Kandace Springs’ voice has a riveting tone. Her runs are meticulously controlled, which provides a nice balance for her beautifully-timed falsetto. The soulful jazz singer is a capital-p professional, and it’s strongly reflected in her music. On her new album, The Women Who Raised Me, Kandace's attention to her vocal technique shines as she celebrates the women who’ve influenced her sound.
The Women Who Raised Me, which will be released on March 27, features covers of popular songs created by iconic female artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. Although it’s only her third album, Kandace said she’s been wanting to make it for a long time.
“I’ve been singing since my early teens, and a lot of the CDs that my dad gave me were all [by] female singers for the most part,” the Nashville, Tennessee, native told Blavity. “So I grew up listening to artists like Billie Holiday, Lauryn Hill, Sade and I thought that they were all pretty dope women who had their own lanes and played their own instruments. So I thought it’d be cool if we did a tribute record and give each of those women a song that’ll represent a lesson I’ve learned from them and empowered me through the years.”
The beauty of the 12-track album is Kandace’s ostensibly effortless ability to add captivating emotion to each rendition, which gives listeners a powerful re-imagining of the classic songs. Her rendition of Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” features a deeply moving refrain at the end, filled with a mixture of piercing vocals and simmering instrumentation that provide an extra layer of depth and intensity to Flack’s original recording. Kandace also offers a soothing bluesy version of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor.”
Her cover of Simone’s “Solitude” is a standout on the album. While it’s likely difficult for someone to brilliantly capture the strong emotion that’s present in Simone’s voice, Kandace naturally complements it with her remarkable tone.
“The first time I heard Nina, I was eight years old, and my dad basically told me about how she played the piano and was very classical and how she had a tough life with the music industry,” Kandace said. “I’ve not been in the music industry as hard as she was, but I have a huge appreciation for her. What she did on the piano was unreal.”
Kandace’s father, Scat Springs, introduced her to the music industry when she was in her early teens. Scat is a popular singer in Nashville who has sung background for artists like Aretha Franklin, Brian McKnight and Chaka Khan. The 31-year-old said her father would often take her to the studio with him, and she eventually made a demo when she was 14.
The demo’s recording garnered the attention of production duo Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken (Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Shakira etc.), who wanted to sign Kandace, but Kandace said her family felt it wasn’t an appropriate time for her to be a singer. Instead, the talented teenager worked as a valet parking attendant at a local hotel.
“I was probably 18 years old, and they would have this piano in the lobby, and I would just go down there and play during my lunch break,” Kandace said. “The manager noticed, and thought I’d be good for a singing gig there. It was pretty fun. In the mornings, I would park cars, check people in and drag luggage up the elevators. Then, I’d get cleaned up and still play my own show in the evenings.”
Kandace eventually signed with Blue Note Records and debuted in September 2014 with her eponymous EP. But she caught the attention of music royalty shortly before. In the summer of 2014, Kandace made a cover of Sam Smith’s hit single “Stay With Me,” and Prince loved it so much that he flew her to Minneapolis to perform at his esteemed Paisley Park.
“I was stunned,” Kandace said. “He reached out to me and offered that I could play with his band. My team and I initially thought it was a scam because I just couldn’t believe it. But then we knew it was real when my record label got a phone call from his record label. I got a plane ticket two days later to Minneapolis. It was an incredible experience to just play with his band and follow his guidance.”
YouTube | Kandace Springs
The Purple One became an important mentor for Kandace throughout her career. She said one of the most significant lessons she learned from him was the power of creating organically with her music.
“Between him and my dad, they both always stressed that I don’t cover up my voice too much because it’s all about texture and tone,” Kandace said. “He would tell me that I’m similar to Roberta [Flack] in a way in that she doesn’t cover up her voice too much and used live instruments, and I agree with him on that. On my second album, I stayed true to that.”
That advice has helped Kandace become the vocal powerhouse she is today. And, being among the few Nashville-based jazz singers, Kandace has been influential in making jazz a more popular genre in her home.
“I feel like I’m supposed to be here, honestly,” Kandace said. “I always felt like a sore thumb here for sure because most musicians here are country artists or into rock [music]. There really aren’t a lot of blues artists from here. My dad is the one who got me into jazz a little bit. I remember hearing jazz for the first time when I was younger, and I loved it. I think that sets me apart from others here.”
Kandace’s voice is an obvious factor that also sets her apart from the rest. It’s impressively moving, which is likely what led Prince to describe Kandace as having “a voice that could melt snow,” according to Blue Note Records. However, on The Women Who Raised Me, Kandace doesn’t want the focus to be on her. Instead, she wants to continue the legacies of the women who’ve shaped her career.
“[The album] is to kind of honor these women that I grew up listening to and learned so much from their own stories and how they played their own instruments, how they’d write and how they’d interpret their own music,” Kandace said. “So I hope it’ll encourage other audiences to check them out as well because they’re legends and their music should be carried on.”