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Rhonda Smith: - Music has been taken out of what's called music now

Rhonda Smith

   Music to me is a savior. I’m not sure what I would have done without it – I was in ways a little lost. Music is math and discipline – it teaches you discipline, creativity and how to get along with others. Music is a healer, it is going on trips, it helps you become a better person. 

   To many music is taking a break – and taking a break is healthy. That music is cut from schools and society is awful.

The most quoted live moment (to date!) with Rhonda... and she is funky... 

   When I first started playing jazz in Montreal, Montreal was a jazz hub. My mother played jazz all the time; Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Ella….the list was long.

There were many excellent, older jazz players around. My brothers played jazz, and I had an environment around me where females were playing.

I don’t know how it would be seen by most parents these days if their daughters wanted to be in clubs and play music at 15. Classical is looked on with another respect, but other styles of music, if the daughters want to play?

   I love all styles of music. It’s a mélange of the heart and of feeling, and I love floating between styles just like the greats have done, and like Prince did too.

   I got my initial inspiration for bass from Pleasure, EWF’s Verdine White and Sly & The Family Stone, to name a top three. They are also some of the acts that I would recommend for people who want to listen to great bass-work on record.

Rhonda Smith "ITP" off her album Intellipop (2000/Slow Wine Music)

   Being a musician is pure heaven, pure unadulterated fun. It’s the best job in the world. I don’t mind playing two notes - that can be fun. I only have two requirements when I’m playing. I need to hear myself and the sound has to be good.

   Musicians are traveling doctors. We heal people. Music is a foundation to stand on in life. 

Rhonda Smith bass solo with Jeff Beck Band

   Having worked with Prince for a decade I thought to myself that I could work with anybody after him. He had the highest standards. 

His rehearsals were long and intense, first of all. It was at least eight hours a day. 

If he didn’t like something he certainly would tell you. Recording wasn’t allowed. He famously didn’t like bootlegs. 

He didn’t read music. He would show you the part, and he would show you quickly. You had to get it. He showed you what he wanted quickly and then he was on to the next thing. He did have patience – he was extremely intelligent. But when he needed what he had showed you, the next day, he didn’t like it if you messed up. You couldn’t ask him ‘Where’s your notes?’. But the second day people did mess up. You had to be strict and get it down the first time. 

There was some fun around but the process was intense. He would leave for a few hours and the band would rehearse by itself. He had other things to do, a lot to do. Sometimes he listened from elsewhere. 

He was such a prolific writer with a large amount of music. You had to learn it all and retain it. Everything from the roots.

Rhonda Smith with Prince - "The Everlasting Now"

   I’m currently in the studio working on my 3d record. I have my band project, CIC – which stands for Canada India Canada as well as for Chronic Idiopathic Constipation…as us musicians can be a bit full of ourselves… I also do shows with Sheila E and Jeff Beck in between. My record is ready when I say that it is. It’s love in motion. I will probably debut some of the material with the group. 

We have such a changed industry with manufacturing and downloads. Artists don’t even make CD:s anymore, and not full albums anymore. Figuring out how to deal with all that is part of releasing something now.

   What is going on with the music business is like a version of the industrial revolution. Radio has all the control. We have had a lot of rap music, but it’s often so negative. I’m not downing any music though.

The general standard for what ‘music’ is right now, is sad. People who aren’t musicians are called musicians, and the kids don’t know the difference. Music has been taken out of what is called music now.

I don’t believe that people want to see AI play music – maybe in Japan. 

The royalty streams have dried up thanks to things like Tidal. Artists' work is played as much as anyone likes – for pennies.

   The only way to go, to go forward in all this is live music. We need to play live and kids need to see people play live. 

Rhonda Smith - "To Get With You" from the album RS2 (2006/215 Records)

RHONDA SMITH is a bassist+ based in the US, after being born and raised in Canada. She started out working on the Montreal jazz scene and studying music at McGill University. SMITH has released two solo albums to date and famoulsy worked with Prince for a decade. Her other collaborations include Jeff Beck, Sheila E and Chaka Khan. RHONDA SMITH also now runs her band project CIC.

Remembering Prince

The Symbol
Musicians' Corner remembers Prince

Classic Prince interview:

A conversation with Kim Berry, Prince' hair stylist:

NPG members who have spoken here on Musicians' Corner so far:




PRINCE ROGERS NELSON, June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016. Rest in Power. We miss you.

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Kat Dyson: - I will play guitar until I leave this world

Musicians' Corner's interview with Kat Dyson

Kat Dyson
An article with Kat Dyson

Music is therapy. Music is meditation. Music is an exercise in discipline.

But most of all music is freedom.

Music has the same color as the air. You can close your eyes but you can’t close your ears.

If you play it well,that’s the only thing that matters.

Kat Dyson performing at the She Rocks Awards in 2017


Being a young Southern girl I of course had to learn to play the piano. The boys got guitars and drums and it seemed much more fun. They were out on the porch playing,having a ball. I wanted one! My mother got me a guitar, and not long after she passed away from an aneurism...And I will play guitar until I leave this world.

