03/08/2009 at 10:30 PM EDT
When Sheila E. first told pal Prince that she was going on CMT's fish-out-of-water reality show Gone Country
, he didn't mince words.
"He asked me why in the heck would I do this show," the Grammy-nominated singer tells PEOPLE. She explained to her former mentor that the chance to work with Nashville's famed songwriters drew her to the show, in which a celebrity cast competes
to write and cut a country tune. "So he said, 'Okay, well, mama knows best!' "
Prince was right. With her gospel-inspired song "Glorious Train," penned with Nashville songwriters Angie Aparo and James Slater, Sheila E. took the top prize on the show's finale this weekend, beating out competition that included George Clinton, Tara Conner, Taylor Dayne, Micky Dolenz, Richard Grieco and Justin Guarini.
The "Glamorous Life" singer says the song, produced by show host John Rich, and the accompanying video are just the first steps in her new foray into country.
"I want to take an advantage of this opportunity and I would love to do a country record," says the singer, who cites Dolly Parton, Faith Hill
and Taylor Swift
as her country favorites, but adds that her sound will also be colored by her love of contemporary gospel and her pop background. "I already contacted all of the writers who appeared on the show and I'm going back to Nashville to do a writing session at the end of March to come up with material."
The L.A.-based artist says she's looking forward to spending even more time in the South: "People talk to each other there! People come up to you and say hello. It's totally different from L.A.!"
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