
  There was notoriety. There was flamboyance. There were perks. You could go out and eat wherever you wanted, because, there was always money to do that if you wanted to. It wasn't a lot of money, but, it what was you needed to get by. They would have a microwave in my hotel room and instead of spending my money that way, I would go to a grocery store and buy a frozen dinner or something. 
  Two hundred fifty dollars was more than I had (previously) made in a week. But, it wasn't a lot of money. I just saw that if that was the (salary) cap on what I was doing... I knew that I needed the opportunity to do more and make more (money) if I was going to live the way I wanted to. 
  I have learned, over the years, that it doesn't matter how much money you make, if you have bad habits, you're never going to have any (money). So, you learn to change your habits with what you do with money. You can make $55,000 or $100,000 a year, (but), if you manage your own money wrong, shame on you!


Courtesy of Princefams.com



  Gayle Chapman on being an “employed” musician: I think people romanticize how much (money) rock stars make. It's a business like anything else. Unless you're the “star,” you're not going to make as much money. That's the way it is. 

  They're going to pay you a wage and take care of you, because, you signed on willingly for what you're getting to be there. So, to complain about it is stupid. When you agree to take a job and they offer you a wage, if you're not happy with it, you have say so up front. Otherwise, you're stuck getting that ... If you're not happy, you shouldn't stay. In the negotiation process, some people really aren't happy, but, they stay anyway.
  I was happy, because, I didn't have to be a maid in a hotel or a waitress in a cafe. That just wasn't in the cards for me. I had to work with a rock star or look like one. 




  ?: When you quit, did you leave the band right away?
  GC: I offered to stay on for a while, (because), he had to take time to go find somebody. He said to me, when he found Lisa, “She's amazing, she can play her ass off, but, she can't sing like you.” I think there was a tug of war there. But, it was what it was. I can't say that I have any regrets, about being there or leaving. I just knew it was time to go. 
  ?: What did you do after you left the band? Where did you go?
  GC: I left in April or May (of 1980). I went to a big festival that August called Rock of Ages in New Knoxville, Ohio. It was part of The Way International (a religious organization that Chapman was a member of at the time). It was a big festival held specially for their outgoing and returning ambassadors.  It was an annual event where 20,000 to 30,000 people came from all over the world and spent a week (together). I went to the Rock of Ages every year. It was amazing...they don't do it anymore. I just found that out. 
  I met all kinds of amazing musicians there. I met David Girabaldi, Tower of Power's drummer. Nice guy. Really good looking. Amazing drummer. I also met (the late) Skip Mesquite, who was also with Tower of Power for a while. I met them before (leaving Prince's band). We used to sit down and talk about going on the road: what it was about and things that would happen. When I told them I was going to be working with Prince, they advised me on ways to keep my sanity on the road, since they had been at it for so long by that time. I was really glad to have them there. 
  After that, I lived in New York City for three years. I “grew” there. 
  ? Did you try to get a recording contract when you moved to New York?
  GC: I learned right away that New York was a different bear. They couldn't have cared less who I had played music with. They would say “Who?” After I left Prince, nobody in New York City knew who he was (then). Then he came and did a concert at the Union Square Theater.
  I went to that one. Morris Day and the Time opened the show. That was my only meeting with Jellybean Johnson and Jimmy Jam. I looked at Day on the stage and said “Wow. That's not the Morris I knew.” When I knew him, (He) was this freckled, light-skinned guy with this big Afro, just like Prince had, and was so shy he could barely carry on a conversation with you—at least that's what it seemed like. Either that or he was just shy around girls.
  He basically was a changed person. Prince taught him everything and brought this character out in him. It was pretty amazing to watch. I literally sat there with the sound guy at the front of the house and my jaw was down like “What? Whoa!”
  I talked to Prince and the band for a little bit. This was the first time they came to New York. They were all growing with the things they were doing. I was living in New York City by myself. I don't know what I was doing. I was a kid. I probably should have gone back to school, but, I didn't. 
  Prince came back the next year, or a couple years later, and played Radio City Music Hall.There was a girl, Marci Kenon, who was a teenager (at the time) and had been babysitting for Diana Ross. She loved Prince. She knew about me, found me, got my number and called me up. God only knows how back then. She had been writing some songs.
  She called me before that (Radio City Music Hall) concert. She wanted to know if I was going and if I could get her in. I said “Well, actually, I'm not going.” She wanted to know why. I said “Because, I can't afford the tickets.” There was just stunned silence from a teenager on the other end of the phone. I said, “You know, I work as a secretary, I'm not in the rock-and-roll business working with famous people.” She said “Oh. Well, are you still doing any music at all?” I said yes. She asked if I would help her with what she was working on. I told her I would be happy to. 
  She came over and... I said “Here's how you're going to get in to the concert: You're going to back of the building, wherever that is, and ask for these people. I had no idea about anything at Radio City Music Hall. Nothing. Except that I had been there to watch The Rockettes and that was really fun.
  I didn't go to the Prince concert. But, she went and mentioned all the names I gave her and they let her in. She got to meet the band—Prince, Dez (DIckerson), Cymone, Matt (Fink)-- and they said to her “Who? Gayle Chapman? We thought she was dead. We haven't heard from her at all.” I (later) said “Oh, that's good. At least they're thinking of me.” (Laughs).





