INTERVIEW BY GLEN FARRIS
IMAGES BY KYLE MARTIN
Last night at Dan's Silver Leaf, Kandace Springs wore her influences on her sleeve with a commanding performance that even illicited a shout of, "You should run for president!" from the Monday night crowd.
Flanked by Dillion Treacy on drums and Jesse Bielenberg on bass, Springs flexed her musical agility, seamlessly switching between soul, gospel, and blues but somehow always landing solidly on her female jazz vocal influences such as Nina Simone, Billy Holiday and Eva Cassidy. We chatted with Springs a bit before the show about how she got started, influences, and what it is like to have Prince reach out to you via Youtube. Yes, that Prince.
WDDI: It doesn’t sound like you rolled out of bed and just started singing, how’d you get started in all this?
KANDACE SPRINGS: All this started with my Dad. He’s a singer in Nashville and he’s been singing for 30 years, basically his whole life. Mostly back up for Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, all the country stars like Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Michael McDonald. He would take me to sessions to see live shows, recording sessions and he really turned me on to organic music. Have you heard of the Wooten Brothers?
I have. I went to school in Murfreesboro at MTSU and we’d spend our Thursday nights watching them at 3rd and Lindsley.
So my dad took me to Reggie Wooten for my first piano lesson. He taught me my first jazz chords and he got me into that and later on got me into sheet music. So Reggie isn’t a piano player but he taught all of his brothers so eventually I outgrew what he could show me so Joe Wooten took over and taught me how to play the heavier stuff. Anyways, I just took a lesson from Joe earlier this year at my house. But he would teach me up in his attic in Green Hills surrounded by instruments from all over the world. The first song he showed me was Soul Train and my dad would ask me to play what I learned and would be rolling on the floor laughing when I played it for him.
You don’t really have the typical Nashville sound either.
I wasn’t really submerged in country or rock, just soul and gospel. My dad plays in Printers Alley every week still. I started playing when i was about 10 and I used to not want to sing, just play piano but my dad kept telling me that piano playing only takes you so far. That when you sing it opens up a whole other world. He gave me Norah Jones and Dianna Krall’s album when i was 13 or 14 and I was obsessed with them and they really inspired me to sing. I actually got to play for Norah Jones at The Blue Note Tokyo two and a half weeks ago and she got to watch my whole show and I got to play The Nearness of You for her which was the song that inspired me to sing and play. She came to the show on her way to the airport and I was so moved by that.
Prince also plucked you from obscurity on YouTube. How was that?
It was completely unexpected. I decided to make a video of me covering Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and we put it up thinking we’d get some more views and we got a notification “Prince retweeted your video” and we were wondering, is that the Prince? He kept messaging me “Who are you?” and “You’re so beautiful do you want to play in my band?” and my team was snooping looking at his followers. Then the record label called saying that Prince just called and that’s when we knew it was real. I got a plane ticket and he asked me to play the 30th Anniversary of Purple Rain.
And you replied, “Yeah, I think I’m free that date”.
Hell yeah I did!
Was your dad freaking out at that point?
He was actually getting defensive about it saying “You better watch out, he’s gonna make a move on you.” But Prince was very respectful and never hit on me - except he did make a move one time in the movie theater.
I love the all the vintage key sounds on the record. The B3’s, Rhodes. Where does that come from?
I play the Rhodes you here on that album. A guy named Pete Kuzma plays all the organ on that record and he plays with Rhianna and Jill Scott. Larry Klein who produced the record has worked with Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell and he got Dean Parks on there and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. It was a live session the whole time, recorded live like the old school guys like Marving Gaye back in the day. That’s what makes it special, its completely organic. There’s no fake shit happening. We’re all playing in the same room at the same time.
You lean toward the soulful, gritty female vocalists. How did you fall into that?
I just love jazz singing. It’s timeless music and that’s what i want to bring to the world. There’s not enough young people bringing it forward. When I was 16 I took my first jazz class, the Nashville Jazz Workshop with Lori Mechem and Robert Spencer, and there’s a Duke Ellington class and Ella Fitzgerald was the main singer we’d listen too because she would just sing the melody and her pitch would be unreal. In a Mellow Tone and Solitude are my two jams. But one of the very first artists I was listening to before I really started singing was Nina Simone. I didn’t know what to think of her voice.
It was rough around the edges and soulful and it took me several years to appreciate it. When she was singing in French I didn’t even know what she was saying but I had to hear more. It was early on, probably 8 or 9 in that range when I started imitating that voice, playing some of her songs. But I get bits and pieces from Dianna Krall and Norah Jones. The tenderness of Norah’s voice and the bad ass piano playing of Dianna and she doesn’t really over sing, she just places it in there.
Then Nina is all about the raw edge like you said but with the pure center of Ella. One other artist I have to name as a huge inspiration is Eva Cassidy. She’ll bring me to tears in one note. She has a CD my dad gave me where she sings Autumn Leaves, Fields of Gold and Over The Rainbow. Shit man, just listen to that song.