Interviews Music

What Matters to Me with… Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples

STAYING TRUE “My family and I never tried to be what other people were. We always just tried to be The Staples Singers. We never tried to be disco. Never tried to be anything but what we are. I think that’s what made us. Our sound was so unique. It comes from my father, Pops Staples, singing with his family down in Mississippi. And these are the voices that he gave my sisters and I to sing.”

STAYING HUMBLE “I’ve never believed in ‘star’. My sisters and I, we’ve always kept ourselves humble. It’s the best way to live. I don’t care how high you go up, you’ve got to come down. So I prefer to stay at one level and be happy. Today I’m always happy. Nothing can bring me down. I am everyday people. There are no big I’s and little you’s. Everybody’s the same. I’m no better than anybody else. I’m just a singer that God is using. He gifted me with my voice. I didn’t just reach up and order my voice. It’s my God-given gift. So I use it the way I know he would want me to use it.”

SPREADING GOOD VIBES “I love when you’re singing a song and you have beautiful lyrics, like in “You’re Not Alone”. That’s a story telling people they’re not alone. So you want to make it plain. You want to make them believe that and feel good about it. I’m not going to sing a song and be dishonest. It’s the way I was brought up. And I was brought up in a positive way. So when I sing a song, I’m living that.”

STICKING WITH OLD FAVOURITES “I’m 75 years old now, so I can’t help but be old-fashioned. I like the old-time music, I like rocking chairs and I like to knit. You don’t see any young people today sewing with a needle and thread. Those kind of things I really like. But it’s really not ‘old-fashioned’. Whatever you’re doing is today. If I’m knitting, that’s me knitting. That’s today.”

LIVING WITH LOVE “I love my neighbour. I love my enemies. If you go around hating, you’re making yourself look ugly. You’re bringing yourself down inside. Stay beautiful inside and you’ll be beautiful on the outside. And can’t anything harm you. You don’t have to fight. You don’t have to fuss. You can make your enemy your footstool with kindness. You can bring them down. If you think about it, that was Dr King. That was his way. He was non-violent. He always kept a calm face. People would throw stones at him. Spit at him. All kinds of things. But you would never see a frown on his face. He was always calm and beautiful. That’s the way I live. And I live the life I sing about.”

This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 65 (May/June 2015).

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