PHOTOS BY ASTRID STERNER. STYLING BY JESSI JACQ. MAKEUP: ROBERT SESNEK FOR THE WALL GROUP. HAIR: ELOISE CHEUNG FOR WALTER SCHUPFER MANAGEMENT USING AVEDA. MANICURE: KATHERINE ST. PAUL HILL FOR WALTER SCHUPFER MANAGEMENT USING CHANEL LE VERNIS. RETOUCHING: RICHY FERREL FOR VISION.
Hearing the word jazz might revert a listener’s thoughts to the music of yesteryear, a saxophone player in an upscale bar, or the classics–Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, et al. Up-and-comer Kandace Springs, however, aims to change this notion. The 23-year-old singer, songwriter, and pianist blends elements of soul, jazz, and pop, producing a unique and modern twist on the genre that appeals to young and old listeners alike.
Before moving to New York three years ago, the Nashville native performed alongside Prince–who gave her a custom made leather jacket off his back–and while growing up she drew inspiration from Norah Jones, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Sade, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill. When not making music, Springs takes care of her multiple cars, including a white Jeep and her dream Corvette; she’s a self-proclaimed gearhead.
Despite her badass presence (she effortlessly controls the energy in a room and knows how to rock a black suede jacket with nothing other than a bra underneath), Springs’s voice remains deep, intimate, and soulful. She has played the piano for the last 15 years, and labels asked to sign her at the ripe age of 17, but it wasn’t until 2013 that she finally committed herself.
Now signed with Blue Note Records, Springs released her self-titled debut EP earlier this fall and released the video for “Love Got in The Way” on Monday. We can expect a full-length album in early 2015, but before then we caught up with the singer in Brooklyn.
HOMETOWN: Nashville, Tennessee
MAKING THE OLD NEW AGAIN: I grew up just listening to soul and jazz music, but I realized my peers didn’t really listen to it as much. I was like, “What’s up with that?!” They’d always look at me weird because I did, [but] that’s my goal: I want to keep soul, jazz, and blues alive. Another thing I wanna keep alive is the Fender Rhodes. It’s kind of like a vintage piano, like a Wurlitzer. It’s an old instrument that the greats all used to play–Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and so on. At all my gigs you’ll see me playing either a vintage Rhodes Piano or a Wurlly. If you don’t know what it is, look it up. [laughs]
FROM HER FATHER TO NORAH JONES: My dad is a musician, Scat Springs. He’s a singer in Nashville. He always pushed me to play piano, then eventually pushed me to start singing, and this has been a goal ever since I heard Norah Jones’ record, particularly the first one [Come Away With Me, 2002]. The last song on the record is “The Nearness of You” and that song really inspired me to learn to play piano, sing, and become a female artist known for a soulful jazzy kind of background. It was just so soulful, simple, and stripped down. That really moved me and touched me. I was like, “This is something you don’t hear on the radio everyday.” It’s when I realized, “This is what I wanna do.”
SISTER, SISTER: I have two sisters and they both play music, but we’re so extremely different. One plays guitar–she has her own little John Mayer kind of feel–I like jazz, and the other is straight up rap, hip-hop, and R&B. We have to get together and do something. We all look the same; we look like triplets.
PEACE OF MIND: Going outdoors is really peaceful for me. I’m a big tomboy. I take my Jeep out into the woods and it’s so peaceful, seeing the trees change, or driving through the city or the mountains. Cruising a lot helps me think of song ideas. My song “West Coast” is inspired by me cruising and driving down the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s kind of like therapy. No one is there to bother me. It’s just me and the hum of the car, going down the freeway.
BEING A GEARHEAD: My dad gave me a Matchbox car and my mom gave me a Barbie [when I was younger]. I drew a moustache on the Barbie because I thought it was funny, and I never played with it again. I probably saw the Barbie like 10 years ago and the moustache was still stained on the face with pen ink, [but] I still have that car to this day. Music and cars are my passions.
WHY NOW: I don’t wanna put him down in any way, but my dad was really protective. I was living in his house at the time and he wanted to be part of the record, help produce and stuff like that. But the people who wanted to sign me wanted to do it solo with me. My dad wasn’t feeling it. He was like, “If I can’t be involved, I don’t wanna do this.” I moved out a year or two later and I started working, parking cars as a valet attendant. I’d go home and then go back the next night and play in the lounge–piano and singing. I paid my dues for four years and then I hit up Evan Rogers [who discovered Rhianna]. I stole my dad’s phone and got his number from there. [laughs] He was like, “You wanna be a star?” and I was like, “Yes!” He and Carl Sturkin flew me out, we did a couple demos, and then we started getting offers and I ended up with Blue Note and Capitol Records.
ROOMMATE ISSUES: Giiiirl, my roommate was literally pooping on rugs. She had bowel issues. I’m not kidding. She was a tree hugger, which is great, I respect that. But she literally would not flush her shit or pee to save water. And she would wipe with a rag and leave it on the tub.
ON MUSIC: I think music is what holds this earth together. It’s one way we can send a message to each other, amongst war and everything else. I feel that music is the one thing that can cut through all of that. It can touch people no matter what’s going on. In the midst of a crazy moment, music can settle everything. It’s a way to express yourself, a way to vent, too. I think it’s what keeps this world sane. [laughs] You see the soldiers playing music in Afghanistan because it’s good. It’s good for you.
FOR MORE ON KANDACE SPRINGS, VISIT HER WEBSITE.