SXSW INTERVIEW: Mavis Staples
Austin Convention Center, Friday, March 18"Will the Circle Be Unbroken," "I'll Take You There," "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)," and "Respect Yourself" are a few of the reasons why the Staple Singers are Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. As Mavis Staples' new Have a Little Faith (Alligator) and a riveting performance with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West (Mavis: "His music makes your skin move on your bones") and the Blind Boys of Alabama at this year's Grammys prove, Lady Staples has still got it going on. In a warm conversation with Rita Houston, music director of Manhattan's WFUV, Sister Mavis shared stories with eager folks in the Convention Center's conference room about her father, Pops, learning guitar from seminal blues musician Charlie Patton, and how her new album features tracks recorded by her father before his 2000 passing. Other highlights included the time Staples was offered Southern Comfort from Janis Joplin's rabbit-fur purse, how Pops used his wife's sweet potato pie as radio payola (pie-ola?), when the Band's Levon Helm asked Pops if he'd like some reefer, and her response to people who say the Staples' blues-based gospel courts the devil: "The devil ain't got no music. All music is God's music." Mavis presented her experience with the graciousness of a blessed soul, which she clearly is. Responding to what constitutes a diva: "If you don't get out among the people, how are you going to know what they need to hear about?"