Prince Salute’ Producer on Foo Fighters, Miguel, More – Variety


“What time is it?” is a query Prince followers have been asking each other, and never simply because they’ve acquired Morris Day on their minds. A re-broadcast of “Let’s Go Loopy: The Grammy Salute to Prince” was unexpectedly scheduled for Saturday after the unique airing of the particular Tuesday received the rankings race for the night time, to the shock of many. (The reply to that musical query, by the way in which, for anybody who could also be studying this earlier than the rerun, is eight p.m. ET/PT, 7 central.)

Response to the primary broadcast was wildly enthusiastic amongst most viewers. “It appeared to ring a bell with folks,” says govt producer Ken Ehrlich, “and a couple of particular person identified how refreshing it was to see a reside viewers,  versus another couch-and-guitar quantity (not that there’s something improper with that). It did nicely for the community, which at all times helps.” The present was filmed earlier than the coronavirus pandemic shut-downs, after all, a few nights after the Grammys (which Ehrlich additionally executive-produced — this yr, celebrating his 40th anniversary doing that).

Variety picked his mind about what went into well-received performances by the Foo Fighters, Miguel, Susanna Hoffs and Chris Martin, H.E.R., Gary Clark Jr., St. Vincent, Mavis Staples and others… and his reduction at having harmoniously navigated the waters of a present that had so many previous Prince proteges and collaborators sharing the stage for the all-star finale of “Child, I’m a Star.”

VARIETY: Was CBS preserving a slot in reserve for a repeat Saturday night time, and ready to see if it did nicely Tuesday?

EHRLICH: Not that I knew of. In the event that they have been, they didn’t inform me about it. This occurred as soon as earlier than, with the Beatles present (“The Evening That Modified America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles”).That was the precedent, the place they aired it a second time as nicely, so they’d some numbers to at the very least reference. We acquired a variety of promotion with the Beatles present. I don’t assume we get a variety of promotion with this present. I feel there are a few pure causes, considered one of which was due to that three-network sweep final weekend with the World Citizen present (“One World: Collectively at Dwelling”), no matter promotion that I used to be going to recover from the weekend on CBS didn’t begin till Sunday, and the present was Tuesday. However virally, it did very nicely, and I feel now much more folks learn about it than knew about it earlier than it went on the air.

What have been highlights for you of manufacturing the present?

There are three or 4 issues that come to thoughts rapidly. I didn’t name this present “Let’s Go Loopy” till I knew what we have been going to do with Gary (Clark Jr.) and Gabby (aka H.E.R.). I assumed that might be the centerpiece that would kick the showcase, however you by no means know till you do it. It lived as much as what I had hoped it might be, after which it was apparent. Not that both of these two artists was the very best identified artist on the present, nevertheless it acquired the viewers up and so they stayed up on their toes for 90% of the present. It was a type of magical nights the place tv didn’t get in the way in which of what was occurring on stage.

Foo Fighters did each “Darling Nikki” and “Pop Life” on the taping, “Nikki” was the one which made the telecast, however Dave Grohl stated they hadn’t completed “Nikki” in live performance in a variety of years, although it’s their greatest identified cowl. He made it sound prefer it was an afterthought when he launched it.

I feel the primary time I talked to him, we talked about “Darling Nikki,” after which he moved to “Pop Life.” I’m not even positive why. I preferred their “Pop Life” lots. However everyone knows what the Foo Fighters are and what they may do. And I knew that in the event that they tore into “Darling Nikki,” they have been going to kill that. Throughout the rehearsal, I feel I stated to Dave, “You understand what? Simply run ‘Darling Nikki’ as soon as, only for me.” And he laughed and rotated to Taylor (Hawkins) and it was like, “Ah, f—, let’s humor him.” And as quickly as we ran it as soon as, he acquired it. He didn’t want any assist from me. And I stated, “I need to do each of these numbers tonight. I’m not going to let you know that each of ‘em are going to wind up within the present, as a result of they in all probability received’t. However I’d love to have the ability to make a selection.” “Pop Life” now’s up on CBS All Entry and If there was a meter in my mind about what the excessive level of the present is, dynamically and excitement-wise, that’s it. It peaked there. That comes a bit of over an hour in, if I recall, simply after the mid-point of the present. I in all probability deliberate that purposefully, since you attempt to do one thing thrilling after you cross the hour.

Chris Martin and Susanna Hoffs collectively acoustically was one other spotlight for lots of people.

