Sheila E. Book Signing Event at Book Soup West Hollywood

Sheila E in Conversation with Gail Mitchell Book Soup LA

I was so stoked when I heard that Sheila E. would be having a book signing at Book Soup in Los Angeles for her memoir entitled The Beat of my own Drum. The event was hosted by Billboard editor Gail Mitchell. Although I wasn’t able to have a one-on-one interview, I was quite happy to sit in the front row which is literally 2-3 feet away from her. This gave me the opportunity to ask Sheila E. questions from the audience and take some great photos during book discussion and Q and A.

I’m a huge Sheila E fan. One of my favorite ’80s memories was dancing to “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre” and mimicking her percussion moves in front of the mirror. Yes, I was barely a teen and truly loved her videos. While at the book signing, I met another huge fan in her 20s. Nicole, from Los Angeles, said, “I thought she was great like for someone who is so talented and genuinely so talented who has worked with all those celebrities, she was real and genuine and like I kinda expecting her.. she could’ve been standoffish but she was so sweet and just really down to earth.”

Sheila E. discusses her memoir

But lets get back to the book signing event. The Grammy nominated singer, drummer and percussionist who is known for her sexy outfits was actually dressed conservatively, almost like a female executive. She wore a yellow beige blazer, pencil cut skirt and sequined shirt underneath. Her blazer matched her hoop earrings with her hair neatly pulled back. Although a far cry from her ’80s wild outfits, she still looked glamorous and beautifully dressed for the occasion.

During her conversation with Gail, Sheila E. mentioned that she had been crying for three days when she started to write her memoir in her ’30s. But she added, it was like a healing process. Sheila shared several highlights of her memoir at the book signing, including dressing in sexy outfits during her Purple Rain tour, meeting Prince, changes in the music industry, performing with music icon Marvin Gaye, being abused at an early age, and her foundation-

Sheila E. with Gail Mitchell

On meeting Prince

When I met Prince. It was not a big deal. He wasn’t famous yet. I was famous and he wasn’t. That’s a little bit different. I’ve seen him transform his music and wardrobes. So I met him at the very beginning of his career.

On Crazy Clothes

It goes back to a lot of crazy things when I started my career as a solo artist. I realized.. Okay I’ve come up with some things and I have to figure it out what I’m gonna do so people will remember me. I’ll start designing all these crazy clothes.. so I came up with all these crazy clothes.

At one point, the press even said to me, “you sure you wanna wear that?” Now, if the press is to say something like that….you know. I just felt like these are my rules now. There are no rules, but now I’m going to create the madness. I wanna create all this craziness and I want people to remember me. The clothes were being made but there wasn’t much to make and see.

I was having a conversation with Lionel Richie, and he said, ‘you know, you gotta be careful of how you are being seen and presented. You are presenting yourself in a way that you just gotta be careful.” And sure enough during the tour, the reviews for the tour were amazing but it wasn’t about musicianship anymore.

It was about ‘What is Sheila E. not gonna wear’. Then I started to feel naked in a wrong way, you know, transparent in a wrong way and it was really strange to feel that way. I started to feel like ashamed. I can’t really do this. This is not fun.

Sheila E reading some parts of her memoir

The Music Biz

Coming out of the tour (Purple Rain).. at the end of the tour guess how much I owed? $999,000. It was amazing. I owed a million dollars. What happened was they kept saying, ‘What do you need? Ok got it, we got it. We’ll take care of it. Don’t worry about it.’ Ooohhh when they say ‘Don’t worry about it’, WORRY about it’. It’s not good. You see, you have to make sure that everything is on paper. Even then, still things are wrong. I still deal with contracts even if you sign. Still fighting to get things in the contract.. ..

Still having discussion and arguments. It’s just crazy, unbelievable.

You would think that now that it’s 2014, people would just wanna be fair for each other.  I don’t get it. So if you want to get in this business, DON’T (laughs). If you really want to get in the business, you really have to be prepared to learn about the business.The music it almost seems like it’s easy. Compared to the business you really have to have a team of people. You have to read the fine print.

Sheila E The Beat of my Drum

Changes in the music industry

It changed a little bit. You think it changed a lot…yes and no. But there are things like I think it’s always about the men trying to compete with the women as far as being a percussionist and a drummer. Actually, it doesn’t have to be a percussionist. It’s just men trying to compete with us women. And It’s normal to see a woman or a young girl playing a guitar…that’s acceptable..or piano or violin.

But if you see a girl playing a bass or electric guitar, those are things people are not used to seeing women play. So men always wanna come at us as ‘You know I’m better than you’.. that kind of thing. So I made it a point to always say ,  I am not here to compete with you now, you know, ‘I’m a great musician. I just happen to be one and even if we did compete, I’d win anyway.’ (audience laughs)

Sheila E in Conversation with Gail Mitchell

Performing with Marvin Gaye

He is amazing. He is a very soft spoken man. Really quiet gentle, gentle man. When I got a call for the gig, I was so excited because that one beat of that song “What’s going on” … it goes doo doot da…mother mother..doo doot da) I like that kind of beat. So I was excited to play it. You are just mesmerized by his voice.

Sheila Escovedo on her latest book

Elevate Hope Foundation

We started helping kids in foster care but we started it because we have similar stories growing up and being abused. We are thinking, man……you know, we have a story to tell. And also music was a great tool for us to get us through the process. We understood the kids in foster. We started here in Los Angeles. We also started an extension of Elevate Hope, Elevate Oakland in Oakland, so we now trying to elevate in different cities.

We used music to help the kids since the need is so great now. We’re actually reaching out to schools and helping the schools as well by helping pay for some of the salaries cut for teachers as well as using local musicians and young artists who are not on tour who can come 2 or 3 times a week and we pay them as well to to help the students and teach them. For more details visit

Special thanks to Dan Graham and Jennifer Ramos

Sheila E and popbuff blogger Ruchel Freibrun


Sheila E The Beat of my Own Drum a Memoir



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  1. That’s a fantastic article… looking forward to Ed Asner

  2. Wow, so great to see that she is also helping others now.

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