Young At Heart

24 March 2012 | 9:02 am | Dan Condon

More Candi Staton More Candi Staton

Candi Staton is not just a soul singer. She was after all a huge presence in the disco movement of the '70s as the voice of 1976 smash hit, Young Hearts Run Free. Years later the London nightclub scene was soundtracked by her You Got The Love, initially released alongside The Source and remixed by plenty over the years; more recently Florence + The Machine's version of the song was met with great praise, cracking the ARIA Top 10 in 2010. But it was as a soul singer that she began and how she has been honoured with last year's release of Evidence: The Complete Fame Records Masters, 48 tracks she recorded with the masterful Rick Hall in the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama between 1969 and 1974.

“I love it, forty-eight songs I did at Muscle Shoals,” the 72 year old Staton beams. “I'm doing four more! I'm in the studio with Rick Hall [who happens to be 80] right now. I'm going up next week to put my final vocal on it. Since we put everything out I thought we'd do some new stuff!”

"This is what I love; it's a part of me. I don't really know what I would do if I didn't have my music. I'd feel crippled.”

Fame Studios produced so many classic songs during that time and Staton confirms just how special it was to be a part of. “It taught me so much in the genre of soul music. Rick Hall is a taskmaster when it comes down to getting the best out of you. He is going to keep going and going, he's like the little bunny that never stops; the little battery bunny! He just keeps going until he gets what he wants. I'm going through that same thing right now with him. He pulls it out of you. You're gonna feel some emotion because he's not gonna stop until he gets a feeling and that's what the whole things is about – Muscle Shoals and Rick Hall – is a feeling. You're gonna feel something by the time he finishes with that record.

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“I think that's why it's lasted so many years, those songs, because he captures that feeling and every time you hear that song it's gonna draw something from you, you're gonna relate in some kind of way and I think that's why so many people love his music.”

At the time Staton didn't feel like she, or any other Fame artist for that matter, was making music that was going to live on for so long. “Not really, I was just trying to get out of the studio,” she laughs. “I hadn't thought anything about those songs for years; I was just so glad to be finished with those sessions. But now that I look back on it in retrospect I'm glad we did it that way, because I think that's the correct way that music is supposed be treated, you're supposed to treat it with respect and honour and that's what we do. It's just a feeling that we put in it; when I curl a note, when I do certain things with my voice and when I feel it in my spirit, in my stomach, I know you're gonna feel it too and I think that's why it has been around so long.”

Staton recalls singing The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow as a five year old girl – her first active musical performance – but insists music has been her everything for much longer than that.

“This is what I love; it's a part of me. I don't really know what I would do if I didn't have my music. I'd feel crippled. I've had it all my life; I've cherished it, I've gone to bed with it, I've woke up with it. When I was five-years-old I sung my first song, that's when the song came out, but I was singing in my mind. I always had a song. Even when I was born on earth I was born to sing. That's when the song came out and from that time on I've been singing.”

Prolific is one way you could describe Staton's output over the years. Freakish may be more appropriate. She has 28 studio records to her name, her most recent being 2009's Who's Hurting Now. An active release schedule is vital in Staton's eyes, so that people can keep up with the changes she goes through as a person and an artist.

“Each decade of a person's life there's another level that you get into, you climb,” she explains. “That level also carries feelings. Each year that I'm able to put out a new song, a new work, I think it's gonna reach somebody and it's gonna do what God has ordained it to do; that's what I live for. New ideas, I'm challenged by something new. I think it keeps me going, it keeps me interested, it keeps me energetic and it keeps me alive. Each time I put out something, I don't think it's gonna be a hit, but as long as I'm there, as long as I'm in the mix then I'm fine with it. And I'm gonna give my contribution as long as I'm able.”

Listening back to old works is a great reminder to Staton of the life she has lived, both the good and the bad parts. “Yes I can tell you exactly where I was, what I was doing, why I did it, what I felt when I recorded it – I have a story with every song. Young Hearts Run Free, at that time… that song is about my life. I was going through a very trying time in my life with a relationship and I was trying to get out of the relationship but he wouldn't let me get out of the relationship. He would threaten me, it was an abusive relationship. I'd say, 'I'm leaving' and he would say, 'No you're not.' And I would tell David Crawford, who was the writer and producer of that song, about my experiences. I would say, 'I'm so unhappy. I can't leave and I can't stay, man. I don't know what I'm gonna do.' All the time I'm saying this, he was writing – he actually wrote my words, I just didn't get the credit for it! So he actually wrote my life story while he was writing Young Hearts Run Free.”

Staton is a renowned Gospel singer but one who has injected less than traditional musical elements and styles into songs of worship. She admits this hasn't always been met positively.

“Oh they called me all kinds of names. They said I was the devil's music, that I had backslidden, I'd gone from the church and a lot of things. I had to be true to myself, I had to know who I am and know what they were saying about me wasn't true, so it didn't really bother me too much. I continue to do what I do. So long as I'm not condemned in my spirit I'm fine.”