Each time I work with Chris, it’s like, simply keep out of his lane and let him (make the selections). I don’t need to say he’s considered one of my rep firm, however he’s straightforward to speak to. I stated to him, “I’d love so that you can do the Prince present. Do you might have any ideas about what you need to do?” I truthfully don’t keep in mind if it was him or me, however “Manic Monday” got here out of that dialog. He stated, “Can I simply do it with Susanna?” I stated, “Do you need to use Sheila (E. and her band), too?” He stated, “No, simply me and her.” It was the alternative of “Darling Nikki.” It was the quietest second within the present, and one of many sweetest. These tribute reveals are about wanting again (with trustworthy renditions) but in addition not being afraid to embrace the man who says, “I’m going to do ‘Manic Monday,’ however I’m simply going to do it with my piano and it’s not going to actually have tempo.”

That was one of many few moments with no band. Sheila E.’s large band did the primary three quarters of the present, after which the Revolution took their place because the band for the final stretch. Was it straightforward balancing the pursuits of various individuals who have been a part of the Prince interior circle?

Prince was not a simple grasp. And in the midst of his profession, he fell in love and out of affection with numerous completely different teams, or artists and musicians that labored with him. So some of the tough issues to navigate, in all honesty — and I don’t assume anybody would have an issue with me saying it — was attempting to make it possible for Sheila and the Revolution acquired alongside. We didn’t have any downside with the Time; that was completely different. But it surely was tough, as a result of each of them claimed Prince. And rightfully so, as a result of they each had lengthy histories with him. What I need to say is that the those that made that occur and saved it collectively have been Terry (Lewis) and Jimmy (Jam). That they had relationships with each of ‘em and so they helped navigate the form of straits of what in all probability was a fairly unfastened — and you might argue not essentially probably the most wonderful — “Child I’m a Star” you’ve ever seen, however at the very least it had these people on stage collectively. And that was one of many targets that we had. And admittedly, Sheila needed that too, and I feel Wendy and Lisa did too. All of them did; everyone needed it.

But it surely form of took me again to the straits of Simon and Garfunkel… (Ehrlich famously labored to alleviate pressure between that duo as they reunited on the 2003 Grammys after a very long time aside.) I’ve completed a couple of of these over my life, the place I set out on a course that wasn’t the best, and I feel in all probability eight out of 10 occasions I made it work. I didn’t make it work too nicely with Luther Vandross and Anita Baker  — not that we’re speaking about that. They hated one another. That was a duet that I needed to do a very long time in the past on the Grammys (in 2003), and man, they have been going to kill one another. However that’s one other story!

Just a few days earlier than the primary airing of this particular, we began to see information tales about how Apollonia was taking to social media to tear into Sheila E. in a serious manner. Clearly the timing needed to do with Sheila having a excessive profile on this particular. Hardcore Prince followers take an enormous curiosity through which of the folks he labored with naturally align with others, or don’t.

Prince was… not divisive — that’s not the phrase I need to use — however yeah, he had completely different camps, like several artist, however particularly an artist like him who developed over numerous years. For in all probability the those that have been with him at one level in his life, it’s very straightforward to say, “Effectively, these have been his nice years; after that, he was nothing.” Or individuals who got here later stated, “God, he acquired higher, and oh, that early stuff was s—!” Not too many stated that, come to consider it. However I don’t even assume I noticed any of the Apollonia stuff till both a day or two earlier than the present. After which I assumed, “Oh, God.” I’ve gotten moderately good at (controversies flaring up) and attempting to discern whether or not or not issues are going to explode or whether or not they’re simply gonna sit there and die. I used to be improper about Ariana Grande final yr. [Laughs.] However this turned out to be a blip.

Who else stood out to you as you labored with them?

I may speak properly about just about everybody on the present. Miguel — I don’t need to say he stunned me, as a result of I’ve had him on a couple of reveals, however each time I do… He’s an amazing mimic, and there’s one thing to be stated for that. Man, he labored on that quantity. After I noticed him at rehearsal, I assumed he was unbelievable, and I wound up shifting him up within the present; I feel I initially had him later. And he in all probability channeled Prince, when it comes to being true to Prince, in addition to anyone on that present.

After all, I’m in love with Misty Copeland. Clearly I had booked her for the Sunday present (the Grammys), and so they got here to me and stated, “You understand…” I didn’t know that she had toured with him. And that’s what we considered placing her with Gabby, with H.E.R.

And Usher was nice. I preserve forgetting as a result of bodily he wasn’t there on Tuesday (his medley on “Let’s Go Loopy” is carried over from the Grammy telecast), however God, I’ve at all times thought that he was in all probability one of many actually nice performers of this technology.

St. Vincent is a sufficiently big star, however perhaps rather less acquainted to a lot of the viewers than an Usher or Foo Fighters. However there’s a singularly vivid high quality about her, and a bizarre one, to place it merely, that actually matches in with the Prince ethos in a manner that was completely different from anybody else on the present.

