- - Sunday, August 7, 2016

Born and raised in Nashville, one might expect twentysomething singer/songwriter/pianist Kandace Springs to be all about country music. Nope. Instead the soulful chanteuse has created this year’s most beautiful R&B CD,”Soul Eyes.” The songs on the new album are deeply influenced by the first ladies of blues and R&B: Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and Norah Jones (Miss Springs’ childhood hero).

How did she get here? And what part did Prince play in her style and sound? I asked those questions and more in advance of her show at the Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis Tuesday and at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club Wednesday.

Question: How does a country girl from Nashville become a soul singer?

Answer: It started with my dad [Scat Springs]. For the last 30 years he’s been singing in Nashville with his funk band and also singing backup for everybody from Chaka Kahn to Aretha Franklin to Michael McDonald to country stars like Garth Brooks. Just growing up with him, I was listening to soul music and jazz. I would go to his sessions and see him record. That’s how I got into the music I love.

Q: Did you ever think of making country music?

A: It honestly wasn’t a part of my world. And it wasn’t necessarily by choice. It was just how I was raised: I was raised around soul.

When I played in Nashville, I played jazz standards. People say, “Who is this girl?” I stuck out like a sore thumb.

Q: Was it tough to break in since Nashville is so country-driven?

A: Honestly, it kinda was. Man, I’ve been here for my whole life. I’ve had shows here and there but nothing major. I had to actually go to New York and Los Angeles. I work out of there. I don’t even work out of my own city.

Q: How did you end up getting signed to Blue Note Records?

A: That came through my work with Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken. They work with Rihanna. They are producers. My dad actually got them a demo CD. They said, “Whoa, who is this girl? From Nashville? Singing that kind of music?” They flew me to New York and signed me to their production label. We shopped around. Blue Note was our top choice.

Q: Are you thrilled to be on that legendary label?

A: Hell, yeah! It’s a blessing, honestly. It’s the home of Norah Jones.

When I was a young girl of 13 or 14 years old, I saw that she was on Blue Note Records. That always stuck in my head. I thought, “Man, one day I would love to be on that record label.” She was my role model. Now we are label mates! I got to have lunch with her.

She is so humble and down to earth. Her artistry is what gave me inspiration.

Q: How did you come to meet Prince?

A: That was unexpected. I decided to put up a video of me covering Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” back in 2014, when it was blowing up. I posted it. And I saw later that he (Prince) retweets it from his Twitter page. I was like, “No way!”

Then a few hours later I got a direct message from Prince on my social media. He told me he loved the video, that it moved him and all my dreams were about to come true. Then he invited me to come close his “Purple Rain” 30th anniversary show at Paisley Park that following weekend, which was incredible.

I was on a plane a few days later, and there was Prince at Paisley Park! Something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Q: What was it like to be there and perform with him in his home?

A: Un-freaking real. I kept asking myself, “Is this happening?” thinking I would wake up from a dream. I was there with his band Third Eye Girl and Prince closing the show singing “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”

He was a really nice guy. Really funny. We became good friends.

Q: Was he romantically interested in you?

A: I’m not gonna lie, he tried. [laughs] I didn’t quite let him. I think he respected me for that. We were able to keep a friendship.

Q: When was the last time you saw or spoke to him?

A: Last I saw him was January of this year. He took me to see Living Colour, the band, at the Dakota Club in Minneapolis. Then we saw a movie and worked in the studio.

It was my birthday. That’s why I remember it so well.

Q: What advice did he give you about music?

A: The biggest advice was, “Be who you are. Don’t let them change you. You could be the Roberta Flack of your generation.” This was before I made the album. He said, “Make sure it’s all centered on your voice. Live instruments are a plus.”

I actually played him my album the last time I saw him. He approved. He said, “This is good. This is it.” His favorite song is “Novocaine Heart.”

Q: Do you want to be the Roberta Flack of your generation?

A: I would love that! Keeping timeless music alive is my ultimate goal.

Q: Why did you decide to cover two Shelby Lynne songs on your album?

A: That came from Larry Klein, the album’s producer. I didn’t really know of her music until he played it. He said, “Let’s see how you interpret these songs by Shelby Lynne.” I heard it and instantly liked her music. Interpreted them the way I felt.

Q: What can people expect when they come to see you live?

A: Expect to feel good during and after the show. It’s soul and jazz. I’m a young woman who enjoys playing music that people perceive as “old people’s music.”

I’m making it in a way young people can understand. Bringing generations together.

For tickets to the Annapolis show Tuesday, visit RamsHeadOnStage.com. For tickets to the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club show Wednesday, visit InstantSeats.com


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