We didn’t have a piano in our home. I grew up in a small rural neighborhood with a great piano teacher, and I had to go to practice at the teacher’s house. The boys were learning and listening to records and radio.The guitar just seemed far more accessible.

The first time I played a gig and made money in a club is where I realized that I could have fun AND get paid. “I can do this and make money?” I got much more than my weekly allowance. I’m the oldest of seven siblings so I fell in love with the group dynamics of a band.After high school,I went to university and formally studied classical voice and guitar and music education.

Kat Dyson on stage


The professional female musicians I've worked with share a similar feeling as I did growing up playing music-that they had to be twice as prepared,driven and focused to be taken serious in the music industry.I think we,as women, bring heart and soul and patience, and there isn't a big of competition between us. We are focused yet enjoy playing. Our hearts and ears are open and open for suggestions as well.

A lot of organizations will hire a woman for the optics. If she looks good the- wow-wow!! You have to look good in the industry, but you need to know how to play too, although some organizations may not care about their skill set.


Sharing an anecdote or two I was working with Colin James, who was a protege of Stevie Ray Vaughan He traveled to work for SRV saying “I’ll be your tech for free,just teach me...At one point. I was backstage with Colin and an incredible group of artists at the end of a festival, and among them was B.B. King. He shook my hand and my hand disappeared in his gigantic hand. He let my touch Lucille. He seemed to have telephone wires on that guitar. You had to manhandle that thing. He was about make a speech at a college where he was to be honored, and he asked me  'What am I going to tell them'? perplexed by the invitation.He was so down to earth and so gentlemanly . I asked him “Don't  you know who you are to us? He was talking to me like a daughter...supercool!

I was introduced to Bernie Worrell by Felicia Collins. The recording session with him was like a big party, but he was cool and serious ..and so focused, with a spirit so free. He said “Do what you feel – just make it funky!


I am selective about answering Prince questions.Usually I can sense if they come from a good place or not.

When I first met him,he asked me who I listen to. I told him that I listened to Jeff Lee Johnson and John Scofield ,for example at the time, and to Wes Montgomery as a constant go-to,melodically.

The Emancipation album was finished by then, but after we had worked together for a while he let me record a guitar part on The Love We Make, and he didn’t change a thing about it. He trusted my voice ...

What he did on stage depended on his musical vision for each tour and changed constantly. He rotated instruments,as he mastered many. Every band had a different make up and purpose.

At one point he asked me what I thought he should add to the set we were working on.i suggested adding an unplugged section;just sit with a guitar and do a few songs...He laughed and responded that that would be so boring, but a while later..he finally did it, and people loved it, and he wound up doing a lot of it.

He was influenced as an artist at a time when iconic artists entertained and big productions dominated live concerts. Over the years I think he started to get the message that people simply wanted to hear his music,any way he wanted to present a grand way or in an intimate setting...

Rocksugah performing at the She Rocks Awards

Right now my band ROCKSUGAH will be the house band at the She Rocks Awards 2018 at the NAMM Show with Divinity Roxx among others, which we do every year. After that I will do a special Valentine’s show with Gary Taylor and Najee before I go on tour with my Italian boss Zucchero. In March I’m doing the Black Women Rock event (BWR)in Detroit,which is run by Jessica Care Moore.It honors women of color in rock and alternative music. This year we will honor the great Nona Hendryx, whom I can't wait to work with again.We will also bring BWR to the West Coast in May. In April,I take part in the Prince celebrations in Minneapolis .

Kat Dyson is a a guitarist and singer, who has worked with a long list of fellow artists, a list that includes Cyndi Lauper, Natalie Cole, Ivan Neville, Keb Mo, Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Jeff Healey, Bernie Worrell, Prince, Donny Osmond, T.I., Seal, Sheila E, Joi, George Clinton and the P-Funk AllStars, MusiqueSoulchild, Phoebe Snow, Res, The Winans, Mary Mary, Yolanda Adams, Big Mamma Thornton, Ben E. King, Bo Diddley, and Odetta.


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Liv Warfield sums up the journey to Roadcase Royale

Musicians' Corner meets Liv Warfield

Liv Warfield
An article with Liv Warfield

   Music is feeling. It is another realm of life on this earth. Music is faith and the healing of generations.

And – music is power!

   I was running tracks through my adolescence and was going to be in the Olympics. I took part in the trials, and was very promising. What I brought from the athletics, to my journey in music, is stamina and the energy to move around. And I learnt to not give up from sports.
I always listened to music while training – all kinds of music was playing. I knew that I wanted to be a singer.

I moved to Portland all by myself, unafraid to be vulnerable by the time of my first album release, Embrace Me (2006). The record was about life lessons and my first experience at releasing my own music.

By the time of the release of my album The Unexpected (2014) Prince had taught me so much about myself. He instilled confidence in me. He was my supernova, and he pushed me beyond my limits. From the very first rehearsal I had with him, when he told me that he could easily replace me, to push me, to all the talks we had on the phone, he expanded my mind.

