Toronto guitarist Donna Grantis got an e-mail back in November that changed her life: Hannah Ford, of Prince's backup band 3rd Eye Girl, wanted to know if Grantis would like to join them.
On the comeback trail since his Grammy appearance earlier this year, Prince is touring with an all-girl band and new music.
His management first enlisted bassist Ida Nielsen, followed by drummer Ford, who in turn checked out Grantis’ skills on YouTube. Ford sent the Toronto musician a few practice songs and, within a week, brought her to Minnesota to jam with Prince.
There, she played Purple Rain, including Prince’s own solos, during an audition process.
"It’s just crazy because he’s such as phenomenal guitar player… so I tried to copy his solos and played them in front of him," Grantis told Garvia Bailey, host of CBC Radio's Big City, Small World.
"I was totally looking at him because I was really on my toes for cues and having a connection with the other band members."
Grantis has performed blues, rock and jazz around Toronto and worked with Shakura S'aida, Kardinal Offishall and the late Haydain Neale. Prince wants his band to be "totally rocking," she said.
"He really does give us a lot of room to be experimental and challenge each other and push each other to get better and better," Grantis said.
She is heard on the track Screwdriver that marked Prince's most recent return to music. Though a secret at first, now Prince and 3rd Eye Girl are touring clubs across North America before heading to the Montreux Jazz Festival this summer.
"I’ve learned so much from Prince. He’s such a fantastic teacher," Grantis said.
"To have the opportunity to play with the same musicians for so many hours a day is such an amazing opportunity. I think the girls and I have really been influencing each other a lot and growing together as a trio as well."