Precisely. I imply, that’s actually why I booked her. It had little to do together with her identify worth, although  I don’t need to devalue that. However I don’t assume I may have completed that present with out her or somebody like her. We had Misty do the introduction together with her that talked about Prince and ladies, and within the yr 2020, with every thing that’s occurred now with the ladies’s motion… I don’t assume there may have been a extra good particular person. To start with, it was an ideal tune, and that got here from her. She stated, “I need to do ‘Controversy,’” and I stated, “Thanks for pondering of what I hadn’t considered.”

Folks cherished Philip Bailey. Earth Wind and Fireplace was considered one of two artists on the present that predate Prince. After all Mavis Staples labored with him later. However EWF is the one heritage act that individuals don’t essentially affiliate with Prince. 

Yeah, and he cherished them. I feel Chantel (Saucedo) perhaps considered that reserving. I don’t even assume you’d name “Adore” a deep lower, nevertheless it’s deeper, and I didn’t have something prefer it on the present. It was pure and delightful and slot in so nicely. After I went on-line and checked out some issues, there have been some those that thought that was the very best quantity within the present.

Frequent added a rap to “Signal of the Occasions,” which is a dangerous factor to do, however clearly he’s pulled off that form of factor earlier than. 

He’s considered one of my go-to guys. That was the one we thought we may versify a bit of bit. He’s one other one I like working with. You be taught after numerous years who you’ll be able to speak to, and the supervisor or publicist will get out of the way in which and simply say, “Okay, you and the artist want to speak.” “Okay, that’s what I need to do. Thanks for suggesting what I needed to do.” And naturally, I had him on the Sunday (Grammys) present and he was nice there as a result of we did “I Sing the Physique Electrical” (from “Fame”) which was written at the very least within the late ‘70s, I feel in all probability earlier than Sugar Hill, so there was no hip-hop in “Fame.” It’s the one change I made in that quantity to attempt to contemporize it a bit of bit, and he acquired it straight away and confirmed up with the rap written and able to go. He loves what he does. You possibly can see the enjoyment about doing this stuff. God, I like working with folks like that, I actually do.

In some way you squeezed a four- or five-hour taping into two hours of TV.

I trimmed a couple of of the packages and acquired about seven or eight minutes out that manner, after which the remainder of it actually got here tightening among the songs, which I by no means like doing, nevertheless it’s preferable (to reducing complete songs). I gave a number of, if not all, of the artists a haircut, however I didn’t scalp ‘em. These are the alternatives if you get into an edit room with a present like this. The straightforward manner out is to say, “Effectively, that one wasn’t that nice,” however this one, there was little doubt that I needed to attempt to preserve virtually every thing. The one two issues that didn’t wind up on the present have been “Pop Life” and “Mountains,” which the Revolution did, and I simply couldn’t discover a place for it. “Mountains,” by the way in which, is also on CBS All Entry (and However every thing else, it was like a verse-chorus right here or there. Prince wasn’t that environment friendly typically with songs, so I may take a a 16-bar intro and trim it down to eight, and no person acquired harm, even when they acquired bruised. By the way in which, usually, what’ll occur is,  I’ll get some kick from some artists saying, “You possibly can’t do this to my tune.” And on this one, I don’t assume anyone got here after me. I feel they understood.

With Morris Day and the Time, an act most individuals really feel they know intimately haven’t seen shortly, the viewers may really feel a bit of bit nervous about whether or not these signature strikes will look rusty, after which after they make it really feel similar to the ’80s, it’s a reduction.

With an act like that, and I’ve seen it occur through the years with numerous acts. It’s such as you push the button, and so they go automated. And truthfully, I feel the entire acts on that present have been helped by the adoration of the viewers. The gang spurred them on and in flip they fed it again. And I cherished seeing Jimmy (Jam) and Terry (Lewis) there, as a result of they have been into it. I’ve identified Jimmy for a very long time, however I don’t actually know him as an artist, as a performer; I do know him as a producer. So to see the 2 of them up there, doing the steps and having large grins on their faces, it was like, that is what they have been meant to do.

You want some gravity for “Purple Rain” in case you’re going to have that as a penultimate quantity. Was Mavis Staples an automated for that?

She was an automated, nevertheless it was scary, as a result of in rehearsal, she was good however I feel she was simply beginning to really feel it. I knew it was the fitting reserving, however I feel I crossed my fingers a bit of bit. In rehearsal she was good, however I feel she was simply feeling it. After which, on present night time, she acquired stronger because it went alongside. What I didn’t see that she knew about herself was that she was getting herself as much as it — that she didn’t need to give all of it away within the first verse-chorus. She was saving it. And that’s what an amazing artist who is aware of herself can do, and she or he did that and she or he delivered.


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