Just 27 years old, Kandace Springs’ achievements are akin to that of an artist with a career spanning decades. Discovered by Prince who heard her cover Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’ on the Okayplayer website, he thought so much of her talent he invited her to play at his Purple Rain 30th anniversary concert at Paisley Park.
Nashville born Springs went on to sign to the legendary Blue Note Label who in 2016 released her critically acclaimed album Soul Eyes and the tenderly defiant single ‘Novocaine Heart’.
Her performances are certain to be amongst the highlights of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival when she brings her spacious organic jazz sounds to the city on 15th and 16th July. Check out the festival highlights.
We caught up with Kandace as she was planning her setlist for a set at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal later that evening.
It was her father, respected session player Scat Springs, who first encouraged her into music. Fate would have it that a friend of his was being evicted from her home and asked him to store an old beaten up upright, otherwise it would have ended up sitting on the street.
“A few days later I saw the piano in the house. I remember trying to play Moonlight Sonata and my dad comes down and plays a ghetto version and I played it back real quick, real ghetto, and he was like, ‘Woa that ain’t normal!” She was ten years old then and from there on in all she wanted to do was play the piano.
Asked about her influences Springs breezily rhymes off Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and Norah Jones as her heroes. At the age of 13 it was Norah Jones’ 2002 Blue Note debut, “Come Away With Me” that gave her a direction and to pursue a career in music became a real option.
“It’s when I realized, this is what I wanna do.” She says, “I used to look at the cover of that album and think it would be so cool to be on that label. I didn’t know Blue Note had such a great history at the time but the more I found out about it, the cooler it became.”
Kandace Springs appears at West Princes Street Gardens Spiegeltent on Saturday 15th July and the Spiegeltent, George Square on Sunday, 16th July as part of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival.
Springs is keen to make it clear though that she’s not content to imitate these icons of the genre but instead forge her own path and ultimately ‘be herself’. Her unique sound touches upon soul, jazz and pop, building on the work of the great soul and jazz icons with her own modern breezy take on the genre.
“The artists who have inspired me the most all sang so naturally,” she says. “That helped me find my own sound.”
That sound, as natural to her as it is now, has been hard fought for over the years. Her 2014 debut EP saw a brief skirmish with a more contemporary R&B/ hiphop sound that she says wasn’t really an accurate reflection of herself,
“I was being pushed in a certain direction by a number of people but I always knew it was Jazz that was naturally me, my true self.”
It was during this time, Springs attracted the attention of Prince, inviting her to perform with him at Paisley Park for the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain.
“He encouraged me a lot, especially during the time in which I was trying to figure out my sound. When he heard me play straight-ahead jazz, he said, ‘That’s you. You could be the Roberta Flack of your generation.’ He told me that I needed to let go of all the hiphop stuff and get back to being myself.”
So what’s over the horizon for Springs?
“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.”
The idea of realness is a recurring theme with Springs and she comes across as perfectly genuine and enthusiastic when she says she tells everyone that Scotland is her favourite place to visit and play. Looks like the scene is set for two special evenings.