Princess: We've been obsessed with Prince for over 30 years

Categories: Concert Preview
Photo by Piper Ferguson
College pals Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum, the pair behind Prince tribute act Princess, make for the perfect combination of soulful spirit and high regard for the Purple One's ouvre and its musical legacy. Rudolph, who often showed off her singing voice as a Saturday Night Live cast member, and Lieberum, who has a well-established background as a jazz vocalist, have revived some forgotten Prince material.

Judging by performances with a band in Los Angeles and a few gigs with the Roots, most notably with their amazing version of "Darling Nikki" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, they've preserved the sensuality of the originals. Not only will Princess perform at a massive The Music of Prince tribute at Carnegie Hall in New York -- also featuring Elvis Costello, Talib Kweli, D'Angelo, among many others -- but the Twin Cities gets to see them Saturday at First Avenue for Revolution drummer Bobby Z's second Benefit 2 Celebrate Life.

Taking a break from rehearsals in New York, Princess spoke to Gimme Noise about their purple obsession. Still giddy college girls singing Prince songs with hairbrushes in the mirror at heart, the thought of performing on sacred ground -- at the home to all that is Purple Rain, First Avenue -- is something they still can't believe is happening.

See Also:
Bobby Z unveils second Benefit 2 Celebrate Life lineup
Maya Rudolph is in a Prince cover band called Princess

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Gimme Noise: We're so super excited about the show this weekend. You're rehearsing right now?

Gretchen Lieberum: Yeah, it's always feels good to be in that rehearsal room. It's a very teeny tiny room with a bunch of people squished in it. A lot of music and a lot of love.

This is a rehearsal for the show in New York Thursday night? Who is in the band for that one?

GL: The Roots are the main act for this one and everyone else and their mom are performing at it. We live in L.A., so when we play there we have our own band. When we play out here in New York it's usually with the Roots. We've really only played with them a few times, on Fallon, at the Capitol, and at the Brooklyn Bowl.

Maya Rudolph: They are a New York band.

GL: They are. I wonder if they know that.

Are there people performing Thursday with you who you are really looking forward to performing with or seeing?

MR: We were just rehearsing some backups for some of the other people.

GL: Way excited about singing with D'Angelo, I'm not gonna lie. A really amazing song with Elvis Costello.

MR: Wendy Melvoin!

GL: We love Wendy!

Have you met Wendy and Lisa before? They were amazing at last year's Revolution reunion here.

GL: I've met Wendy but not Lisa yet. Maya has.

MR: Gretchen isn't ready yet.

GL: I'm not quite ready.

You're nervous?

MR: She's gonna pop, she'll be so excited she'll explode.

So has Prince been invited to this event? Is it something he has he made an effort to say he will be there?

GL: I don't think you ever know 100 percent.

MR: As far as we know, he hasn't called us personally or anything to say he was going to be there. But I guess I am waiting for the his call.

Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum as 'Princess' blew my mind with the ending of their cover of 'Nikki Darling.' from Jennifer Sharpe on Vimeo.

So knowing about Prince, he is kind of infamous for controlling his music. Was it anything you needed to get permission to do these shows as Princess?

MR: No, not at all. In fact he has actually been really supportive of what we've done so far.

GL: We just heard recently that he actually is a fan, which thrilled us to no end to hear!

MR: I think what I always hoped was that he would recognize that our mission with this is purely done out of love. So I feel like he got the memo on that. I think as long as we are sending that message I don't think there is anything to worry about except for the music itself. I heard he saw our performance on Fallon and really liked that. That was really incredible to hear. I don't think I've processed that emotionally yet!

GL: We heard that when we sang the backwards part of "Darling Nikki" he was impressed by that. Apparently he listened to it a bunch of times which is kinda my fantasy come true. Mission accomplished!

That's one thing I noticed as well how you nailed the backwards masking, singing part. Did that take a bit of effort to figure out?

GL: Maya and I have been obsessed with Prince for over 30 years. By the time we met in college 20 years ago we had both listened to that song so many times we had both memorized the harmonies.

MR: That was really like one of the only things we didn't need to work on.

GL: We both just knew it so well so were just going to do it. I have a more soprano voice than Maya so I tend to sing higher harmonies.

MR: I have more of a manly voice.

GL: So she tends to sing the lower harmony. We love harmonizing on all sorts of music together so we just jumped into it and we both knew it from listening to it so many times.

MR: It was kind of like a parlor trick that we did for each other just for fun.

GL: Before we had even formed the band we had been doing that forever for a good time.

MR: Ha ha, yeah, that's how we have a good time. I wonder what other people do on a Friday night?

Yeah, wow. You guys really know how to party! So are you guys splitting vocals in terms of your different ranges or do you like to kind of embody different characters with the songs that lend themselves to having one of you sing one or the other doing more backup? How does that play out?

GL: We're mostly doing co-leads. Sometimes we are in unison but we love harmonizing. With "The Beautiful Ones" we each do a little solo taking turns but usually it's co-leads.

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