Speaking With Patrice Rushen:
A Modern Day Renaissance Woman
by Paula Edelstein
With great songs such as “Forget Me Not,” “I Do,” “My Heart, Your Heart” among her solid repertoire of original compositions, Patrice Rushen is “Anything But Ordinary.” You need only to give one special listen to her exceptional collaborations with some of the world’s best jazz, pop, and R&B artists to know what I’m talking about! A world-renown virtuoso, bandleader and side musician, Patrice is truly a modern-day renaissance woman. She has been on the music scene as a composer, a music supervisor for motion pictures and television shows, as a pianist/keyboardist, as a vocalist and still is one of the most intelligent ladies you’ll ever meet. A child prodigy, Ms. Rushen began her musical studies at age 3 and is still going strong. Her songs are all over the airwaves, motion picture soundtracks and can be heard on a plethora of television shows. So when it came to interviewing her about her musical lifestyle, you better believe she had a lot to say! So Listen Up and believe me when she tells you “There Are Two Sides To Every Story!”
PE: Patrice, thanks so much for the interview, it’s truly an honor! First of all, I just want to say, that a lot of your earlier hits still make my day! Songs like “Forget Me Not,” “My Heart, Your Heart,” “You Love Me Only” really have kept their artistic value over time. Now that my gushing is out of the way, how are you? (Smile)
Patrice: Well thank you Paula!
PE: I’d like to talk about some of your musical accomplishments as a composer, what is the most cherished song in your repertoire at this point of your career?
Patrice: Oooh, that’s a hard one. I don’t know if I can tell you what the most cherished is because songs are …I kind of liken them to children, you know. That’s like asking, “Which child is your favorite?” But I guess I have a special place in my heart for “Forget Me Not” because it was not only one the most successful of my “commercial” repertoire but because that was when I learned an important life lesson that the record industry taught me. When that record was about to be released, the record company didn’t like it at all. In fact, they didn’t like the whole album! And they told me so. Of course I was devastated but I had gotten a lot of feedback.
But rather than roll over and roll up, my co-producer at the time and I said, “well since we know up front that they don’t like it and don’t believe in it, and know that they aren’t going to promote it, we want to give it a fair shot and get it in front of an audience.” I had a very successful run with the song and it’s still on the air. Several other contacts used it. It was in the movie BIG, in the trampoline scene and later Will Smith used it in MEN IN BLACK. So the life lesson I learned was that if you believe in yourself and know what you’re about, you’ve got to be willing to take the chances that no one else will.
PE: That’s for sure and thanks for not rolling up and going away Patrice! You’ve collaborated with the crème de la crème of pop, rock, jazz, hip-hop and as you mentioned worked as a music supervisor for movies and television. Do you plan to score other films and television series in the near future?
Patrice: Yes, I have been. Over the past few years, my emphasis has really been as a composer for film and television as well as over the past four years, focusing on the symphonic stage. Those are some of the things that have allowed me to branch out and do some of the things that I want to do.
PE: Is writing a score for a film or television show more difficult than writing a complete 12-track recording for release as an audio CD?
Patrice: No. But it calls on some of the same skills but they’re two very different entities. On a CD recording the music is the star of the show. With film music, it’s more of a collaborative effort and the music’s primary goal is to enhance the story and is a creative, manipulative tool. One that calls for a lot of skill and technical technique so that the viewer is unaware that they are being manipulated when they are watching the film or television show.
PE: Your collaborations with such noted musicians as Stanley Clarke, Ndugu Chancler, George Duke and so many others has obviously given you the experience and staying power that is necessary to be successful in this business. But have you ever considered doing an all-female project?
Patrice: I have and would enjoy working with someone of the stature as Geri Allen, Teri Lynn Carrington, and Sheila Escovedo among others. They are great musicians and have worked with some of everybody and the fact that they are women is secondary to their talent.
PE: Who were some of your earlier influences with respect to becoming a musician?
Patrice: My mom and dad for sure. There were also primary teachers who recommended that they put me in an experimental program at USC because she recognized my musical talent at an early age. I received a lot of encouragement in those prep classes for many years and then went on to study classical piano at USC. One of the best memories is the fact that I was encouraged to appreciate all genres of music…not just jazz or classical or pop. But by the time I was in high school, I had enough musical vocabulary to make my decisions about what I wanted to do professionally. The music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, even Perry Como were some of the musical influences.
PE: You’re appearing at the 25th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival this month with the L.A. Home Grown All Stars. …I know you’ve performed with Ndugu, Ernie and Paul previously but have you performed with Tom Scott before?
Patrice: Oh yes. We’ve all worked with each other and for each other often! On any particular day, any one of us would have been a leader and called the other to come work together. We also grew up with one another…and besides the principals that you mentioned, this band is made up of seven other members that all have a connection to Los Angeles. We have all recognized that you have to do more than one thing in order to survive as a musician. We do film, television, are bandleaders, are studio musicians, work nightclubs and we have to be well versed in a lot of musical styles. That is what this band is celebrating…a sort of patchwork quilt kind of career that we’ve sewn together in order to be successful and to survive in an atmosphere where there are so many talented people.
PE: Yes indeed, you are truly a modern-day renaissance woman and here’s to your continued success. Thank you so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk to SOTJ. We look forward to hearing more of your great recordings and we’ll see you at the Hollywood Bowl.
Patrice: Thank you.