Theft of the Dial: Donna Grantis of 3RDEYEGIRL shares Prince songs and stories

Donna Grantis at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minn.
Donna Grantis at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minn. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
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Theft of the Dial: Donna Grantis
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Just before the anniversary of Prince's death, Donna Grantis of 3RDEYEGIRL stopped by The Current to take over our airwaves, assembling a Theft of the Dial to honor the memory of one of the biggest legends in music history.

As a young, aspiring musician, Grantis says she never imagined she could play with Prince, never mind getting the chance to tour and record with him. "I'd heard rumors about how his musicians would be on call and jam for hours a day, and be ready to rehearse or play a gig anytime, anywhere," she told Jim McGuinn. "I just thought, 'That is the coolest thing [...] So as an optimistic dreamer, I thought to myself if I was ever presented with the opportunity to jam or audition with Prince, I need to be ready."

At the time, Grantis was working as a session player, playing in bands and leading her own instrumental jazz fusion group. Her work caught Prince's attention, and in 2012, the chance of a lifetime came in the form of an email inviting her to jam at Paisley Park.

"I was just totally floored," Grantis said. "I thought, is this real? But that email led to a phone call with a real human and then a one-way ticket from Toronto to Minneapolis [...] That first trip out, I was in Chanhassen for a week, and it was just amazing."

At the time, Grantis wasn't quite sure why they had invited her to come to the Twin Cities, but she decided to play along. "I didn't know at the time that it was an audition for a new group," she said. "I just knew that it was a jam, you know? No real expectations other than playing as best as possible and seeing where it would all lead."

After hearing her play, Prince invited Grantis to join him and the rest of 3RDEYEGIRL, an experience she would never forget.

Introducing one of the songs on her playlist, Grantis said, "One of the things that was so cool about Prince was not only was he a phenomenal guitarist, singer, keyboard player, drummer, bass player, but as a bandleader, a whole amazing skill of itself, he was a master bandleader. You could really see that, especially in the New Power Generation."

And looking back, Grantis said she was always blown away by the sheer amount of talent Prince had as a musician. He and the band never performed "HARDROCKLOVER" live, she says. "But I distinctly remember rehearsing this song and just standing a few feet away from him playing rhythm guitar and just hearing him play the most unbelievable guitar solo. Even though I had been jamming, playing, and recording for years, those moments of being awestruck happened all the time."

She discovered "What's My Name" (from 1998 triple album Crystal Ball) when Prince sent it around on a list of songs for his band to know. The night Kendrick Lamar visited Paisley in 2014, Prince called him up on stage to freestyle over "What's My Name" -- and if you're salivating for video of the impromptu jam, it actually exists.

Grantis is full of stories and memories of Prince, carefully skirting around the news that brought their time together to an end. The good news is that the Canada native has now moved to the Twin Cities and started an electric jazz band.

Theft of the Dial: Donna Grantis playlist

"The Cross"
"Musicology"
"Chaos And Disorder"
"ANOTHERLOVE"
"What's My Name"
"HARDROCKLOVER"
"PLECTRUMELECTRUM"

Donna Grantis
Donna Grantis at Paisley Park on April 21, 2017 (Nate Ryan | MPR)