Kandace Springs – The Women Who Raised Me
TRACKLIST (and the vocalists who inspired Kandace to interpret these songs)
- Devil May Care (inspired by Diana Krall)
Feat. Christian McBride
- Angel Eyes (inspired by Ella Fitzgerald)
Feat. Norah Jones
- I Put A Spell On You (inspired by Nina Simone)
Feat. David Sanborn
- Pearls (inspired by Sade)
Featuring Avishai Cohen
- Ex-Factor (inspired by Lauryn Hill)
Feat. Elena Pinderhughes
- I Can’t Make You Love Me (inspired by Bonnie Raitt)
Feat. Avishai Cohen
- Gentle Rain (inspired by Astrud Gilberto)
Feat. Chris Potter
- Solitude (inspired by Carmen McRae)
Feat. Chris Potter
- The Nearness of You (inspired by Norah Jones)
- What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life (inspired by Dusty Springfield)
- Killing Me Softly With His Song (inspired by Roberta Flack)
Feat. Elena Pinderhughes
- Strange Fruit (inspired by Billie Holiday)
Kurz-Bio Kandace Springs
Aufgewachsen ist Kandace als Tochter eines Soul-Sängers in einer Stadt, die vornehmlich für Country & Western-Musik bekannt ist. Ihr Vater Scat Springs hatte eine eigene Band, arbeitete aber auch als Background-Vokalist für zahlreiche Größen wie Brian McKnight, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Michael McDonald und Donna Summer. Ihre Mutter wiederum war vollauf damit beschäftigt, drei talentierte Töchter großzuziehen. Kandaces erste Leidenschaften waren Zeichnen und Autos. „Mein Vater schenkte mir ein Matchbox-Auto und meine Mutter eine Barbie-Puppe“, erinnert sie sich amüsiert. „Ich habe der Barbie einen Schnurrbart angemalt und nie wieder mit ihr gespielt. Das Matchbox-Auto habe ich noch heute.“
Ihr Vater öffnete Kandace die Ohren für die Musik von Legenden wie Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Eva Cassidy und Luther Vandross. Er half ihr auch, als sie mit fünfzehn Jahren ihre ersten Demos machte und an das erfolgreiche Produzententeam Evan Rogers und Carl Sturken (Rihanna, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson) schickte. Den angebotenen Deal schlug Kandace dann aber doch erstmal aus. „Mein Vater sagte: ‘Wenn du bei diesen Jungs unterschreibst, werde ich nie die Chance haben, ein Album mit dir zu machen’“, erinnert sich Kandace. „Ich bin froh, dass ich gewartet habe.“ Denn dieses gemeinsame Album machten sie dann, als sie 17 war, auch wenn es nie veröffentlicht wurde. Immerhin – die Songs daraus fanden sich zum Teil Jahre später auf ihrem Album „Indigo“ wieder.
Kandace Springs hat in den letzten Jahren ihre beiden ersten Alben bei Blue Note Records, „Soul Eyes“ und „Indigo“, veröffentlicht. Anläßlich ihres Debüts schrieb der britische Guardian damals: „Sie hat eine seltene Fähigkeit, die nicht gelehrt werden kann – wie eine alte Seele zu klingen und nur das zu tun, was ihr im Blut liegt.“
Sie hat sich längst einen Spitzenplatz unter den aktuellen Vokalisten erkämpft. Mit ihrem dritten Album dankt sie jetzt großen Vorbildern wie Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Sade und Lauryn Hill – natürlich auf ganz eigene Art.
From the first second of Kandace Springs‘ new album – as those warm, hand-plucked bass notes fill the air – you know you’ve arrived at something different. And once she starts singing, well, it’s pretty clear “The Women Who Raised Me” exists apart from the normal rules that govern space, time, and talent. While 2018’s “Indigo” album found the Nashville singer-pianist using modern production to bend sound into new genre forms in collaboration with Karriem Riggins, this set adheres sonically to jazz while Springs travels back and forth across a near-century of music. While the feel is as rich and complex as our host’s voice, the concept is simple. Springs covers the women who inspired her while she was growing up, putting her own spin on songs associated with a dozen of the greatest female vocalists of all-time.
