Songwriter Interviews

Candice Night

by Carl Wiser

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By the time Candice married Ritchie Blackmore in 2008, the couple had seven albums under their medieval belts with Blackmore's Night, the foremost band in modern renaissance music. Blackmore, the man who gave us the most famous riff in rock ("Smoke On The Water"), hasn't returned to Deep Purple since his departure in 1993 - not even when they finally made the Hall of Fame in 2016. He clearly has more interesting things to do, and all of them involve Candice.

The couple have two children, daughter Autumn and son Rory (5 and 3 years old as of this writing), who inspired a new album by Candice called Starlight Starbright, with guitar accompaniment by her husband.

Candice has an etherial voice that with Blackmore's Night comes off as enlivening; on Starlight Starbright, which she crafted for children, it's pure comfort. The songs include an updated version of "Rock A Bye Baby" where the cradle doesn't fall, and a new take on a Blackmore's Night song called "Once In A Garden."
Carl Wiser (Songfacts): You wrote "Once In A Garden" before you had children, but it seems to have new meaning now. Please tell us about that song.

Candice Night: I think before I had children it was the acknowledgement of that very private part of me that still celebrates the little girl inside. By that, I mean, I always thought it was so important to see through the eyes of a child and I always tried to keep that inner part of me very much alive. It helps you to appreciate the simplest things in life, but in that simplicity is such complexity and magic: the colors of a sunset, the perfumed air of spring, a shooting star, the wind through your hair, a snow fall.

There are so many magical mysteries around us daily yet we are so caught up by survival mode that we have tuned them out and often don't see them. We are programed not to look up and see the sky and therefore there is no appreciation of the natural miracles and beauty that is right in front of us every day. It's because of these things that I am able to write my stories, my lyrics. I am constantly amazed by nature and so inspired daily by simply noticing and getting swept away by nature's magic. I think you have to stay in tune with your inner child to be able to see with innocence and amazement.

Ultimately that song was about tuning into that child, the one who you were once, who still lives inside you but perhaps is sleeping, and awakening the child to allow us to see things as we did - long ago before we forgot how or became who we are now and somehow lost that part of ourselves.

I had some children in Germany where we filmed be a part of the video as well as my own children as they encapsulate that perfect innocence and the perfect example - there was no language barrier. They all played so well together: no boundaries, no limitations. Just perfect harmony of childhood. It was a beautiful moment to experience captured on video. The perfect visual to the audio.

Songfacts: You've made "Rock A Bye Baby" far more comforting, replacing the terrifying part where the cradle crashes to the ground. Please tell us about how you did this, and if like me, you find many traditional children's songs horrifying.

Candice Night: Not only songs, but rhymes, fairy tales, movies, it's horrifying! If I were being rocked to sleep the last thing I would want to hear is about a child in a cradle falling out! "And down will come baby, cradle and all..." Who on Earth thought of those words and why were they used for so many years as if it's OK? I am baffled by it all.
"Rock A Bye Baby"

Traditional lyric:
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all


Candice version:
When that wind blows, there's nothing to fear
'Cause mommy and daddy will always be here
If you are a parent or caregiver you have absolutely every right - more than that, it should be your duty really - to do whatever you can do to comfort your child and let them know everything is all right. Even if it isn't... We all shoulder burdens and hide truths from our children so that they can retain their innocence. And the most vulnerable time for a child is right before bedtime. Why would anyone want to scare them at that moment?

I don't understand it. Yes, it was necessary to change the words to that song. It's traditional so there isn't any reason why you can't and I have had so many parents come up to me thanking me for doing that. It just seemed like a normal thing for me as I change words to songs to make them for the situations we are in all the time. My children don't even know there are alternate lyrics to that song. They sing, "Mommy and daddy will always be here," and it just warms my heart to hear their little voices sing those words. It might not be true forever, but it's true for them and we live right now in the moment. It's the most important thing for them to feel safe and comfortable in their lives, in their beds, in their family.

Songfacts: When did you start writing songs, and how has that process changed for you over the years?

Candice Night: I used to be a closet poet, and by that I mean I wrote poetry for myself, not to share, just in journals, and I had been doing that since high school. It was my outlet. I could get all my feelings out in writing, in a book, and the book would never tell secrets, never judge me. It was my safe place.

