Charles Bradley tells us how he turned heartache, pain into his dream

Charles-BradleyPhotos by Pete Mauch // Written by Molly Kish //

Showbams spoke with funk/soul/R&B singer Charles Bradley after his set at Outside Lands.

Showbams: Coming off of an amazing performance here this morning, how was it for you to play the main stage of Outside Lands?

Bradley: It’s beautiful. I thank everyone for the opportunity of giving me a chance to get out and show the love I’ve got to give.

Showbams: I know you have a special pre-music career connection to the Bay Area, in reference to your professional background as a chef for nearly 20 years.


Bradley: Right, I was cooking for 1,000 people down in Menlo Park in the San Francisco area, and then when I moved to upstate New York, I was cooking for 3,500 people a day. When the job called, I took up cooking. Starting off as the assistant cook, and I just kept going and going. I was really just trying to prove to the world, to just give me a chance and that I really wanted to do it.

Showbams: Also, when you went back to New York that first time, during the “Black Velvet” phase, you were a handyman as well. You’re quite the jack of all trades.


Bradley: You know what I learned from being a carpenter? You know, Jesus was a carpenter, and he said to build your cross and follow me. That’s why I liked being a carpenter. When things were going wrong and I was saying that I can’t make no money in an honest way, I always remember what Jesus said.

Showbams: It was during this time that you made contacts at Daptone Records, got acquainted with The Sugarmen Three and had your fateful run-in with Thomas Brennick and The Bullets, which served as a very pivotal moment in your career. Was it all by chance that you were able to land these meetings, or was it a calculated professional move?

Bradley: I think that Tom made a lot of things happen for me because he knew I was a mourning sensation at that point. I was going through hardships in my heart because I had just lost my brother, and Tommy invited me over to his apartment in Brooklyn where we just started talking. I thought I would tell him about my pain in losing my brother, and he told me that I should put it in front of music. I told him, you’ve gotta be crazy, and that I don’t know how to sing in front of music.


We talked and we talked, then he came to visit me. I thought I would play him the keyboard, and he liked what I was doing. He had a little cassette with him and he started taping it. Then things led to another and another. Before I knew it, he had the band behind it and everything sort of fit into place. One day he called me when it was completed, and he said, “Charles, I want you to hear what you did.” When I heard it, I broke down and couldn’t listen. I had to run out of there! Then, they gave me a tape to play for my mom, and she broke down crying. I knew it was for real then.

Right then is when things started changing for me, because Tom kept bringing me back and bringing me back to do more. He said, “I want you to sing what you feel inside.” After that, things kept leading to one another, and here I am today.


Showbams: You’re currently on tour promoting the new album, playing to sold-out venues and festivals and touching the lives of crowds worldwide. Is there anything in particular that you would like to say to your audience and fans alike?

Bradley: To everyone listening out there … young, old, whatever you are. It’s never too late for your dream. If you believe in the right way, and are honest in heart, go after your dream without a doubt. There is a messenger who gives control, to make it go through all of your hardships and pain. Keep going!


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