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One Man Expresses His Love For Prince With His Tribute Band

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

And now a tribute to tribute bands. A tribute band is more than a cover band. Its charge is to play the music of the original band as well and as close as they can to the songs we remember. And so we wanted to know, how do these bands get started, and how do you get that to be your job? We put those questions to a band that plays the music of Prince. They have been together for years, and they tour around the U.S. We met up with them at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Md.

GABRIEL SANCHEZ: My name is Gabriel Sanchez. I front the band called The Prince Experience. I am from Milwaukee, Wis., born in San Juan, Texas. I started doing this in about 2002.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE: (Singing) 'Cause, baby, I'm a star.

SANCHEZ: I started doing this because there was a play.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE: (Singing) The beautiful ones - you always seem to lose.

CHRISTINE PELLMAN: My name's Christine Pellman (ph). It was 18 years ago - a stage adaptation of "Purple Rain," which just sounded crazy.

SANCHEZ: First I said no, thinking, you know, I've never acted before. And I've never even thought about copying Prince's music although I was a fan of his.

PELLMAN: He was actually very uncomfortable with it in the beginning. It turned out that he was very good at it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Please help me welcome to the stage Gabriel Sanchez and The Prince Experience.

THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.

SANCHEZ: There's at least two different costume changes, sometimes three, sometimes four depending on how the show is going to go. I have a wig, a full - a real-haired wig that is cut to Prince's style from 1984.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE: Get ready for this.

SANCHEZ: Years ago, it used to be harder for me to kind of click in my head to say, OK, I'm not me. I'm Prince. I have to act like Prince. I have to walk and talk like him. I've done it so many times; that clicking is a lot less.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE: (Singing) Maybe I'm just like my father, too bold. Maybe I'm just like my mother...

TAMARA MOOSHEY: My name's Tamara, last name is Mooshey. And I do back vocals, and I do some lead vocals with The Prince Experience. Every show, I think I get emotional. I kind of feel him. I feel him in the room a little bit. And I just hope we're doing him proud. That's the biggest thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE: (Singing) Little, red Corvette - baby, you're much too fast. Little, red Corvette...

SANCHEZ: When Prince died, I was thinking now it's going to really be hitting hard.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE: (Singing) She saw him standing in the section marked if you have to ask, you can't afford it lingerie. She threw him bread, said, make me scream. In the dark, what could he say? Boys with small talk and small minds...

SANCHEZ: People come to me saying it's healing to watch the show. People cry at the shows. And then I got to stop looking at them because then I'm going to start crying. It's good 'cause I love to please people. So that's part of the reason why I do these things.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE: (Singing) Purple rain, purple rain, purple rain, purple rain...

SANCHEZ: I feel extremely blessed to be able to do what I do. I mean, this is what I was born to do, I think. I have a blast doing it. The people I'm with - we all have a good time together. I'll do this as long as I can. And when I feel it's time to stop, I'll stop.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE: Thank you so much. We are The Prince Experience from Milwaukee, Wis. We'll see y'all real soon.

MCEVERS: That was Gabriel Sanchez, the frontman of The Prince Experience. The band goes back on tour in December beginning with a show in Grand Rapids, Mich. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.