In college I had some musician friends and a few asked me if I had any poems I could contribute so they could make them into songs. I did it a couple of times. Then when I met my husband, Ritchie, he had me sing backup halfway through the Deep Purple tour - over his solo on "Difficult to Cure." [1993 - this was Blackmore's last tour with Deep Purple.] I hadn't sung for a band prior to that. After that tour he reformed his band Rainbow and they were really unhappy with the lyrics the singer was coming up with. Ritchie knew I had journals of poetry and that I was always off scribbling somewhere. So he told me he was going to fly in a professional lyric writer, but before he did he wanted me to try writing lyrics to one of the backing tracks. I got on the ferry to visit them and with the one-hour-and-15-minute ride I had written 14 verses.

When I got to the studio in Massachusetts I handed him my notebook. He brought it to the producer and they circled four verses and two halves of another to make the chorus. That song became "Wolf to The Moon." I went on to write lyrics for three more songs on that CD, Stranger In Us All [1995].

While the other band members were recording their backing tracks, Ritchie and I would sit by the fireplace watching the snow fall and he would play acoustic guitar to pass the time. We started writing songs as an escape from the stress of the rock and roll world. Those songs became our first Blackmore's Night CD Shadow of the Moon. After a while, I had so many lyrics in my books, I would go to him and say, "I need more music! I have so many words here..." One day, he told me: "Just go write it yourself!"

I never thought of music writing as an option. Simply didn't think I could do it - I was so used to him providing that side of the song. So I sat at the piano and wrote "Black Roses." Then "Alone With Fate" [These tracks appear on Candice's first solo album, Reflections]. It was a very different process - the music and words all come out at one time, sort of like channeling whereas with Blackmore's Night the music always came first and then I would write the words to the visuals painted in my head from the melody.

Songfacts: What do you do differently when writing and recording songs for the ears of a child?

Candice Night: It's just a totally different mindset. You just have to immerse yourself in a beautiful place, no distractions or stress. Keep everything soft and sweet and dreamy. The instruments chosen, the words, the interpretations, the sounds all need to put you in that innocent world. It's very peaceful and calming. Almost meditative but the words must be very soothing to transport the child to the world of dreams and serenity.

Songfacts: Your daughter Autumn might be the youngest person ever to earn a songwriting credit. Please tell us about "Lullaby In The Night."

Candice Night: I know, I am so proud of her. But as I tell her, I am proud of her daily, for just being. She was 1-and-a-half when I walked into her room and found her sitting in a big rocking chair, holding her dolly and rocking her to sleep. She was singing her a song that she had made up. It was just one of those incredible moments. I ran and got my camera and videotaped her around the side of the door so she couldn't see me, but I was so touched by that moment that I later revisited the video and learned the song she was singing.

It was just total improv, and she never sang it after that, but I remembered it. When our producer came out to record Blackmore's Night tracks I told him we had to do this song, so we fleshed out the instrumentation and made it what you hear today, "Lullaby In The Night." My daughter is in the video. She was 4 when we filmed it.

Songfacts: Which Blackmore's Night song is the most meaningful to you, and why?

Candice Night: I guess it depends on my mood of the moment. I really love the story songs that we have created. I love "Hanging Tree." I wrote that about an old, gnarled, dead tree that was around the corner from my home. Its branches were blackened with time. I had seen so many people stop and take photos of it. It was like artwork, nature creating an amazing sculpture. I made up this story about what it would've been like if it was used as a hanging tree hundreds of years ago and how it would've felt. It's basically the story from the tree's perspective.I'm so proud of how that one came out, and I wrote it in about five minutes. That's how you know it's right: when it all just flows. Like the stars aligned and sent you a creative spark.

Ironically, I was driving past the tree with my father a couple of years after I wrote the song, and he couldn't see the beauty in the tree. I understand that some people just can't, and that's fine - we all have our own perspective. But when I tried to talk to him about it, he said aloud, "That it the ugliest tree I ever saw!" As we drove past and he said those words, his car battery died. The car rolled to a halt right in front of the tree. We had to walk to the nearest phone which was quite a ways. He never insulted the tree again.

I also really love "Windmills" about Don Quixote; "The Circle" about the past and the fate of humankind; and "Believe In Me."

Songfacts: What do you do to encourage your kids to write stories and songs? Would love to get your thoughts on how you deal with the modern world of screens and overstimulation.

Candice Night: We absolutely live a musical. We just break into songs about anything - we make up words and music on the spot all day long. We wake up by me singing them awake and at night I sing them to sleep. I always wanted them to hear my voice first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It's comforting to them, so that's our daily routine.

