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Black Pumas talk busking, Prince and best new artist nomination ahead of Grammys

Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Entertainment News

Much like their toughest competition Lizzo, the co-founders of Texas soul-rock band Black Pumas find the "new" part of their best new artist Grammy nomination to be a bit of a misnomer.

"Some of these songs date back 10 years, and I've been a working musician going on 20," mused guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada. "So it definitely doesn't feel like an overnight success thing to us."

Still, it's only been two years since Quesada -- an ex-member of the Prince-endorsed Latin funk-rock unit Grupo Fantasma -- plucked his bandmate Eric Burton off his favorite street-busking corner (6th Street and Congress Avenue) in Austin, Texas, to start working on the songs that make up their eponymous debut album.

A fresh-sounding mashup of darkly tinted retro-soul and hazy psychedelic rock, the ambitious and lush record clearly didn't come from a bunch of inexperienced newbies. It arrived in June with strong buzz off Austin's South by Southwest festival before landing the Grammy nom on its way to many critics' 2019 year-end lists.

Black Pumas are starting off 2020 strong, too. Their Raconteurs-accompanied "Austin City Limits" episode hit PBS stations last week ahead of a "Tonight Show" appearance Tuesday.

While still in Grupo Fantasma -- a band he helped form after moving to Austin from the Texas border town of Laredo around the year 2000 -- Quesada played a series of gigs as part of Prince's "3121" Las Vegas residency in 2007. During that run, Prince invited the Fantasma crew to perform for his Golden Globes after-party in Los Angeles.

 

"We had half a day's notice to get to LA, and none of us really knew what to expect," Quesada recalled by phone on Jan. 13.

"When we got there, we didn't see Prince's band anywhere in sight. And that's when we learned: We were his band. We didn't have any rehearsal or plan. It was so Prince. But it went great."

On a personal level, he added, "we all got to know just how hysterical the man was. We joked around a lot in Grupo Fantasma, too, so I think he hit it off pretty well with us."

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