Artist to Watch: Kandace Springs

It is certainly an unusual circumstance for a singer to be invited to perform with Prince based off of an online video. But even more unusual? Being put on a world tour with Gregory Porter prior to the release of a full length album. Despite her track record, Kandace was not an overnight sensation. Listening to her full length debut Soul Eyes you are hearing years of practice and experimentation.

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Kandace grew up in a musical family. Her father, singer Scat Springs, taught her to sing as a kid: “He would get us to sing these little gospel hymns that we didn’t want to sing. I would cry, and he would be like, 'Come on baby you sing!' And eventually I started to get more confident.” Her father also set her up for piano lessons with family friend, and professional musician, Regi Wooten. “He showed me my first jazz chords and stuff. Got me into soul a little bit and got me playing more.” Eventually her father encouraged her to sing and play piano at the same time, laying the foundation for a musical life.

In 2014, Kandace released a self-titled EP that was rooted in R&B and hip-hop. The recording led to TV performances on Late Show With David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Despite her success, Kandace felt that she wasn’t expressing her true self, and sound. She went into the studio to record Soul Eyes, hoping to channel her jazz influences as well as some of the music she heard growing up in Nashville.

Kandace cites key moments as a music fan that led up to her debut album. Everything started with her musical father, but her eyes lit up as she remembered listening to Norah Jones for the first time: “I was thirteen or fourteen and I was cleaning my room one day listening to the 'Don’t Know Why I didn’t Call' album. When that last song came on, ('The Nearness of You'), I stopped and I listened and I was like, 'Wow, she’s playing my shit right there.' Ever since I heard that song I’ve never been the same.” Not surprisingly she puts Prince near the top of her list of influences, but also classical and jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Chopin, Liszt and Debussy.

On Wednesday, Kandace entertained a capacity crowd at the Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Philips Square, opening up for Gregory Porter. During the set she demonstrated her love for jazz by paying homage to Canadian Oscar Peterson, playing a blues in his style. Later, when the old city hall clock tower rang out to signal 9 p.m., Kandace bounced off the ominous tone, echoing it with the piano. She went on to announce that the next tune would be in the same key as the note of the clock tower.

Wednesday’s performance treated the TD Toronto Jazz Festival audience to a sampling of the Soul Eyes record, but also acted as an introduction to a charismatic spirit. Gregory Porter and Prince once had a secret, but the word on Kandace Springs is out.

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