Liv Warfield

   Our new album, First Things First (2017), is a fresh awakening. We (Roadcase Royale) wrote the album in such a short space of time, and it was such a great collaboration between amazing writers. I want to be in the studio all the time now! Nancy Wilson is a true earth angel, open to all sounds, and she is pushing me as a writer.

Liv Warfield and Nancy Wilson

Liv Warfield is a successful singer and songwriter, and a Peoria native. She is based in Chicago and Portland. After moving to Portland as a teenager, to pursue her ambitions in sports, Warfield among other things honed her amazing singing skills, singing in karaoke bars through the nights, before she conquered her shyness and released her debut album. It caught Prince’ attention, and the music legend made Liv Warfield a member of The New Power Generation. In 2017 Liv Warfield has released First Things First, the debut album from the new supergroup Roadcase Royale, which she fronts with Nancy Wilson.


Philip Lassiter looks back on working with Prince as he releases his solo album

Philip Lassiter album cover

An article with Philip Lassiter

   For over 15 years I have been cultivating my own sound using stacked trumpets.  I first heard this sound when D'Angelo released "Voodoo" with Roy Hargrove laying down trumpet overdubs.  I was already a huge Hargrove fan and had just got my first digital recording studio so I was off to the races. It wasn't long before I started getting asked to lay down my own stacks on other artist's albums.  Over the years I have had the opportunity to play on hundreds of projects, making the "trumpet stack" thing something I'm fairly known for but it took me THIS long to record a trumpet album of my own!  I thought to myself, it's about time!  So, I reached out to some of my favorite producers and asked for them to submit tracks that they had laying around.  James Poyser did 2 tracks on the album and they are so funky!  I had a lot of help from my good pal Rodney Lil Rod Jones with production and mixing on this album.  It may not have been possible without his generosity and expertise.  This project is so unique because of the mixture of true hiphop grooves with super harmonic trumpet soundscapes.  I couldn't be more proud of a record and I'd love to do another one at some point.

Before I first chose the trumpet I tried lots of instruments. Sax, drums, even oboe but I gravitated to the baritone first.  I got a nice sound on it right from the bat.  I was a small kid so lugging that heavy instrument around was quite a pain so, after trying my friend's trumpet, I was hooked. 

   Prince was someone I always drew inspiration from.  I was always heavily into funk music.  I was way into Sexy MF, Kiss, Musicology and those types of Prince songs.  I always used to say that if I went on the road again it would be with someone like Prince.  I was playing on gospel record after gospel record, just basically making a living.  I lived in Brooklyn at the time I got the call from another gospel musician who had just linked up with Prince. He referred me directly to him and the audition process began.  The whole thing was very surreal and it all happened because of the work that I had done year after year playing on records.  Eventually my work spread all the way to the purple lord of funk himself!

Working with Prince was magical.  He was the hardest working person I've ever known.  I'll never forget the day we met.  I flew first class for the first time ever.  I arrived at Paisley Park and he greeted me at the door and immediately complimented my work.  I then followed him down a dark hallway into the foryer of the complex.  Murals and awards were everywhere.  The ceiling was painted like the sky and there was a piano shaped like a spaceship!  I was totally tripping out.  He then led me to a conference room where he told me what he that he wanted to build a HUGE horn section.  He said, "my father used to tell me about great big horn sections in soul 10 horns".  "At this point in my career I do not feel like there's anything that I NEED to if I'm going to say something it's got to be something that I'M interested in...and to honest, I just want to HEAR it."  I replied, "right on". :)

We then went on to have an 11 piece horn section with 4 trumpets, 1 alto, 2 tenor saxes, 2 bones and 2 bari saxes!  It was such an epic sound.  At times it reminded me of Quincy Jones's horn section in The Whiz.  Prince enjoyed us so much.  He was very proud of us and loved to show us off.  He would often say, "we are going to make history".  I never heard anyone say that out loud.  lol
Then we turned around and did JUST THAT. 

We played the United Center in Chicago and SXXW in Austin.  We gave an epic performance on the Arsenio Hall show in which my favorite horn arranger, Jerry Hey wrote and complimented me on my arrangement after the performance.  We did 3 nights at the famous Montreaux Jazz Festival which was video recorded and said one of his finest performances.  We also performed for almost 4 hours in a heat watch on Curacao, an island close to South America where I met my wife.  

The experiences I had with Prince will forever be some of the richest moments in my life.  I will always remember him as someone who believed in me and encouraged me to think outside of the box and keep the music moving forward.

My wife and I just moved to LA so we are very excited about what's around the corner.  I recently wrote and arranged horns and strings on the latest Kirk Franklin and CeCe Winans records.  Kirk just won a Grammy for best gospel album.  I also did horns for Jose James and Kandace Springs, 2 up and coming soul/jazz singers on Blue Note records.  Right now I simply plan to be as visible as I can and let people on the west coast know that I'm around and ready to work!

There are so many I would like to collaborate with.  I have my eyes and ears set on the stirring and resurgence of soul music.  I am really digging where artists like Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Adele, Ceelo and many others are headed. I would love to team up with producers like Will.I.Am, Mark Ronson and Pharell. The sky is the limit and I believe anything is possible.


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