Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt Reveals What Prince Thought of His Playing, Recalls What It Was Like to Play in Front of Him

Although one might think that a guitar player like Nuno Bettencourt would have no issues playing in front of anyone, there was at least one occasion that he felt nervous. And it was when he performed in front of Prince. During his recent visit to the “Hair Nation” show on SiriusXM, Bettencourt recalled feeling extra nervous while having to perform in front of the legendary singer. Recalling how this came to be in the first place, Bettencourt said (transcript via Blabbermouth):

“I was doing this thing in L.A. where there was a tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire, out of all things. And Steve Lukather was doing it and a bunch of guitar players, and it was a bunch of just sick musicians. And Earth, Wind & Fire were there, and it was at a theater. And I’m doing ‘Higher Ground’, I think. And I’m waiting for my name to be called out to be introduced. I’m backstage. I come out and I do it.

“And, of course, the second they say my name, I look in the aisle and walking down the aisle, coming into the building is Prince. And I’m standing right there. He sits down front row. And I’m, like, ‘Fucking great. Isn’t this great? Prince has probably never seen me play before. Now I’m gonna be doing this.’

“And I noticed that he was sitting next to somebody that I know is a producer, and his girlfriend is an amazing singer called Nikka Costa. If you never heard, go find Nikka Costa’s album. ‘Everybody got that something’ — you probably heard that track; that’s her. [She’s an] insane singer.”

Things weren’t easing up on Nuno since the pressure kept piling up and things felt even worse for him when he had to start playing in front of Prince. The guitarist continued:

“So all of a sudden, he’s sitting next to one of my best mates and Nikka, who’s, like, is at my house [the next day], I think, because our kids play together, like with my wife. So all of a sudden I’m playing and I start playing. I can’t help but sweat that Prince is in the front row and I’m trying like all my best to be as cool as fuck and have him like me.

Nuno Bettencourt California King Bed -Rihanna

“And then, all of a sudden, he leans over to Nikka and he says something. And he goes back, and I’m, like, ‘Oh my God. He just told her how much I suck. He told her I’m not playing it right. He told her whatever.’

Fast-forward to the next day and Nuno recalls how Nikka Costa was actually at his place hanging out with his daughter. He continued:

“Ironically enough, she was at my house the next day — the next day — and I come back from the studio and her and my daughter, I think, are sitting there and they’re just looking at me. And I just walk by and I’m like, ‘What?’ And [she’s] like, ‘You don’t wanna know what Prince said to me about you?’ And I’m, like, ‘No, I don’t.'”

Extreme - "Rise" (Official Video)

Of course, no guitar player could really resist asking what someone like Prince thought of their playing. And so Nuno came back and asked:

“And I went into the kitchen. I walked away. I come back 30 seconds later. I’m, like, ‘All right, what did he say? What did he say?’ And she’s, like, ‘Well, you sure you wanna know?’ I’m, like, ‘All right. Fuck this.’ And she said, ‘He said, ‘Right there I think that’s one of the top three guitar players in the world.’

“And by the way, I’ve never told that story to anybody until today. I’m probably only saying it because he passed away and you can’t deny it that he said it. But my point being, I took that with me as, like, ‘Wow, he’s listening. He listens. A hero of yours.'”

There are no surprises there, really, especially knowing how impressive Nuno’s musicianship is. And while we’re at it, even Eddie Van Halen was impressed by Bettencourt. In an interview conducted earlier this year, Nuno recalled how Eddie Van Halen paid him a visit in the studio not long before his passing while Extreme were working on their song “Rise” which eventually came out in 2023. Nuno recalled:

“On the day I was working on the solo, Gary [Cherone, Extreme vocalist] was in town to finish some vocals. And Gary knows that I don’t like to be bothered while I’m recording. But for some reason, he kept blowing up my phone and asking me to go to lunch, which really pissed me off.”

“Gary texted me, ‘Hey, what’s happening in there? You’ve got to come out front; somebody is here to say ‘Hi.’ I’m like, ‘Okay…’ And I went downstairs, and as I walked out, I saw that Edward Van Halen was waiting for me. They’d already gone to lunch together, and that’s why Gary had been trying to get a hold of me… which was a good reason to interrupt.”

Van Halen - Hot For Teacher (live 2015)

“When I got downstairs, Edward [Eddie Van Halen] asked me to go up and listen to what I was working on. Being the Virgo and the idiot I am, I was like, ‘Wait ’til it’s done. I’ll show you then.’ And Edward said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll come back then.’

“But he sadly passed away not too long after that. So, I’m hoping that he’s smiling down on me. But ‘Rise’ is special because that’s the song I was cutting the last time I saw him.”

Photo: SebastyneNet (Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt at South Park Festival in Tampere, Finland, June 2015 photo 02), penner (Prince at Coachella)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.