Let’s start the new year up right with a conversation with Maine’s own Dean Ford — guitarist/singer/front man — who will bring his Prince tribute act — the Beautiful Ones — to the Waterville Opera House on Saturday, Jan. 12. Having visited his website beautifulonesband.com, his resemblance to the late singer/songwriter is uncanny. Not only does he look the part, but he also sounds so much like Prince. It is not only eerie but very, very cool. When reached at his Portland home, Ford was more than happy to explain the history of his show along with other bits of information. I began by asking how long he’s been doing his tribute to the legendary performer.

Ford: Ah, I started doing the Prince show in 2011, I think, so it’s been almost eight years.

Q: And that was definitely before his untimely passing, too. I feel a bit uncomfortable asking this so feel free to not respond if you like: Has the show’s popularity increased since then?

Ford: Yes and no. It is a difficult question to answer. When he passed away we were actually scheduled to do three shows the weekend of — when I found out that he had passed away, I was about to shut it down. First I talked to my band and then I reached out to the venues with my concerns saying I didn’t think I could do it personally and wasn’t really sure how people were going to handle it. But when I talked to the venues they told me absolutely not to shut it down because the shows immediately sold out. In fact, at one venue in Portland they convinced us that we needed to add a date because people wanted it so badly.

Q: Wow.

Ford: Yeah, so for at least the first month or so after his passing it was crazy compared to what it had been and what it had been always was crazy. I guess the only difference really is the people seem to want it more than they wanted it back then, and when I talk to people after the show it’s much more emotional than it ever was when he was alive. But aside from that, the audiences have always been rabid.

Q: And understandably so, because he was a musical genius in his own right.

Ford: Absolutely.

Q: Now, he had such an incredible wealth of material — how do you go about choosing what songs to perform?

Ford: Well, our show is three hours long, but it’s not very easy to pick and choose even then. I’m a huge fan, so there are songs that I want to do that wouldn’t necessarily work as well, and there are songs I don’t want to do that would work really well, so we end up kind of compromising, and that compromise is basically a set list of 40 songs. (Chuckle)

Q: Good grief — that’s a lot.

Ford: Yeah, you’re right. There are times when we have to go to a smaller set list and the shortest one we do is 90 minutes. I mean it’s not just the fact that he had 30 studio albums, but his hits are just so vast. If we don’t do “Raspberry Beret” or “Kiss” or “Little Red Corvette” or “1999,” some people are going to be (upset) — it’s difficult.

Q: Do you ever do an album of his in its entirety?

Ford: Well, that’s kind of how it started. The first show we did, we did “Purple Rain” front to back — that was pretty much the only thing that we did — and then it kind of expanded from there. To this day we play everything that’s on “Purple Rain” just not necessarily completely in order. We haven’t done any other albums front to back, but now that this coming year (this interview happened on 12/17/18) is the 40th anniversary of his second album and the 30th anniversary of “Batman,” we’ve started talking about doing a night based around those albums because we’re back in the classic period now. We do a bunch of stuff from “Sign of the Times,” we do a bunch of stuff from “1999” — all the classic period stuff — we just haven’t been able to do a full record yet, outside of “Purple Rain.”

Q: Now, have you ever played at the Waterville Opera House before?

Ford: I have not. We played in Waterville last summer and it was great. I wasn’t sure how well it was going to go over in Waterville, but we did it and it was a lot of fun. People there were amazing and the people who put it on asked us if we would come to the opera house this coming year and I thought that that was a great idea.

Q: Well, it’s a wonderful venue and the acoustics are great.

Ford: I’ve heard that, yeah.

Q: … And I think that you’ll enjoy yourselves there a lot.

Ford: I’m looking forward to it. Those are the kind of venues that I like playing the most because those are the ones that work the best for the kind of show that we try to put on. We tend to veer more into the theatrical kinds of things and not just playing the songs.

Q: And this venue lends itself to that, for sure.

Ford: Yeah,

Q: Now, how far afield do you get, performance-wise?

Ford: Let’s see — we’ve played all the way down to Florida and we’ve gone as west as Chicago, and we’ve played in Quebec. Hopefully in the next year we’re going to try to get to the West Coast and potentially to Ireland.

Q: That would be great for you guys. Do you happen to have a day job, just out of curiosity?

Ford: No, I don’t. Everybody else in the band does have day jobs… but this is my 100 percent, 24/7 gig.

Q: Very cool, man — congratulations. Now, is there anything, Dean, that you’d like to get across to the folks reading this article?

Ford: Not that I can think of — just come to the show (chuckle). And the only reason I do this is because I’m obsessed with Prince’s music and everything about his persona — I wouldn’t do it if I weren’t. I did one of those end-of-the-year look at how many songs you’ve listened to on Spotify and at this time it’s 265 hours of Prince — so I’m obsessed.

Q: I would say so.

Ford: Yeah, I’m a big fan, for sure.

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