Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Candi Staton: Unstoppable talent

Candi Staton PHOTO: Chaz Brooks
Candi Staton PHOTO: Chaz Brooks

Over the course of her 50-year career, 78-year-old legendary soul singer Candi Staton has experienced chart-topping success in every decade and across many different genres, ranging from hits such as R&B belter “I’m Just a Prisoner”, an exceptional version of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man” to disco’s much covered anthem “Young Hearts Run Free”, a sumptuous version of the Bee Gees’ classic “Nights on Broadway” and electronic dance music’s “Hallelujah Anyway” and all-time classic ,“You Got the Love”. Staton has garnered a host of awards/nominations, including four Grammy nods and has won over generations of fans along the way with her distinctive powerhouse vocal and timeless songs. Generations of artists, including current chart stars Florence & The Machine, Joss Stone (who have both covered “You Got the Love”), Jessie J, Mary J. Blige, Jason Isbell, Paloma Faith, Snoop Dogg and Pixie Lott, to name but few have all been influenced by Staton’s supreme talent.

Chaz Brooks was lucky enough to sit down with the southern soul diva after her recent sell-out show at London’s Omeara. With a hit-laden career earning her soul icon artist status and new album “Unstoppable” choc-full of relative social comment and gritty, uplifting artist resilience, delivered in unmistakable Staton style, there’s plenty to talk about…

CHAZ: Your recent show at London’s Omeara was fabulous. 

CANDI: Yeah, we were really on it that night. I felt it. It just got real.
CHAZ: Are some shows different to others? What makes the difference?

CANDI: Well you know, it’s what it is. We all have a spirit. I can pick up the audience’s spirit, I’m good at that, picking up the audience, what they’re feeling, what they need to hear, how they need to hear it, what I need to say between songs to reach out to them, to make them feel better, to bring them up.

I’m a positive person and I bring people up. I know what I’ve been through and I know there’s those out there that are going through what I’ve already been through, so I give them encouragement, they can still make it.
CHAZ: Your track “His Hands” is chilling. You’ve been through some bad times. 

CANDI: A man (Will Oldham) wrote that. He said he was watching me on Trinity Broadcasting telling my story and he wrote that song. He wrote it for me. He said “I heard your story and I felt what you had gone through so I wrote “His Hands”.
CHAZ: No one sings pain like you sing pain. But you also sing happy and your spirit takes you through.

CANDI: Life is full of hurts, pains, peace, love and happiness. It’s a whole mixture of all of that, all together. That’s life. That’s why I sing life songs. People can call them blues or whatever they want to call ‘em but I call them life songs. You experience life, and you’re gonna go through the pain. Deal with it. It’s not going to last long. You’re gonna go through the disappointments, those too shall pass… You gonna go through the joy and hopefully, it’ll last longer than the pain and erase all of the stuff that you have just gone through. That makes the whole person. Without pain, you can’t grow. It’s a litmus test to your strength. If we fail in the little things, how can we go through the big things?

God prepares us to go through other things that he knows is coming to us so if we go through those and come out victorious, the next thing won’t be as hard. You know how to deal with each step of life. As you go up the steps there is something there that you got to cross over. You can’t stumble and fall and you can’t give up and you can’t say “I’ve had it” and throw your hands up in the air and act like you don’t care. You just have to go through it knowing this too shall pass.
CHAZ: The lyrics on the track “Stand Up” from the new album are like that “If you do what you always do you get what you got…”. Who wrote that?

CANDI: My son and I. He wrote the music and I the lyrics.
CHAZ: This new album is fantastic. I was listening to it through my headphones on the train on the way here and the lady standing next to me said: “You must have really enjoyed that music”.

CANDI: (laughs) 
CHAZ: Which is your favourite track on the album?

CANDI: That’s hard. I like “People Have The Power”, “I Fooled You”. And “Love Is You”…that’s the thirteenth chapter of The Corinthians in the Bible, and Confidence of course.

I was doing the #MeToo movement long before there was one (laughs). They didn’t publicise my #MeToo, but every time I was stood up in front of an audience I was a #MeToo person. You’re not going to walk over me. And I love Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding”.

CHAZ: That’s probably the best version I’ve heard of that song. Elvis Costello’s done it, but you’ve got a better voice than Elvis Costello…

CANDI: (giggles) Well, thanks!

CHAZ: In the track “It Ain’t Over” you’ve got a false ending and then you come back in again...

CANDI:  Yeah, the James Brown kind of song! I love it.
CHAZ: How do we pronounce your name?

CANDI: Stayton

CHAZ: That’s what I thought.

CANDI: STAYton (laughs)

CHAZ: But everyone doesn’t pronounce it like that, right? Do you get introduced wrong on stage as well?

