- Posted on Feb 25th 2011 5:27PM by Eric R. Danton
Diana Levine for AOL
In a way, 'Rollin'' brings the Oakland-born singer, songwriter and producer back to his roots. He grew up around the blues and early rock 'n' roll, and one of his first professional gigs involved playing bass in Prince's backing band -- a hands-on rock 'n' roll apprenticeship. He continued his education in the late '80s and early '90s with new-jack swingers Tony! Toni! Toné!
After a 1999 album as part of the R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl, Saadiq launched a solo career that has included quiet-storm slow jams, old-school soul and, now, vintage rock 'n' roll. The multi-talented musician spoke with Spinner about his early influences, Prince's work ethic and the joys of being a sideman.
When did you realize you wanted a career in music?
I never had a chance to say what I was going to do. I just started hearing music, and the next thing you know, I had an instrument and I just never looked back. I was probably 7 or 8 when I first started playing. I never really asked whether it was something I should be doing. I just started loving it and playing, from band to band, garage to garage, stage to stage, to coliseums.
What kind of music did you play as a kid?
My parents played a lot of blues in the house, so I started hearing a lot of Albert King, B.B. King. The first thing I played on broom was probably 'The Thrill Is Gone.' On a broom. [Laughs.] I grew up in a neighborhood that played a lot of blues, a lot of funk, a lot of gospel, a lot of Latin music, salsa music, so I was sort of around jazz. And at school, I played in the jazz band. I played first trombone and bass. Just a lot of garage bands, basically.
What was the first instrument you played?
My first instrument was guitar, then I started playing bass really fast, because my brother played guitar. I started to play bass so I could hang around some cooler cats.
Who are your musical heroes?
Larry Graham was one of them. Bernie White, James Jamerson, mostly all bass players. Also, the Jackson 5 was one. Neil Schon, from Journey. I was a big Journey fan, because I lived in the Bay Area. I was definitely into Jimi and Sam Cooke and Elvis Presley.
What did you learn from your stints with Prince and Tony! Toni! Toné!?
With Prince, I didn't learn that much about making music. What I learned from being with Prince, being around that whole camp, was just the hard work they put in, the 14, 15 hours a day and being strategic and hard on yourself and militant about what you want to sound like as far as your life shows. I didn't get that much opportunity to be around them while they were recording music. It was more the live-performance piece. With the Tonys, that was more my pad, my instrumental pad, for me to really try a lot of things to become a producer and just start writing music. You could make mistakes and see what works and what doesn't. We were very new at that point, as far as using equipment to record music on. We could always play, but we had never had the opportunity to actually go in and record as much as I did with the Tonys, so it gave me a really great outlet to try different things.
Did you always know you wanted to produce?
I never knew that I wanted to produce. I still don't call myself a producer too much. If I do get a call as a producer, I'm just a part of the band. That's the way best way for me to look at it, is to be a member of the band. It takes some of the pressure off and some of the stress level. I never thought I'd be a producer. All I hoped for was to play in a famous band, that was about it. Not even my own band, like a sideman, really.
What's your signature song?
Maybe 'Stone Rollin'.' I think it's going to be a signature type of song. It just has a nice mid-tempo. It's bluesy. It's strong in every right. The drums are simple. The vocals are simple. It's stable, with this repeating guitar line I think people will be able to grab.
Catch Raphael Saadiq's SXSW Set on Wednesday, March 16 at Stubb's (801 Red River St.) 11:15PM.
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