  ?: How did you react when record companies were not more enthusiastic about signing you when you first moved to New York?
  GC: In my mind, I was just the first to quit his first band and I had to get work. So, I did.
  ?: What did you end up doing?
  GC: I got to New York City and I had to get a job. I was a cashier and a waitress at the Union Circle Cafe for a while. I later got hired as the cleaning woman at the Cardio Pulmonary Rehab Corporation. Their receptionist wasn't there one day and the phone was ringing. The manager looked at me and said “Our receptionist quit. Can you answer the phone?” I said “Sure.” (Mimics speaking on telephone) “C.P. Rehab Corporation. This is Gayle. How may I direct your call?”  She just looked at me and said “You need a job.” So, I got a job. 
  I went from being the cleaning woman to part-time receptionist while they found somebody. They never did, so, they just kept me. When the office was moved, I moved with it. I became the executive secretary to the president (of the company). I didn't get paid very much. I worked my way up from cleaning woman. Why should they pay me very much? When I left, I think I was making $10.40 a hour.
  What got me out of there was the company's Chief Financial Officer, who was three years older than me, making $44,000 a year and still lived at home. 
  We were all working overtime one night, because, we had to get the yearly prospectus out. I had to do all that typing. I had to type anything that anyone gave me, get it done and be accurate. I was able to do that. 
  I can't remember what started it, but, he came up and made some remark to me (and) I questioned why he said it to me. I think it was something absolutely derogatory and one thing lead to another. I looked at him and said “Look. You're 28 years old, you make $44,000 a year and you live at home. You have the gall to tell me that?” And I just went back to work.
The next thing you know I was on my way out the door. 
  He started it, I finished it. That was pretty much it. To this day, I'll never understand people who do things like that. They make a lot of money, but, they can't get out of their mother's basement? I'd be happy to make $44,000 a year now. To be honest, the most I ever made was $55,000 a year and that's when I was flipping houses (in Bosie, Idaho). I did that for a year. I worked with a broker and one of her agents. We (made) just under $500,000 in one year. I want to get back to it, I just have to find people who want to do that.
  ?:Why did you leave New York?
  GC: I grew up in nature in Minnesota and there is very little nature in New York City. I was very tired of concrete and missed trees. (There was) a lot of consumption going on there. That was when I went into training in The Way Corps.
  ?: In what capacity did you continue to work with The Way after you left Prince's band? Are you currently a member of that organization?
  GC:  I joined the 15th Way Corps leadership training program and stayed with them another five years before leaving. I was married when I graduated. My husband and I moved to Pocatello, Idaho and served there for a while. (We) later moved to Boise, Idaho where we finally parted ways with the ministry and each other. I am not currently a member of that organization.
  ?: You were always known for being a very spiritual person during your time with Prince. What part have your beliefs played in your life since you have been out of the spotlight?
  GC: I really don't know what folks thought of me then, but, I was definitely a practicing Christian believer in "grow mode.” As with any endeavor in life, if you believe (in) it, you will maintain basics and grow throughout your life. I have never stopped loving God, His word or the power that is in the name of Jesus Christ. 
  I do not consider myself religious, and I'm certainly not pious. But, I do believe actions speak louder than words. I use every opportunity that arises to help others-- spiritually, through music, or sharing wisdom from my own personal growth. One of my favorite quotes from a minister was "I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day!"
  ?: What do you do to stay active on the music scene in Boise?
