Valley Native Shane Golden Takes the Microphone for The Prince Project

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Purple looks good on Shane Golden.

The Warren native is the new frontman for The Prince Project, a tribute band that recreates the late star’s look and sound.

Golden plays the superstar in performances – dressing, singing and moving like the purple-clad R&B-rock legend.

Many in the Mahoning Valley remember Golden as the former Warren JFK High football and track star, who went on to appear on “American Idol,” NBC’s singing competition show, in 2010. After that, he was a shipboard entertainer aboard Carnival Cruise Line ships. And yes, he sang some Prince songs while entertaining vacationers on the high seas.

“’Purple Rain’ was my favorite song to perform,” Golden said, referring to the iconic Prince tune. “On the ship, we would do a special intro for it, and it was my song to sing.”

Golden returned to the Youngstown area in 2019 when his sister got married, and never went back to the cruise line. The pandemic soon after brought all entertainment to a halt, of course, but Golden wanted to continue his career on land.

He will lead The Prince Project in concert Friday night at the Woodward Opera House in Mount Vernon, Ohio, which is between Akron and Columbus. Tickets for the show can be purchased at

Golden’s résumé also includes acting credits in commercials and movies. He appeared in the critically acclaimed film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (2020), produced by Denzel Washington and starring Viola Davis; and “Sweet Girl” (2021), starring Jason Momoa.

Golden’s cruise line stint shaped him into a versatile perfomer. He was based in Miami, but spent extended periods on the cruise liners for four years, where the troupe delivered shows in all genres six nights a week.

The Prince Project role came to him as a surprise.

“The founder, Michael Lesko, contacted me in April and said their singer (DaVaughn Weber) couldn’t continue,” Golden said. “At that point, they hadn’t performed in two years and needed someone [to play the role of Prince]. I was on a vacation in Myrtle Beach when I got the call and stepped into that role.”

Golden had seen The Prince Project before and was ecstatic to be asked to join.

“In 2019, they were performing in Youngstown and I got to see them,” he recalled. “I said to myself, ‘I would love to do something like that in the future.’ ”

Golden is not the only local member of the band. The lineup also includes Lea Nebitt of Hubbard; and Lesko, who also performs in the act, is from Columbiana.

The Prince Project recreates the Prince and the Revolution phase of the band, which was at its peak in the 1980s.

“We are the most authentic Prince and the Revolution show in the country,” Golden said. “We stay true to that period.”

When on stage, the six-piece act delivers a relentless immersion into the Purple One’s flamboyant style and energy.

“I do not break character during the show,” Golden said. “I am Prince when I step on that stage and I work hard to give the audience a Prince experience. I sing, talk and move like Prince. He was iconic, and so intricate [in performance] and we want to stay true to that.”

The Prince Project goes to great lengths to capture the look.

“The wardrobes are down to the T,” Golden said. “The buttons [on his coat], the authentic glasses he wore in the movie [‘Purple Rain’]. We even have a replica of the motorcycle he rode in the movie to take photos with after the show.”

The act uses state of the art stage lighting and effects to recreate the frenetic show. “We go above and beyond,” Golden said.

Friday’s performance in Mount Vernon will be his fifth with The Prince Project. The band’s schedule for the rest of the year is filling up fast, but Golden fully expects there will be a Youngstown show.

“We’re going to make it happen,” he said. “I would love to bring Prince’s music to the area.”

Pictured: Shane Golden, center, fronts The Prince Project.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.