SXSW Friday Interview
Sharon Jones now has a male counterpart at Daptone
Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band11pm, Cedar Street Courtyard
"It's alright to dream," assures the weary voice of soul man Charles Bradley. "What I got took a long time to find. I'm 62 years old, but I didn't give up on my dreams. I just feel that God heard my cry, and he put the right people in front of me."
For Bradley, whose hard-earned debut, No Time for Dreaming, was released in January, the right people were Daptone Records' Gabe Roth and Thomas Brenneck, the same crew that helped vault Sharon Jones from wedding singer to near-household name. Bradley first came to the label's attention impersonating James Brown in a Brooklyn nightclub under the name Black Velvet. The soul survivor saw James Brown at the Apollo Theatre as a teenager and has dreamed of being a singer ever since.
Brenneck – who splits time on guitar with the Dap-Kings, Budos Band, and Menahan Street Band – took a special interest in helping Bradley realize his dream, but as the autobiographical tunes of Dreaming suggest, the road's been rocky. Bradley spent much of his childhood living on the streets and as an adult trekked across the continent to make ends meet as a cook, handyman, shoe shiner, and factory worker.
"Everything you hear in those lyrics comes from hardships in life," he explains. "I've had more than my share."
Chronicling the murder of his brother, album closer "Heartaches and Pain" is particularly devastating. Bradley was unable to speak of the tragedy until Brenneck encouraged him to put his experiences to music. Songwriting has been cathartic for Bradley. Everything else has been a long time coming.
"Meeting people on tour and having them ask me to sign their album, the emotion that gives me, it's like the spirit is in my veins. The world has given me a chance to really come out and truly be me."