Mic Check: Candi Staton mixing musical activism with family time

Soul singer Candi Staton of "Young Hearts Run Free" fame lives in Georgia.



Soul singer Candi Staton of "Young Hearts Run Free" fame lives in Georgia.

Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our feature, Mic Check.

From the gospel circuit of the 1950s and the disco charts in the 1970s (“Young Hearts Run Free”) to the sprawling festival stages of Europe that she still regularly graces, Candi Staton’s career has weaved through genres and demographics with unusual ease.

Staton, a four-time Grammy Award nominee in R&B and gospel categories, is using her current downtime to not only spend time with her family (including 20 grandchildren) but support her musical activism. She recently reissued “I Wonna Holla” from her 2016 “It’s Time to Be Free” album, as well as a couple of new songs, including the prescient “Just Breathe.”

The singer has lived in Madison for a decade and noted that country living was always an appreciated contrast to her normal life of playing major festivals in Europe for tens of thousands of people. “It was a breath of fresh air when you could come home and have the quiet,” she said.

Here are her recent reflections about the current state of her world.

Q: How have you been spending time these past few months?

A: Basically isolated. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family and a lot of time at home. I have a pool, so that’s good for this time of year. I let the grandkids come over, and they swim. We cook out a lot. We sit around and reminisce and talk. I’ve been doing some songwriting. We were supposed to be on the Love Fest (festival) in the U.K. this summer, so I did something for them (virtually) because it’s been postponed until next year. Hopefully this coronavirus will be gone by then, and I can resume what I’ve been doing all along, which I love to do. I pray, and I play the piano, and I sing. I do things on the internet and try to stay in touch with the people. It’s been a little boring, of course. I want to go places and do things. I want to go to the mall, but I just don’t want to take that risk.

Q: You recently dealt with cancer, too?

A: On July 28, 2018, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, I do a shake every morning with all of my vitamins. I wear my mask in public. I’ve been feeling good, and I have a lot of energy. I don’t try to overwork myself. At the time of the diagnosis, I had just put out the “Unstoppable” record, and I couldn’t promote it. But it fits where we are now. It’s an encouraging type of record. It’s not a Christian record, but it has indications on a positive outlook on life. The song “Revolution” fits with everything we’re going through now. We had some songs that didn’t fit on that record, and God saved those songs for this time.

Q: Tell me about them.

A: I had a song, “Just Breathe,” which we’ve just released (with hip-hop singer/actress Yo-Yo). The police with the knee on the neck, all of those chokeholds, the coronavirus clotting up people’s lungs, and they can’t breathe. I didn’t write it for those things, but it fits. God always knows the script. “Where Do We Go From Here” is the next song. I was so tired of alternative facts. It didn’t matter if the truth came out; everything was still considered a hoax. Truth was nowhere to be found. I was so angry because I’m a truth person. Tell me the truth. I was sick and tired of that, and I said I’m gonna sing a song about it. We got in there, and I wrote that song with my kids and said, ‘Are we gonna continue to listen to lies?'

Q: What kind of music have you been listening to?

A: I listen to the TV channel LoveWorld (USA), a Christian channel from Africa. I watch Pastor Chris (Oyakhilome); he’s a healer and minister from South Africa. I would watch him every day and pray with him every day and get so much encouragement from watching him. There were times I really felt like giving up. I also get on YouTube, and I pull down mostly gospel things. I want nothing negative! I listen to anything that is going to lift my spirits up.

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