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Prince Songwriting


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How Prince Writes Songs

 It's extremely difficult to figure out how Prince works, because he rarely does interviews.  And those interviews that he does consent to almost never focus on his songwriting/recording process.  However, after years of following him...including reading the interviews, reading the books about him, and watching documentaries, here's what I've been able to discover.  Please let me know if you have more information to add...or if you find mistakes in my work.  Whether you are a Prince fan or a curious musician, I recommend taking a close look at how the Purple One will give you a much greater appreciation of his work.

As a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, and producer, Prince doesn't really need anyone else in the studio to create and record a song except an engineer.  In fact, Dez Dickerson, a Prince band member from his first album (For You) to Purple Rain, talks about how "Little Red Corvette" was the first time he was asked to play on a recording...specifically, he was asked to play three takes of a solo...which Prince then combined into the one we hear today.  "Little Red Corvette" is on 1999, which is Prince's 5th major label album.  That's a lot of recorded music for a one-man show to produce without his touring band playing on it at all.

Through the years, there have been lots of stories about how Prince will keep an engineer in the studio so long that the poor engineer will be completely exhausted...and will call for replacements to finish the session.  I've seen interviews with two of his Sunset Sound engineers (Peggy McCreary-Blum--1982-1985) and (David Rivkin--1976-1991)...who describe what it was like working with Prince.  They describe how that once Prince enters the studio, he will stay in the studio until the song is complete.  Peggy McCreary-Blum even mentioned how Prince worked all day to complete a song, finishing it at 3 a.m.  He scheduled the next session for 6 pm the next evening; however, early the next morning, she got a call to report to the studio by 9 a.m.  She was not happy...and completely exhausted...but when she arrived, Prince told her that he had told himself that he wouldn't come in early unless he dreamed a song that night....which he did.  Unbelievable!  So he works all day and night on a song...and then goes to bed, dreams another one...AND sets ups a 9 a.m. session to record it.  A song a session....that is probably why he is able to produce enough songs to fill a double album every year...and has done so for almost 30 years.  Creative ideas come to him quickly and frequently...and my best guess is that when they do, he quickly puts together a session to get them recorded.  He then stays in the studio, usually playing all the tracks, until the song is completed.  (I'm guessing that means completely tracked...but, who knows, it may mean tracked and mixed.  Anyone know?) Musicians who've worked with him talk about how he moves quickly...often keeping the first or second take...and rarely giving them time enough to track it to perfection.  His idea is to capture the emotion of the take...which really translates into vibrant recordings.    

Prince mostly works alone, although he has had several collaborations with folks like Sheena Easton, George Clinton, Levi Spencer, Jr., and Sonny Thompson.  I know Sheena Easton was in the studio with him during the creation of "U Got the Look"...and that George Clinton and Prince traded tapes on one of their collaborations.

Prince's songs basically flow through him and onto tape in a matter of a day or two.  Please take a minute or two to check out the Prince song lyrics that I've cataloged or buy a track or two from iTunes or Amazon to see what he has accomplished.