Mavis Staples boasts about Bluesfest

Mavis Staples is all set for Bluesfest.
Mavis Staples is all set for Bluesfest. Contributed

IT'S hard to believe Mavis Staples won her first Grammy award last year.

Staples started her career with her family gospel group The Staple Singers more than 60 years ago.

Even if you're less than half that age it would be hard not to know their hit I'll Take You There.

Throughout her career she has worked with everyone from Curtis Mayfield to Ray Charles and even inspired Michael Jackson.

When she picked up the Grammy last year for best Americana album, for You Are Not Alone, she says it was a long time coming herself.

"That was amazing," she says. "The feeling was unbelievable.

"I couldn't stop crying. I had prepared a speech in case, but it took me a while to get it out.''

Staples goes on to say she's been singing for so many years and she'd been nominated so many times, that to win was the best feeling.

She even speaks of the surprise of not winning on another occasion.

"I'll Take You There was the biggest record for that year, so when they announced it - Gladys Knight and The Pips - my sisters and I were so upset," she says.

Her father, Pops as she calls him, talked them out of feeling sorry for themselves though.

"He said 'Now, I don't want you holding your heads down, that is just a material thing, you're singing to get your just reward'. Ever since then I never did care.

"When I was nominated for this one though I had to talk to Pops and say that I was sorry but I wanna go on and win it."

The Staple Singers were nominated 12 times and Staples was nominated twice before finally getting her just reward, as she put it.

She has since been given a Grammy lifetime achievement award, listed in Rolling Stone's 100 greatest singers of all time and picked up a Living Blues Award for most outstanding blues singer.

And for all her achievements, all the people she's worked with, Staples is the first to admit she doesn't actually know music.

When she sang the national anthem in Boston, she says she had to call her Pops to find out what key she'd be singing in.

"I just started hitting different notes on the phone to Pops, he said, 'OK, you go back and tell them you're singing in the key of A'."

Staples will be in Australia next year for Bluesfest.

When they first started getting invites to blues festivals, Staples says she was a little confused.

"I asked Pops, 'why are these people calling from blues festivals?' he said 'Mavis you go back and listen to our music. We have bits of all music in there'."

Her father had taught himself how to play music by listening to the blues.

"Gospel and blues are cousins," she says.

"They do the same thing - all music makes you feel good.

"We used to ask the media 'don't categorise us, we're just God's children playing music'."

And when she plays Bluesfest she'll be following the same rules.

Mavis Staples plays Bluesfest, March 28 - April 1. For the full line-up and ticketing head to the website.

Topics:  bluesfest 2013

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