  GC: I work with lots of musicians, teach a lot of students, and keep my fingers in the pie by writing. I have occasionally had the opportunity to write with some famous people. I hope to get back on the road and gain more insight for writing, arranging and recording. I love it, (but), I need at least one to three other musicians to work and travel with to complete my vision.
  ?: Tell me about your self-titled album? What was the process like?
  GC: (My) self-titled album (released in 2003) was my third recording project for myself. The first was called Standard Laments, and although it was finished, it was never released. I still have it stuck on 1/2-inch 16-track recording tape. It's probably no good now, but, if anyone out there wants to help, who has the right equipment, get in touch with me.
  The second was Change of Direction in 1993 (recorded by Black Diamond, an acoustic duo Chapman formed with Lyricist and Folk Guitarist Jan Skurzynski). We worked for seven years playing locally and occasionally touring Idaho and the country playing festivals. (We later) parted ways. 
  My self- titled album was a process of sifting through musicians here in town to see who would actually do the work required in the studio. It took lots of time and money to get it done.   The first time I tried, I traveled to Hailey, Idaho to record in Big Wood Studios, with Bruce Innes engineering. Unfortunately, he ripped me off, along with a bunch of other people.
  I had to start all over in Boise, Idaho at Audio Lab Sound Recording, run by Steve Fulton. It was finished, but, not without more headaches in the process-- like musicians showing up to the studio unprepared and still wanting to get paid. However, most (musicians) learned the material, and did a great job. I was very thankful for the work everyone did at the studio.
  ?: What will your new album be like?
  GC: I started the new album last April with a guy named Robb Howell, of Robb Howell Music and RH Peace Machine, a great writer and engineer with four gold records. (He) has worked with Ozzy Osbourne, Frank Marino, and lots of others, but, I had to fire him. I didn't figure it out until late in the process that a lot of damage had been done.
  I have this great start of fantastic tracks that I'm in the process of musically replicating. (The album) has the “harder” edge I've always wanted, and I'm staying with the feel of it. The new CD will have lots of new and different stuff, but, it won't come out until I'm satisfied with it.
  ?: What are you most looking forward to as far as the show is concerned?
  GC: The show is my birthday present this year. Life is happening all around me, so, I will be as prepared as possible, given the circumstances. I'm very busy making a living and this is lots of extra work, but, a real kicker for me. I want to do well and I believe I will. Even though I can't bring the guys (Sam Lay and Jake Monroe, two of her music students) I was working with, because, they are underage, I will still have fun. I want people to come with an open mind and enjoy the evening. I will give it my all.
  ?: What do you hope for in the next five years?
  GC: I am looking forward to doing more out-of-state shows, fundraisers, house and theater concerts, working with musicians across the country and going to Europe.
I have no interest in remaining a local musician. It just doesn't offer me enough and I need to be working with professionals on a higher level. I want to retire from teaching and focus on writing, arranging, producing, recording and touring. Life is too short to just live for making a buck. You have to do what you love (and) hopefully you make the money you want as well. 





Stay Beautiful, Kristi

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All photos courtesy of Gayle Chapman except where listed.

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4 comments:

  1. A great interview! Gayle has definitely lived an interesting and varied life. Doesn't appear to have any real regrets or hate afterwards. Loveb that she managed to keep music in her life while trying to live a somewhat normal life.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A great interview! Gayle has definitely lived an interesting and varied life. Doesn't appear to have any real regrets or hate afterwards. Loveb that she managed to keep music in her life while trying to live a somewhat normal life.

    ReplyDelete