Candace Deekah Wyatt
It’s not a typical Saturday at the Starbucks on Woodward and Mack. Folks are doing more than drinking coffee and tapping at laptops. All attention is turned to an electric presence with a guitar. “Old Pirates, yes they rob I. Sold I to the merchant ships. Minutes after they took I from the bottomless pit.” Her voice reverberates off the walls. Her version of Robert Nesta Marley’s “Redemption Song” cuts to the bone.
It’s a fundraiser for urban students to travel abroad. With her blond dreadlocks, African sensibility and Polynesian features, Wyatt is a walking billboard for global harmony. She fills the room.
That was about four months ago. And since then, Candace Deekah Wyatt has made more and more of a name for herself in Detroit’s art scene. Is it her big personality? Her easy laugh? Or just the pure joy she brings to each performance?
We’re not sure but the Examiner.com sat down for a virtual chat with the musician, wife, mother, and student to figure it out.
When did you start playing music and why?
As far back as I can remember I was a creative kid, my parents always nurtured my free spirit. I picked up a guitar for the first time when I was 12. My mother got my first acoustic guitar for me as a Christmas present. I’m not sure how long she stayed clean in order to save up the $200 it took to buy it; but it was the best $200 she ever spent on me. I went for about a month picking around on it before my dad was convinced I needed lessons.
Are you from a musical family?
Yes and No... My mother’s side of the family is of native Hawaiian decent. My great great grandfather Henry Ka’ilimai played ukulele and lead a band on Maui. He wrote “The Beaches of Waikiki.” When Henry Ford came to the islands he offered to pay him and his band handsomely for him to perform at functions here in Detroit and around the mainland. Ford also built him a recording studio with everything he would need to produce music.
As for my parents, my mother played flute when she was a teenager, but not much past that. I believe she bought a flute a few years back, but I’m not sure. And my dad is the best Steering Wheel Drummer I know!
Your bio is very candid about your mom’s crack cocaine addiction. Can you tell us more?
During the period right before I went to live with my father, just before my 13th birthday I was being taken care of by various aunts and grandparents while my mother would go unheard from for months sometimes. I was thankful for my family, but as a kid, I couldn’t help but pick up on the weird way the grown-ups would react when I talked about moving back with my mom. They gave me the “poo-thang-just-don’t-know” head shake and tried to hold back tears as they told me over and over again how sick she was, and how she was the only one who could help herself get better.
In the midst of all this I had a couple of grandparents -- one from both parents-- that were great at saving me just before the water got too deep. The time I got to spend with my “Gaga” -- my dad’s dad-- was filled with lots of classic jazz and big bands like Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis, and Frank Sinatra. I loved being with my “Gaga.”
My grandfather had a trailer in a small fishing village about an 11/2 outside of Windsor. There I met the three boys who would introduce me to hard rock and change the way I looked at the world forever. They showed me that music was more than the same beats and harmonies I was used to hearing in the black community. There were more sounds to make with a guitar than the ones you hear in church. My friends introduced me to Metallica, Aerosmith, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the list goes on and on... Those bands spoke to all the pre-teen angst I’d built up over the years for my mother. Songs like “Daughter” by Pearl Jam soothed those feelings of abandonment, frustration, and anger…”Don’t call me daughter, not fair to be/ The picture kept will remind me.”
Whose music influences you now?
The Red Hot Chili Peppers... I love those guys! And the lead singer, Anthony Kiedis is from Michigan. I’ve loved them since before I was old enough to know what they were talking about. Led Zeppelin cannot go without a mention when it comes to my musical influences. Jimmy Page makes sounds come out of his guitar that are otherworldly. The man played an entire song with a violin bow! “The Rain Song” makes my soul sing. “Since I Been Loving You” has been sung in my bathroom over a million times, and “Custard Pie” is about as good as it gets.
Jimi Hendrix… Need I say more? He played left handed on a right handed guitar -- strung backwards. So not only was he a genius, he was a genius playing a guitar backwards!
What do you have coming up?
I’m currently working on my first EP called “Deekah Wyatt Is...” due out sometime before the spring. It will be just a sample of what’s to come, just three songs, but I’ll be giving them away for free at any venue I play and they’ll be available to stream and download on my website.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I would also like the readers to know that without support from the community the arts cannot flourish and in times like these creativity and innovation need the love we all have to give. So visit a new venue, try a new restaurant, and shop at a different boutique! Peace & Blessings!
So, is it the personality, the laugh or the joy that makes her so appealing? We’re still not sure. Maybe, it’s her unique combination of all three. Or maybe, we love the great story of a life redeemed by music. Whatever it is, we are sure her redemption songs will be around to feed our souls for years to come.
Candace Deekah Wyatt is currently playing at venues all over Detroit. She can be seen every Wednesday in the Sweet Escapes Poetry Series at Sweet Epiphany.