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April 2008

Tales from the Home Planet

Violist Novi Novog tells of her adventures playing for Prince and the Doobie Brothers.

I’ve been working the session scene in Los Angeles for as long as I can remember and I want to share some of my favorite memories.

One day I got a call from producer Ted Templeman to play on a fast fiddling piece for The Doobie Brothers. When we were done, he said "oh, by the way, while you're here, could you try something on this 'nice little tune' it's probably just going to be an album cut." The "nice little tune" turned out to be "Blackwater," one of their biggest hits and we never heard the other song again.

The first time I heard "Blackwater" on the radio I was driving with my cousins. We screamed in delight and drove to the radio station. I told them that that was me playing on the song but they didn't believe me and threw us out on our rear ends!

I always had a credibility issue with the Doobies. I almost missed a concert once when the security guys at the hall didn't believe I was with the band and wouldn't let me in the building!! And then when I played my solo, the spotlight couldn't find me because I was so short – it kept flashing by over my head. Sometimes you just can't win.

I got a call from a studio around 11:00 PM one Saturday night. They asked if I could be there at midnight for a session with Prince. It was after "1999" was a hit. I thought he was going to be a brat, but was pleasantly surprised; he was very soft-spoken, polite, shy and a total workaholic. I waited while he put a nice piano track down for the group "The Time" which he produced and probably played all or most of the instruments on.

Prince loves the energy and spontaneous feel that musicians get the first time they play a song. I would be warming up, getting in tune and playing along with the song in order to learn it when suddenly I would hear his voice in the headphones "OK, that's good, you're done - nice job." I didn't even know they were recording me! My picky self wanted to try the song ten more times to get it exactly right, but he wouldn't have it; he had to have that fresh spirit.

I went on to do "Purple Rain," "Raspberry Beret," "Around the World in a Day" and a lot of others for Prince, it was great fun. I was also on the "Raspberry Beret" video. They had us wearing white robes and pointy hats and I think I looked like Casper the Friendly Ghost playing the viola. My life of glamour.

That wraps it up for now. Thanks for listening and keep practicing!!


Novi Novog is an improvising string player who doesn't leave her classical training behind. Her new CD Songs from the Home Planet is an exciting new addition to The Violin Case. She studied with Louis Kievman and Mehli Mehta and won the American String Teachers Association competition. She attended the California Institute of the Arts on a composition scholarship, studying with Alan Chapman. Novi is a regular on the LA session scene – her list of recording credits is huge, ranging from Aerosmith to Zappa (she was actually a member of The Mothers of Invention for a short time). She has also been featured in STRINGS Magazine.