Keeping her young heart running free…
Candi Staton

For Rock And Rules, we speak to artists who’ve seen it, done it, bathed in it and pulled themselves out before they’ve shrivelled to nothing. They tell us some of what they’ve learned – lessons that younger artists would do well to follow. Previously, the series has featured Wayne Kramer, Hall & Oates, George Clinton, Blondie, Adam Ant and Ian Hunter – catch up with past entries here

This time, we’ve Alabama native Candi Staton, the singer behind 1976’s evergreen disco hit ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ and 1986’s ‘You Got The Love’, later remixed into a hit by The Source.

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Use Your Gift

“I was five when I first started singing in church. Eventually I started singing with a group called The Jewell Gospel Trio… then I stopped for a few years. I took it serious after my [first] marriage didn’t work out, and I had no other income. I had to do something. I started singing in a nightclub in Cleveland, Ohio. I had moved there to get away from my husband, who was very abusive. I had four children to support. I said, ‘The only thing I have is my voice, so I’m gonna try push myself in that direction,’ and that’s what I did.”

Think Outside The Box

“There are so many people out here really trying to get your job, your place, where you are; they’re trying to take over your spot. So it’s a fight to stay there. You gotta always think outside the box. You gotta think like no one else thinks. You’re always thinking, and you’re not lazy – lazy singers don’t make it.”

Find Your Own Voice

“Back in the day on the radio stations, nobody had to tell you that was James Brown. No one had to say, ‘That was Gladys Knight.’ No one had to say, ‘That’s Aretha.’ You just knew it. But now, you don’t know who’s who. They all sound alike to me. We all had our own styles. Now, you got kids coming up, they all want to sound like Beyoncé, Rihanna – you cannot tell them apart! That was just an absolute no-no in my day. When I first went to the studio I did Aretha Franklin’s song. The first thing the producer said to me was, ‘We already have an Aretha, Candi. We don’t need another one.’”

Draw From Your Life

“I’ve gone through all kinds of problems. My life has not been easy; it’s not a Cinderella storybook. I’ve been through hell with relationships, and that’s a part of my being, a part of my heart, and I write about that. I use that to help other people that may be going through the same thing that I went through. How I got through it will help them get through it.”

Learn To Connect

“It’s just a wonderment to me how a chord change will ignite in you like fire and you will just explode. That’s what brings out soul in people and a feeling that makes everybody like, ‘Whoo!’ Because it’s a heart-to heart thing; when you feel it in your heart and in your spirit and in your soul, then someone else is gonna feel it as well. If you’re just out there and generically sing a song, nobody’s gonna feel that. Maybe you can sing along with them, but it doesn’t change you.”

Stick To It

“Be like the stamp on a letter: stick to it ’til you get there. Just don’t let anything discourage you. You know what you want, know what you’re gonna do, and regardless of how many times people close doors in your face, sometimes you gotta kick ’em open. They’re not gonna open for you, so you’re there banging on it until it opens. Don’t give up. Keep moving towards your destination. Move towards your dream. Your dream is there, and if you push hard enough, you will have your dream, you will realise it.”

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Interview: Simon Harper

Candi Staton’s new album, ‘Life Happens’, is released on October 27th. More information at her official website

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