Every so often a new singer emerges who’s able to assimilate multiple musical touchstones and still come off sounding remarkably fresh and unburdened by the past. Kandace Springs is one of those artists. The 27-year-old, Nashville-based singer, songwriter and pianist counts such stylists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and Norah Jones as her heroes, but as evidenced by her sparkling full-length Blue Note Records debut, Soul Eyes,Springs mimics none of them.
Instead Springs allows her comely alto to become a conduit that touches upon soul, jazz and pop while transforming those aforementioned influences into a personalized sound that reveals itself effortlessly. “The artists who have inspired me the most all sang so naturally,” Springs says. “That helped me find my own sound.”
[...[ Springs attracted the attention of Prince, who heard her makeover of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” on the website Okayplayer. The music icon invited her to perform with him at Paisley Park for the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain. “He encouraged me a lot before I recorded this new record, especially during the time in which I was trying to figure out my sound,” Springs says. “He told me that I needed to do what comes naturally to me. He was absolutely right.”
The eleven songs contained on Soul Eyes all feature Springs playing piano alongside an illustrious cast of musicians that includes trumpeter Terence Blanchard, guitarists Dean Parksand Jesse Harris, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, organist Pete Kuzma, bassist Dan Lutz,percussionist Pete Korpela.
Through much of Soul Eyes, Springs sings about romantic affairs of the heart, starting off with the effervescent, country-laden “Talk to Me,” penned by Harris, who also wrote the gentle, life-affirming “Neither Old Nor Young.” The ruminative “Place to Hide” is a song by Judie Tzuke that Rogers has kept in the back of his mind for some time just waiting for the perfect singer to deliver it. “Every time I play that song, the room goes silent,” Springs says.
It was Sturken who introduced Springs to Mal Waldron’s signature jazz classic, “Soul Eyes.” “When I first heard it, it blew my mind,” she enthuses. “That song means so much to me.” Klein suggested the mesmerizing makeovers of two Shelby Lynne songs (“Thought It Would Be Easier” and “Leavin’”) as well as War’s haunting funk classic, “The World Is a Ghetto.”
Springs co-wrote the melancholy ballad, “Fall Guy” with Rogers and Sturken, as well as the searching, observational mid-tempo gem “Novocaine Heart.” She co-wrote the smoldering, cinematic slow-burner “Too Good To Last”—which features a soaring trumpet solo by Blanchard—with celebrated songwriters Greg Wells and Lindy Robbins. Springs composed the gorgeous solo album closer “Rain Falling” by herself. Featuring just voice and piano, the song dates back more than a decade ago to Springs’ late-teens.
“This new record is just right where it should be,” attests Springs, who draws much of her inspiration from her father, Scat Springs, a respected session singer in Nashville. It was due to him that Springs grew up surrounded by music, and he encouraged her to take piano lessons after he watched her peck out melodies on the instrument when she was 10.
It wasn’t until later that a friend of her father’s sparked something deeper in the young musician by giving her Norah Jones’ 2002 Blue Note debut, Come Away With Me. “The last song on the record is ‘The Nearness of You’ and that song really inspired me to learn to play piano and sing. It was just so soulful, simple and stripped down. That really moved me and touched me. It's when I realized, ‘This is what I wanna do.’” Springs did her own arrangement of “The Nearness of You” and performed it at a music camp in Nashville, which led to her gaining more professional gig experience in the city.
Now as Springs continues to develop as singer and songwriter in her own right, she’ll surely win over many other hearts. “I would like to be known as one of the younger people that are keeping jazz and soul alive and vibrant, “she says. “I love the realness of jazz and soul.”