CANDI: Well, yeah. They’ve done it. But I just let ‘em have it. I know who I am. (giggles)
CHAZ: You’ve got two of your sons playing on your new album. How was that?

CANDI: We had to get there. We had sibling rivalry at first between my two sons. The eldest (Marcel) thought he should be in charge, but he doesn’t know the music like the younger one (Marcus) does, who has been involved in music all of his life. When Marcel was younger I took both of them on the road and there was no problem. It was when he got older that he didn’t want Marcus to tell him some things, you know…they were arguing, so I had to take him off the road. I said, “Look, Marcel, this is MY business and if you can’t listen to him, I’ve made him over you, then we’re just going to get another bass player”. After all these years, he’s finally settled down and now listening and he’s taking instructions. 
CHAZ: Who’s in charge of the music? You, or your son Marcus?

CANDI: He’ll be in charge.
CHAZ: There’s some great brass arrangements on the new record.

CANDI: Yeah, do you know who they are? They played on Prince’s records. That’s why we went to Nashville because Mark [Nevers, the producer] wanted to use the horns.
CHAZ: How well do you know the UK?

CANDI: I feel like I’m at home here. I’ve been here so many times, I know all the stores. I love Selfridges, and going there. We got a Primark now in America.

CHAZ: Where do you live in America now?

CANDI: I live in Madison, Georgia. It’s about forty minutes out of the city of Atlanta, going East. About 25 minutes from Athens, Georgia. I live in a little town where they do all the movies. Hollywood comes in. “In The Heat Of The Night” was done there, right round the corner, downtown. And Goosebumps. 
CHAZ: When you get spare time what do you do?

CANDI: I visit family. I hang out…my daughter and I. She’s grown up, we’re best friends. My grandkids come, we go out to the mall, we might go out and have dinner, we have lunch. At times I stay at home, I write, I’ve got a piano in my bedroom so when I come up with a song I just get on the piano and I play it. I put it on my phone and I put it down and my son Marcus and I will go in the studio… we’ll find a keyboard player and we’ll put it down. The track Confidence was demoed ten years ago. Obama was running for President and I wrote that based on his election.
CHAZ: A lot of people have covered your songs, obviously Florence & The Machine had a massive hit, now there’s Jason Isbell who’s just recorded one of your earlier tracks. What do you feel about people covering your songs?

CANDI: I love it. They do their version, and I feel so privileged that they would even think of covering my material. That they pick my songs, especially “Old Man’s Sweetheart”. There’s so many covers of that. Paloma Faith did “Old Man’s Sweetheart”.
CHAZ: When you recorded “In The Ghetto” Elvis wrote to you to say he loved your version. Do you still have the letter? 

CANDI: Uh oh, no. I moved so much, I’m like a military family and during some of the moving the paperwork just got lost… I wish I did. You know Elvis and I have a video of that? Go look for it on YouTube, say “Candi and Elvis”. Somebody put that together.

CHAZ: You’ve worked with a lot of people. Who are the nicest, the best people you’ve worked with?

CANDI: Oh my, I have worked with so many people. Deniece Williams, I love her. Freda Payne is one of my best friends. The late Tyrone Davis was one of my favourites, I covered his song “Can I Change My Mind” (on the new album). I worked with Bobby Womack, he was great, so funny, he was like a comedian, he’d keep you laughing.
CHAZ: If you could choose someone to work with that you haven’t worked with already who would it be? 

CANDI: Ooooh, it’s crazy but I’d like to work with Snoop (Dogg). He said his mother loved “Young Hearts Run Free” - he talked about me for about thirty minutes on air and played my record. 
CHAZ: Well, if we write about it, maybe it will happen?

CANDI: Yeah, maybe…I’d love to meet Snoop. I think he’s lovely. You know, he’s had a #1 gospel record.
CHAZ: Can you tell me something about the album that nobody knows?

CANDI: “Unstoppable”. Hmmm. We did three songs that were turned down for this album when it got to the powers that be at the record label. “Time To Breathe”, we love that song. It’s going to come out. It’s already done and finished and a couple more that we did that didn’t make the album. A couple of #MeToo woman type songs didn’t make the album. 
CHAZ: What are your plans for the future?

CANDI: You know what, that’s the $64,000 question. Sometimes when you are doing all of this (promotional) work it gets tiring. Every time you make a record you’re gonna have to promote it and I’m thinking, Can I keep doing this?

I’m just going to take it one day at a time and I don’t know what the future holds in store.

CHAZ: Hopefully there will be another album soon as “Unstoppable” is so good. 

CANDI: Yes, I’m so thankful to (my distributer) Thirty Tigers. I really am.


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