Charlotte's Adrian Crutchfield was 4 when he got his first saxophone, at a Kenny G concert. The headliner pulled him on stage and gave him the instrument. Little did Kenny G know that one moment would inspire Crutchfield to become a musician — one who has now, at the age of 29, played with fellow Charlotte resident Anthony Hamilton, Lionel Richie, The Gap Band and, for the last two years, Prince. When Crutchfield is not on the road, he's working on his own pop-jazz music. His debut album, Private Party, was released in 2009, and he's currently working on the follow-up. But let's be real — of course performing with Prince is his primary focus these days.
Creative Loafing: You had to be shocked when you got the gig with Prince.
Crutchfield: I didn't believe it until I got the plane tickets for rehearsal and was sitting in Paisley Park [Prince's Minneapolis studio]. I manage an 11-man horn section while Phil Lassiter handles most of the arranging. Prince made us all aware that he knew our abilities before we met him. He had seen everything I had online and knew what I had done. He reminds us all the time that we're part of the [New Power Generation] for a reason.
Is getting big gigs a matter of putting in the time, or is it more than that?
It's about camaraderie with other musicians. People think it's about being a virtuoso or talented, but it's not about that at all. Some of it is, but some of the most talented musicians will always be sitting at home. People would rather have someone who they enjoy being around. It's about being on time, doing the job and doing it pretty damn well, but it's also about how friendly you are, your energy. When people heard that I was Anthony Hamilton's horn player, I would get offered gigs without auditioning and it snowballed. Now, when I say I've played for Lionel Richie and Prince, no one questions if I can do the job.
Your first big artist to tour with was Anthony Hamilton.
I love playing with Lionel and love playing with Prince, but with Anthony, it's really family-oriented. He considers everyone in his band to be his brothers. I've learned so much from him about how to treat people. He watches out for us, is supportive of everything we do and truly cares. The thing I love about Prince is he has those qualities as a leader, as well. He never treats us like employees, he always treats us like bandmates, friends.
Do you think you'd enjoy being a frontman?
I don't mind being a frontman, but I prefer being the sideman. I can do the job and then go home. [Frontmen] can't do anything without it being a big to-do. They can't go to the movies. They can't go to the mall. We have to remind Anthony [Hamilton] that he can't go out by himself — he's a Grammy winner.