Prior to being discovered by Gabe Roth of Daptone Records, who released his superb 2011 debut, No Time for Dreaming, Charles Bradley spent a good chunk of his time impersonating James Brown in Brooklyn clubs. Bradley delved into some fairly dark themes on Dreaming, including heartbreak and the death of his brother, but the followup, this year's Victim of Love, is all about coming out of that darkness. We recently caught up with Bradley and spoke with him about the new album and one of his first gigs as a solo artist, at South by Southwest.
Westword: On Victim of Love, there are quite a few songs about love.
Charles Bradley: People have actually said to me that I am the victim of love. That's why that song is [called] "Victim of Love." If you can go through all the changes and trials and tribulations that I've been through, sometimes you don't want to be on this planet. You're hurting so deeply inside, and you don't know how to get out of the pain of the feeling. You just have to sit there and calm down and just think it out spiritually and pray and try to get the hurting things out of you.
Charles Bradley, 9 p.m. Saturday, August 17, Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, $20/$25, SOLD OUT, 303-291-1007; with Colin Meloy, John Prine and more, 5 p.m. Sunday, August 18, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, Planet Bluegrass, Lyons, $55, bluegrass.com.
And you go through that, sometimes year after year, and it comes and goes, and it comes and goes. Sometimes you get so frustrated inside it's like exploding. Through my faith, I just find me something that I know that there is a creator someplace. All I'm saying is there is a church...and I know that beyond all that, there is a creator, and that's why I keep my honesty and my love.
You've talked about how Victim of Love is about coming out of the darkness into the light.
Yes. I always treat everybody — I don't care where it's at — I always treat everybody the way I want to be treated. Sometimes people will look at me and think I'm a weak person. I'm not weak; it's just that I try to show nothing but kind love, and a lot of people try to use it against me. But I just keep on being me. My mother is always worrying about me, but I'm me.
Tell me about that infamous South by Southwest gig in 2011.
It was crazy. There were so many people there. That was the place where I got so deeply into it. I went down to the floor, and I was dancing on one of those old wooden floors there. And I did a split or something like that, and a piece of splinter went right into my knee. I didn't know I was bleeding, I was so into it.
Then Tom Brenneck — he was right next to me and plays the guitar — he kept calling me, but I was so into it. He said, "Charles, you're bleeding." And I had on a white suit that day. I looked down and I felt a liquid going down my leg, but I thought it was sweat. Then I looked down and my pants were all kind of reddish. I said, "Oh, my God." Then Tom said, "Should we stop?" I said, "Tom, come on, man. I'm in the spirit — to heck with it. Who cares when I finish?"
And I got back up, and the people went crazy. I went to the side of the stage, and they put some peroxide on me and they stopped the bleeding, and then they put a bandage over it. I wanted to go back out. I love music. When I get into it, I'm in a zone that only the heavenly father can stop me. When I'm giving, I give from the heart.
That's why I always need people to be honest with me, and in my business world, too, because when I get on that stage, I'm going to give them the depths of my soul. I'm going to give them a show. I want to give them a show where they say, "Oh, you got to see Charles Bradley — you got to go see that guy. That guy just gives it all." I always want to be that person. When you love what you're doing, you give it all.
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