Candice Anitra hates how social constructs place people into boxes, including rigidly corrugated musical categories; in addition, she likens her musical existence to feeling like a stranger on earth. Embodying the subtle rapture of Joan Armatrading, the robust confidence of Meshell Ndegeocello, and the thespian gender inquisition of Cheryl Dunye, the left-of-soul singer-songwriter has learned that it’s much easier to buck convention than to live a futile existence of the square peg in a round hole. The Brooklyn-based and now Philadelphia native was reared in a musical family rooted in the sounds of the glorious church choir.
In our recent chat, Candice reveals more about life, lessons, her father’s influence on her singing at a young age and the meaning behind her upcoming sophomore album titled “Big Tree”…
BM: Candice, I applaud your musical talent and I thank you for taking time to speak with us today. What type of music did you like listening to growing up, and who were some of your musical influences?
CA: It is my pleasure. I’m honored to be included in your publication. My folks listened to all the Philly Sound acts so Gamble & Huff were represented on vinyl for sure. They were also into Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Sam Cooke etc. as well as more popular acts like Whitney & Prince — I soaked it all up. I’ve always been a writer so I was always drawn to the storytellers like Mr. Withers. I thoroughly admire the effortless sound of Nancy Wilson & Ella Fitzgerald. As a teen I was also into 90’s R&B and Pop & of course influenced by my songwriting father who always serenaded with his amazing melodies and voice. I saw Cassandra Wilson at the Blue Note in January — she’s another favorite — she was sharing her love of song with a grace that I hope I am able to emulate my whole life through.
BM: In your biography you mentioned that by the time you were interested in singing you sought musical guidance from your father and when he told you that you weren’t yet ready you battled with his comment. How did that moment in time affect you? What are your father’s thoughts on that moment today?
CA: For a long time I wasn’t able to call myself a singer because I couldn’t get that comment out of my head. Eventually I was able to cultivate my own songwriting style and once I was focused on my voice I became confident in my gifts & conquered my fears of not being good enough. My father & I have never spoken about this moment in our shared history, or how paralyzing it was for me artistically. Answering this question now though does make me wonder about his reflections on my development as an artist. At the time he sited my shower scream/singing as evidence that I wasn’t ready & perhaps he thought he was protecting me. Mining scars like these makes for great material & I wouldn’t change anything about my path to the microphone. Approaching music by way of acting at NYU was a great route for me and my sensitive nature, as it forced me to focus on telling the story of the song, and breaking every song down like a monologue.
BM: One of my favorite songs is We Are Love from your debut album “Bark then Bite.” The slightly rock edged music coupled with your soulful voice gives me a euphoric feeling, like everything’s going to be all right. What place do you connect to within yourself to evoke such feeling in your music?
CA: When I am writing I am performing emotional, spiritual, soul alchemy. I am transforming the vulnerabilities, the polarities, the gristly underbelly to get to the purest form of the melody and lyrics. I connect with an emotion and I tune in. Often I can not describe my writing as anything other than spiritual work but this tune in particular was inspired by the passage of Proposition 8 in California. I was so angry, so outraged that anyone might feel it’s their place to attack a fellow sentients right to love and be loved in return and I wanted to transform my anger into a positive love anthem. It is one of my favorite songs to perform.
speaking with my tongue,
This is where I live,
-art in life, life in art-
in my gut, in my nose, in my bones,
in here, inside…~Candice Anitra
BM: Now for a fun question….which artists are currently in your CD/mp3 rotation?
CA: Adele, Talib Kweli, Betty Davis, Joan Armatrading, KING, Ceelo, Raphael Saadiq, Janelle Monae. Also, some other artists who have been connected to Studio G: Coulon, Erica Glyn. And of course I always come back to Bill Withers, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, Cassandra Wilson, Nancy Wilson
BM: Your Too Much Woman video off the “Bark then Bite” album is hot! What’s the meaning behind the song?
CA: I wrote this song in response to commentary I have received first hand about being too emotional, too spicy, too blunt, too this or that. TMW is an anthem of sorts, which endorses the notion that no one else can define you, that only you can do that. After answering that question about my father, I also think this song might arch back even further to that moment in time when I felt stifled creatively.
BM: What is the main lesson that you would like people to learn through your music?
CA: I would love for people to hear themselves in the stories I tell, to feel as if I am honoring the full spectrum of what it means to be human. When we share our vulnerabilities from battles with depression, to abandonment issues, to what it means to be female or male (all themes in my music), we no longer feel alone, but as we should, like we are all in this together. Music is a unifying force, a weapon, an exercise in spirit. Most importantly I would like to lead by the example of following your passions and pouring your heart into what you love. I want my two young daughters to watch me navigate this sea & dance this dance. I want them to know that even when they are afraid to dream bigger, that they must, and as long as they aren’t hurting anyone they should above all be listening with intent to the call within their own spirits and let no one stand in the way.
BM: What can we expect from your sophomore album titled “Big Tree” and when will it drop? Do you have any other future projects/events you would like to share?
CA: Big Tree is some of my best work to date. This album erupted out of me & I can’t wait to share it. It is slightly darker than Bark then Bite but it stays true to my singer/songwriter mining the underbelly soul alchemical nature but largely this album is about the resilience of the human spirit. The title track was inspired by a tree that I spend quite a bit of time meditating, writing, & communing with through my bedroom window. Trees are such a wonderful metaphor for human beings — bending, swaying, shedding, being reborn every year — all of nature is such a reflection. I only wish that we spent more time absorbing these lessons rather than forcing our will on the planet, on the universe. We are not separate — we are connected, we are love, we affect one another, and our actions affect our environment. The moment we forget this, forget to reflect, we are lost. I am always writing, it is how I process, so there will of course be more & more music to share. Big Tree will drop in January 2011 so next up is: 1st single & video from Big Tree for “Love Sick”, a tune I wrote about our obsession with the male gaze. PLUS, I”ll be passing through Linden, NJ on 10.11.11 with my kickass band & I’ll get back to Sol Village at SOB’s on 10.19.11– so more live performances and more spreading the love is on the agenda.
By Editor-in-Chief Shawn Chavis
Interview Opportunity with Ms. Anitra Courtesy of Fiona Bloom of The Bloom Effect