„This is an album I’ve been wanting to make forever,“ says Springs. „It really expresses my love for all of these singers and gratitude for what they gave me. Each taught me something different and all of those lessons combined to make me who I am now. In a way, all I’m trying to do every day is live up to the examples they set. My dream is that people will listen to my album and then want to go learn more about all of these great women. If that happens, then I’ve done my job.“
Of course, you’ll want to spend some quality time with “The Women Who Raised Me” first. While the project was personal – practically a calling – for Springs, it’s also an intimate showcase for her abilities. Produced by Larry Klein – who also produced Springs’ 2016 album “Soul Eyes” – the album captures Springs in the studio with a spare but able band who all have ties to the artists honored here: guitarist Steve Cardenas (Norah Jones), bassist Scott Colley (Carmen McRae), and drummer Clarence Penn (Diana Krall). They played live, underscoring the power of Springs‘ voice and hands, as well as her gift for moving between singers‘ intonations and legacies while staying herself – as her heroines would want it. Heroes too. „Prince liked when I played all this stuff,“ Springs recalls. „He’d go, ‚That’s you right there.“
But long before the Minneapolis giant saw Springs on YouTube and invited her to jam at Paisley Park in 2014 – the year she’d sign to Blue Note with an audition of Bonnie Raitt’s „I Can’t Make You Love Me“ – there was Norah. When Springs was a gifted preteen pianist with no plans to sing, her father, Nashville session singer Scat Springs, slid her a copy of Jones‘ “Come Away With Me”. She put the CD on while doing chores, and, „When ‚The Nearness of You‘ came on I froze,“ Springs says. „I was like, ‚That is what I want to do!'“ So of course that song made it onto “The Women Who Raised Me”. But also, the actual Norah Jones did too. They trade smoke-ringed verses on Ella Fitzgerald’s „Angel Eyes“ as Jones‘ Steinway dances with Springs‘ Wurly.
„I didn’t even know what to think,“ says Springs of recording with her first musical love. Wildly, it only happened because they ran into each other at the Nashville airport. They traded numbers, and later met at Jones‘ Brooklyn apartment to test out Ella songs. „It’s something I relive every so often, like, ‚Lord, I can’t believe she’s sitting right there.‘ It was nerve-racking. I was like, ‚Get it together, Kandace, let’s do this!‘ And we just kinda made up the arrangement as we went.“
Jones isn’t the only guest. It’s Christian McBride’s bass that kicks off the album, in fact, on Springs‘ swinging cover of „Devil May Care“ by Diana Krall. That one was also part of her dad’s informal chops-building curriculum after he brought home a secondhand upright piano when she was 10. Springs was instantly drawn to Krall’s elegant playing and unfussy singing. Scat turned her onto Nina Simone too, eventually. „I didn’t like her voice at first,“ Springs admits. „It seemed strange, but it was so unique and haunting that I kept coming back.“ Before long, she was as inspired by Nina’s spirit as her art. In honor of their shared love for classical, Springs incorporates Moonlight Sonata into her rousing version of „I Put a Spell on You,“ as David Sanborn blows fiery alto sax.
Of course, with an album called “The Women Who Raised Me”, we’d be remiss not to talk about Springs‘ mother, Kelly. While Dad arranged for her to learn from pros like the Wooten brothers, Mom actually drove young Kandace to and from those lessons in the family van while tuned into the local easy listening station. That’s where she first heard Dusty Springfield (Springs‘ rendition of „What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life“ is rich with heartache and drama) and, many times over, the aforementioned Bonnie Raitt hit. She learned the latter in her late teens, while she was working at a local hotel. „I’d park cars during the day,“ says Springs, „then change clothes, go upstairs to the lounge, and perform in the evening. I always got a lot of tips playing Bonnie.“
At that point, Springs‘ career was calling. She’d been offered a production deal by Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken of SRP (who discovered Rihanna), but Scat was wary. As Springs began to consider other paths, it was her mom who encouraged her not to quit music, and even snuck into Scat’s phone to get Rogers‘ contact. That partnership brought Springs to New York and Blue Note, but before she left home, each of these women had shown her something vital: Astrud Gilberto with her „tone that’s so airy and pure“ („Gentle Rain“). Carmen McRae, whose „sense of harmony is deeper than any other jazz singer’s“ („Solitude“). Sade’s uncanny ability to transmit powerful emotion („Pearls“). Lauryn Hill’s vocal textures and „diva queen“ independence („Ex-Factor“).
But even as those mighty influences are felt – and players like trumpeter Avishai Cohen; flutist Elena Pinderhughes, and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter pop in – “The Women Who Raised Me” remains unmistakably Springs‘ vision. That fact becomes especially clear during closing couplet. First, Springs and her band strike up a mellow groove with their take on Roberta Flack’s „Killing Me Softly.“ But as the song nears its end, we’re treated to a gigantic unfurling psychedelic finale, which sets the stage for the next song’s necessary minimalism. The closing number is one that truly cannot be followed: „Strange Fruit.“ For this, it’s just Springs and her trusty Rhodes, crying out all of that pain and beauty, reminding us of the mortal danger inherent in forgetting our past.