But, literally, we could break into songs for mundane topics like what they want to eat for dinner or brushing their teeth. It's hilarious. It's like a Broadway play sometimes. Tonight I went to get ices and my daughter came with me. She sang the whole way at the top of her voice making songs up about everything she saw, everything she felt - it was amazing. We didn't even talk, she just sang for the whole trip.

It is tricky to find a balance in this world. Everyone is staring at a screen. I'm fine with them having some down time and relaxing and playing games I have approved or watch shows I know are all right, but we spend more time outside or doing things together or going on adventures. They have an allotted amount of time but beyond that, it's all play time. And when we play, we interact. We discover. We all wear rain boots and splash in puddles. We get wet, we get dirty. We pick up worms and follow ants. We swing in the tire swing and pretend it's a spaceship. We dance in the kitchen. There is too much possibility in each moment to just rely on propping them in front of a screen.

I'm lucky: I work from home and I have a very non-traditional job. It allows me to have the time to spend with my children. And I'm probably as big of a kid as they are. I enjoy every moment of our experiences together, and they enjoy that I enjoy it. My daughter wrote the stories included in the booklet of Starlight Starbright - she comes up with story ideas all the time and then just runs with them, usually while we're lying on blankets looking at the pictures in the clouds or just talking under the stars. Each step is an amazing journey. They grow up too fast - time goes too fast. I am trying my best not to miss a thing.

Songfacts: What inspired the lyric to your Blackmore's Night track "Cartouche"?

Candice Night: Cartouche is the name of a 16th-century kitchen restaurant in Prague, Czech Republic that we love and visit each time we go to Prague. It's hidden in caves with melted candles illuminating the walls. Very dark and mysterious, so I wanted the song to have that same dark, mysterious feel to it.

It's sort of a lyrical Salvador Dali painting. We incorporate the shawm in that song as well as a nod to the instruments used back in the 1500s.

Prague is where Blackmore's rock group Rainbow will begin a tour on July 1. Candice will be with the group as a backing vocalist.
Songfacts: You'll soon be 20 feet from stardom on the Rainbow tour. What is that job like?

Candice Night: Good question! I haven't sung backup vocals in a very long time. Blackmore's Night has been together nearly 20 years! So, this will be interesting. But I am so excited about the band, the shows, the setlist and so happy for the fans that it is happening. I was a huge Rainbow fan before I even met Ritchie so to be able to be part of it at all is amazing. I am just excited to be a part of the journey no matter what role it is.

Songfacts: Please tell us about writing the lyric to "Shadow Of The Moon."

Candice Night: That was probably the first song we ever wrote. The moon is such an important force in our lives - so many of our songs are inspired by it or based on it. She illuminates our darkest nights, lighting our way through the blackness. A constant guiding force. She is silent, yet strong enough to affect the tides of our planet, and certainly strong enough to affect us. She is romantic, yet cold. But still comforting as she is always watching over us. Always constant, but her face is ever changing.

The song is really about the gypsy girl, the wild side of us - there always is one hidden inside longing to be free - dancing through the woods at night. She dances for herself, not for others. She sets her spirit free by the light of the moon. There always seems to be a balance between freedom and reflective melancholy in my lyrics. It's the dichotomy that exists in us all I suppose.

Songfacts: You've developed many musical talents. What comes easy for you and what do you find difficult?

Candice Night: I absolutely love the craft of lyric writing. I really see it as this cathartic experience where I can bare my soul but still mask the depth and meaning in words so that I feel cleansed yet others see themselves reflected in the lyric. It's a fascinating craft.

But I can't force creativity, so the most difficult thing for me is when Ritchie writes something spur-of-the-moment and wants to go in and record it that instant before I have had a chance to absorb the song and lose myself in it. Then I feel the writing is under pressure and it never feels right when I write like that. So I try to stall as long as I can till I can breathe it. Sometimes a simple drive to nowhere works, but I have to escape to do that. So, it can get tricky. Still somehow it all seems to work in the end.

I still do feel that we never capture our special musical moments on CD though. The studio tends to rob the music of the actual raw emotion and feeling. When we're live it feels much better to just emote.

May 9, 2016.
Get more at candice-night.com.
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Comments: 1

  • Matt Cantrell from West VirginiaI found her voice is of the most beautiful in the all the ones I heard she truly is a great artists.
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