Three decades ago on their classic LP It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988), Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav admonished us to steer clear of believing the hype, taking the media to task for their often biased and misguided assessments of the group's socio-politically charged artistry. And while PE had every right to challenge the questionable press that accompanied their rise to hip-hop glory in the late ‘80s, the fact of the matter is that all hype isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And sometimes, the hype can be spot-on.
Case in point: the ascendance of one Kandace Springs. The Nashville-bred vocalist-pianist has been rightfully earning industry applause for a handful of years now, with the late great Prince once remarking that “Kandace has a voice that could melt snow.” Some artists fall victim to believing their own hype, ultimately becoming complacent in their songcraft and falling short of expectations. Springs has done the exact opposite, handling the attention and anticipation thrust toward her music with poise, grace and a most importantly, a steadfast dedication to evolving as a songwriter and performer.
Blurring the lines between pop, jazz, and soul more seamlessly and charismatically than most artists can, Springs is set to unveil her boldest creative statement thus far in the form of her second studio album Indigo, which arrives in stores September 7th courtesy of the Blue Note Records. I recently caught up with Springs to discuss her new long player, the golden touch of her collaborator Karriem Riggins, her experiences with the aforementioned Purple One, and much more. Check out the highlights of our conversation below and reserve your copy of Indigo now.
Justin Chadwick: Congratulations on the forthcoming release of Indigo! I love the record. And there seems to be a more balanced mix of your own songs and cover versions on Indigo, with your original compositions deservedly commanding more shine throughout. So did you approach the recording and songwriting for this album differently than you did with its precursor, 2016’s Soul Eyes?
Kandace Springs: Thank you! My team and I had a lot more input on this album as far as the choice of songs. We played a lot of the songs we had written for my producer Karriem Riggins, as well as songs we thought would be cool covers and he was super excited. Everything just kind of fell together really naturally!
JC: Relative to Soul Eyes, Indigo features more prominent percussion, which I assume is largely the result of collaborating with the aforementioned Karriem Riggins? How did your musical partnership with him come to fruition, and in what ways do you think he helped to shape Indigo?
KS: I knew that Karriem had been playing drums with Diana Krall for a long time, so he understood the subtlety my music needs. But he also had produced tracks for people like Erykah Badu and Common and is one of the best beat makers in the biz! So he brought that edge we wanted, but without overpowering my voice. It was a perfect fit!
JC: “Love Sucks” is one of the many standouts on Indigo. But I need to ask…do you actually believe that love sucks?
KS: [Laughs] No, it’s just something that I think most people can relate to. Love can be amazing, but let’s be real. Sometimes love sucks! It can make a fool out of you if you aren’t careful!
JC: You’ve been on the road with Daryl Hall & John Oates recently. What has that been like?
KS: It’s been such an incredible experience and I’m so appreciative that they asked me to open for them. To perform in front of like 15,000 fans a night all summer in places like Madison Square Garden and the LA Forum? It’s like a dream come true. I’ve learned so much and they have been like big brothers looking out for me!
JC: Next month, you’ll embark upon a headlining tour here in the states, with a few dates slated for Europe and Asia at the end of the tour. What can fans expect from a Kandace Springs live show that may not necessarily be captured on record?
KS: I always throw in some surprises! Maybe a new classical interlude here and there or a new cover, and my new band hits a little harder! I think my fans will see the way I have grown as a performer and of course all the new music I have never played before. I can’t wait!
JC: What was it like growing up in Music City USA, and how do you think Nashville has shaped your musical career?
KS: People always think of Nashville as a country music place, but there is a great R&B and jazz scene as well. My dad taught me all about soul and there is an amazing family of musicians there called the Wootens that taught me a lot. Watching my dad perform was one of the best educations you could get—everybody in Nashville knows about Scat Springs!
JC: By all accounts, Prince was a big proponent of your music, as evidenced by his invitation to you to perform at the Purple Rain 30th Anniversary event at Paisley Park a few years ago. What did his endorsement mean to you, and what was that experience like?
KS: I still can’t believe all that happened! Performing with him and becoming his friend was huge for me. He always encouraged me to be myself and not follow the leader. And it gave me so much confidence to get his approval! That means the world to me. I miss him so much. He had such a great sense of humor and just watching him play songs, just messing around, was incredible.
JC: Your father makes an appearance on Indigo’s closing track “Simple Things.” Can you talk a bit about how he inspired your love of music? And who (or what) else has influenced the evolution of your songcraft most profoundly?
KS: My dad saw that spark in me and encouraged me from day one. I learned so much from him. Of course Prince was a big influence. But so much of my education was listening to the greats: Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Sade. I could go on and on.
JC: The legacy of Blue Note Records is unparalleled. How did you come to be part of their roster and how do you feel about recording your music for such an iconic label?
KS: It’s such an honor. And to have Don Was as the president of my label is so awesome. My team, Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken (they discovered and signed Rihanna!) set up an audition. One of the songs I played was “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt and it turned out that Don Was produced that record. He loved my rendition and the rest is history! He’s such a great musician as well as label president, so he really understands what I’m trying to do.
JC: Hypothetically speaking, if you weren’t a musician & songwriter, what do you think you’d be doing professionally?
KS: That’s easy! I’m a huge car enthusiast. I love muscle cars and classics. I can take them apart and put them back together again! I would love to combine that with my music in a TV show one day!
JC: You have a proven penchant for reimagining other artists’ songs in thrilling ways. What are your personal favorites among the covers you’ve recorded or performed, and what songs are you itching to reinterpret in the future?
KS: I’ve always said that “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” is maybe the best song ever written so that’s up at the top. “The Beautiful Ones” by Prince is one of my favorite covers. I would love to do a cover of Sade’s “Pearls” in the future. It gives me chills!
JC: OK, last question. In the spirit of Albumism, what are your five favorite albums of all time?
KS: Hmmmmm, that’s a tough one. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill would be up there. Diana Krall’s Quiet Nights, Sade’s The Best of Sade, Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me and I would have to include my boy Prince’s Purple Rain!