Springs learned much from Billie’s example – „I grew up in the South and I can’t even imagine the courage it took for her to sing that song in the ’30s,“ she says – but her main takeaway is as basic as it is bone-deep: „That nothing is more important than singing from the heart.“ End of the day, that’s exactly what Springs did here. The Women Who Raised Me is a raw and real audio love-letter between her and her idols. The rest of us are just lucky she let us listen in.
Track By Track
I’ve been thinking for a long time that I wanted to make an album where I pay tribute to all the great female artists that inspired me growing up. It took a while to think of exactly the singers and songs I wanted to do – I wanted each one to be an iconic song that people associate with that singer, but they had to work together well as an album. And also I had to find ways to make the songs sound like me, and not just be plain cover versions. So it took some time, but I think it’s perfect now, the record really expresses my love for all of these singers, and my gratitude for what they gave me. Each of them taught me something, and all those lessons combined to make me who I am today. In a way, all I’m trying to do every day is live up to the examples they set. My dream is that people will listen to my album, and then want to go learn more about all of these great singers. If that happens, then I’ve done my job.
So here are some of my stories of “The Women Who Raised Me”…..
Nina Simone, “I Put A Spell On You”
I remember my dad playing Nina’s records around the house and telling me that I should listen and learn from her because she played classical as well as jazz. The first record I heard was in French, “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” I didn’t like her voice at first, it seemed strange to me, but so unique and haunting, I couldn’t forget it and I kept coming back to her. Now she is really one of my absolute favorite artists. I remember my dad playing me “I Put a Spell On You” and saying that is was the best sax solo ever put on record; I knew that was the song I wanted to record for her on this album. I wanted to put classical influences into it, because she was so brilliant at that, and one day I was playing Moonlight Sonata and somebody said “you could sing ‘I Put A Spell On You’ to that!” and I tried it and it worked so well, that was it! I had just met David Sanborn a month before we were recording, and I knew he would be perfect for this record, and he came in and just killed it.
Bonnie Raitt, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”
My mom used to drive me and sisters around in the van, and unlike my dad who was way into R&B, she would play the pop and rock stations on the radio, and that’s where I first heard Bonnie. Her voice stuck out on those stations because it was so much more soulful, and I knew I wanted to hear more of her. The first time I heard “I Can’t Make You Love Me” it touched me, and it still does. I learned it when I was playing in the lounge at the Marriot in downtown Nashville; I parked cars during the day, changed my clothes and went upstairs to the lounge and played in the evening. I always got a lot of tips playing Bonnie! Then, when I got the chance to audition for Don Was at Blue Note, I found out the day before that he was the producer of the original record! I got so nervous, but I played and he loved it, so that was a great day for me.
Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit”
I got into Billie Holiday a little later than a lot of the other singers who influenced me. It was actually by listening to “Strange Fruit” years later, when I was starting to make my first album, that I began to really appreciate how great she is. I think the lyrics of the song is what got to me first, and thinking about what she must have gone through in her life, I felt like I could feel all of that when she sang. That’s what I’ve learned from her – that nothing is more important than singing from the heart.
Ella Fitzgerald, “Angel Eyes “
Ella was really the first jazz singer I checked out and really got into. I was just 15 and I went down to the Jazz Workshop in Nashville, I wanted to see what I could learn about playing jazz on the piano. Lori Mecham and Roger Spencer were running it, and they still do and they are great friends of mine. The first song they played me by Ella was “In A Mellow Tone,” and it just knocked me out. Ella has really the most perfect voice of any singer – her tone, her pitch, even her diction! But most of all she has soul, always. If I could only listen to one singer, it would be Ella. Ella has done so many great songs, almost every standard, so I had a hard time thinking of what song I should do to pay tribute to her. But when Norah agreed to do a song with me, we messed around with a lot of songs one afternoon and ended up on “Angel Eyes,” and it was just so perfect.
Dusty Springfield, “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”
I first heard Dusty when I was riding around in the car with my mom, I was about 15, and right away I wanted more. Even though they were pop records, she had soul! I went down to the library – people don’t remember, but you could go to the library and take out music. That day I took out a Dusty Springfield album and one by Franz Liszt – I guess you could see where I was heading! There are so many songs she has done that knock me out. I actually did “The Windmills of Your Mind” on my first album, and after I picked this song for the new album, I found out that both songs were written by the same people, Michel Legrand and Marilyn and Alan Bergman. So that was definitely a magical collaboration.
