"I stopped the dance record because it was right before he passed that we were going to start doing promotion for it, and then I started writing music from my heart," Sheila E. tells Billboard. "So now I have two different records. I think there might be two more dance songs for the Girl part that I didn't finish that are just about done, and the Boy part I think there are three and I'll be done."
The "Girl Meets Boy" single was the first thing that popped out of Sheila E. after Prince's death, and it came quickly. "My way of expressing myself is to go into the studio and just let things happen," she says. "So I started writing: It was like at one in the morning and my guitar player was there, and about an hour later the song was done and I started doing the vocal at 2:30 in the morning. (The song) was based on (Prince) and I meeting each other and I was a girl and he was a boy, 'cause it was 1978, a very long time ago. So that whole process and how he had left...It was devastating."
That opened the door for other material that began pouring out of her. "Y'know, sometimes there are times when nothing happens and you're going, 'God, I want to write about something,' but this was a little bit different," Sheila E. says. "I needed to just stop and go into the studio and just take advantage of the situation."
Sheila E. Recounts Emotional Reunion With Prince Bandmates for BET Tribute
Three months later, the musician continues to grapple with Prince's passing, both in the studio and onstage. "It's been very, very challenging, very emotional -- physically, mentally, spiritually, all of the above," she acknowledges. "I was trying to hold everything back, just to get through them. But I said, 'Y'know, I can't do that, so I just started letting go and, recently, if I'm crying I'm crying and that's it. Now we're starting to get through the show without me crying every single song. But at the beginning I couldn't even do sound check, because a lot of the show is songs that (Prince) and I have written together or played together. To hear him singing in my head, it brings back memories -- good memories, but it's sad, too."
Sheila E. has not watched or listened to any of the myriad Prince tributes that came in the wake of his death -- including her own at the BET Awards. The musician's own touring schedule will prevent her from taking part in any other planned tributes -- including upcoming shows by the Revolution -- but between Girl Meets Boy and what she's playing in her concerts will pay appropriate homage to him.
"That is in my mission, that is in my heart to continue his legacy in a way that is just about his music," says explains Sheila E., who will include a Prince tribute as well as a Purple Night on her Glamorous Life Cruise out of Miami in February. "That is his legacy, and so my end of it would be to continue to let people know about his music and his works that he left us and celebrate it that way. I have a lot of great friends and family and support. And the fans have been unbelievably supportive and understanding. But, yeah, it's been hard."