Since getting her start in the late 1980s in Washington D.C. with the go-go band Prophecy, Meshell Ndegeocello has made a name for herself as one of music’s great female bassists and a neo-soul trailblazer, boasting 10 Grammy nominations, recording credits with artists like Alanis Morissette and Indigo Girls, and collaborations with the likes of Herbie Hancock and John Mellencamp.
With Mellencamp, she recorded quite possibly her best-known song, a cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night,” which broke into the Billboard top 10 singles when released in 1994.
Since the early 90s, Ndegeocello has released eight albums, taking listeners on a brazen lyrical journey across religious, political, racial and sexual boundaries, with equally transcendent music drawing from multiple genres, from hip-hop to new wave.
Ndegeocello has been recording her next album, which is due out in the fall, and has been putting her own spin on the music of Prince with her “Gett Off” tour, which has been moving across the nation since March and will be stopping in Falls Church Thursday for a performance at the State Theatre at 8:30 p.m.
Ndegeocello took some time before her performance to answer some News-Press questions about the artist she’ll be covering and his impact on her music.
Leslie Poster: Of all the artists that have influenced you, why cover Prince?
Meshell Ndegeocello: Nobody’s like Prince. He was an alternative to everything, he wrote, he played, he sang, he danced, he wore crazy s—. There are plenty of people worth covering but Prince was as influential as it gets for me.
LP: How did you come up with the idea to perform these Prince cover shows?
MN: Honestly, I just try to put together something special for a little residency at Largo in LA and this is what came up. It was far more popular than I could have anticipated and people started asking for it all over.
LP: Do you remember the first time you heard Prince? What was it like listening to Prince for the first time?
MN: 1978? My brother played it for me. When I saw the “Controversy” tour is when I think he really made maximum impact on me.
LP: How has Prince’s music influenced your own music?
MN: It made me courageous, uncompromising, not worried about where and how to fit.
LP: When performing songs written by others, how do you express yourself, as an artist, through their music?
MN: I don’t play these songs like he did. I arrange them my own way, try to offer a new interpretation, of course. He says he doesn’t like it when people play his music but I think there are new ways to hear them.
LP: For a D.C. native, what is it like coming back to the area to perform?
LP: What can fans expect from your next album?
MN: I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask anymore. I can only hope they trust I’ve made something I think is worthy of their attention.
• For more information on Meshell Ndegeocello, visit meshell.com or freemyheart.com