Roberta Flack, “Killing Me Softly With His Song”
Roberta is one of those singers that I was hearing ever since I can remember hearing music. It’s like she was just part of the atmosphere. But always I remembered that tone! She has maybe the most beautiful voice in the history of the world. My dad gave me a copy of her greatest hits when I was about 14, and I wore that out. So many great songs! When we decided to do “Killing Me Softly” on this album, we played around with the feel and the structure, just because people are so familiar with it, we wanted to give it a new twist. And I guess you can hear a little Lauryn Hill in this version too! That’s the thing, my influences blend together a lot, I’m not trying to imitate or channel them. They just come out in various combinations, and that’s me.
Carmen McCrae “Solitude”
Carmen was a singer that I came to appreciate later than a lot of the other singers on this album. That’s good in a way, because she’s maybe the deepest of them all. I might not have been able to understand her when I was younger. First of all, her timing! I’ve never heard anybody hit a note that’s so behind the beat, it’s in the next bar. But always the most perfect feel. And then her choice of notes, her sense of harmony is deeper than any other jazz singer, more like a Miles Davis or Bill Evans. A really cool thing was that Larry Klein, who produced the album, and Scott Colley, who played bass, both had played with Carmen, and they told me a lot of great stories about working with her, she was really tough! I’ve learned so much from listening to her, and every time I listen I keep learning more.
After high school I was working as valet attendant in downtown Nashville, parking cars, and somebody at work told me one day, “you need to listen to Sade.” I had never heard of her, so I went to the local FYE record store, there were record stores back then! And I got a copy of her greatest hits, and just started listening to it when I was driving back and forth to my job. The first couple of drives I heard about half the album, and of course I was loving it. Then the third day, I was driving in and “Pearls” came on, and it caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting to be so moved, and I started crying while I was driving, I had trouble seeing the road. I was really afraid I was going to crash! I was like, “what IS this, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard! It’s amazing when a song and a vocal can just move you so much. Then I went to see her in concert , John Legend was actually the opening act. She was incredible of course. I think any singer would like to do what she’s done and had the career she’s had.
Norah Jones, “The Nearness Of You”
I was sitting at home one day, and I was about 14 years old, and my dad just came and handed me a CD and said, “Here, I think you’ll like this.” It was Norah Jones’ first CD, and “Don’t Know Why” was blowing up on the radio at that time. I started playing the album while I was cleaning the house, and it was all really cool, but when “Nearness” came on I froze, I was like, “Wow, what is THAT? That is what I want to do! “So I got my mother to go down to Borders and buy me the sheet music, and I learned it. But I was too nervous to play it AND sing it in front of my family, so I would only do that when nobody was home. I had never really done that before, playing and singing at the same time. But when I had it ready, I finally performed for everyone, and they were pretty blown away that I had learned to do that. And that was really the beginning of me knowing that that’s what I wanted to do. Thank you, Norah!
Diana Krall, “Devil May Care”
My dad used to give me a CD for every Christmas, and one it was Diana Krall, it was her album called When I Look In Your Eyes, and that was a big moment when I heard her. She was really the only one of the artists on this album that influenced me as a pianist as well as a singer. I just love her touch, and her elegance on the piano. And of course her singing is ultra cool – she’s the opposite of flashy, in a good way. So I learned a lot from that too. And now we’ve become friends, which is one of the most amazing parts of being an artist, actually meeting your idols!
Lauryn Hill, “Ex-Factor”
The first time I ever hear Lauryn sing was in the movie Sister Act 2, she sang a song called “Joyful, Joyful” and if you haven’t heard it, you need to go listen right now! It still blows me away. And then it was really a few years later that I heard The Fugees, and then her solo album with “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “Ex-Factor.” She is the best singer of her generation, in my opinion, and if you want to hear how much she influenced me, just come to one of my shows. You’re going to hear a lot of Lauryn Hill in my singing.
Astrud Gilberto, “Gentle Rain”
The first time I heard Astrud sing was on a song called “Who Needs Forever,” and I knew from the first few notes that I was hearing something I’d never heard before. This might be a funny way to say it, but she doesn’t sing like a singer. She sings more like a trumpet or a flute. She’s the only singer I know with absolutely no vibrato at all! But she has such a beautiful tone, it’s magical. I think I’m always trying to achieve that tone, it’s so airy and pure. I know that she was not a trained singer, she was João Gilberto’s wife and she was just hanging out at the studio when they did “The Girl From Ipanema,” and she just decided to try singing it, and it became one of the greatest records of all time. I think that’s such an amazing story.
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