Soul singer Charles Bradley talks James Brown, passion, and having an open heart and an open mind

Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires play the Masquerade tonight (Sun., April 21)

When 64-year-old soul singer Charles Bradley feels moved, his ecstatic state can last well beyond the performance. Bradley spent years as a James Brown impersonator called Black Velvet, but recently ventured out on his own. His most recent album, Victim of Love (Dunham/Daptone), came out April 2, and the new film Charles Bradley: Soul of America documents his rocky life, including homelessness and family troubles. Impassioned, rapturous, and emotional, Bradley’s a 110 percent type of performer, best seen live.

I’ve seen you perform before, and you put on a pretty intense show. How do you keep up the energy for a show like that?
When you love what you’re doing, it shows on stage. I try to be open about it. I try to give people what they want, but I have to give myself what I need too. I gotta open my soul up and open my spirit up. I try to get myself to the proper state. Find something to move you.

You performed for years as a James Brown impersonator called Black Velvet before hooking up with the Daptone folks and launching your solo career. You met James Brown once. What was that like?
I met him - my mother used to hang out with him. I never knew that until later in life. It was a very important moment for me, meeting him. It wasn’t long, but it was important. There’s nobody like him in my life.