Kandace Springs Honors History and Personal Growth on ‘The Women Who Raised Me’

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Kandace Springs offers reverence to female musicians on her upcoming album, The Women Who Raised Me.

(Photo: Robby Klein)

Kandace Springs uses The Women Who Raised Me to feature songs by female performers whose music and experiences shaped her own artistic and emotional perspectives. Despite consisting entirely of covers, the upcoming Blue Note album serves as a powerful revelation of Springs’ highly personal vision.

Tracks like Springs’ Beethoven-infused take on “I Put A Spell On You” blend jazz with other genres, while a rendition of “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?”—a song Springs listened to as a child while her mother drove her to music lessons—is made to sound a bit more traditional.

Whether the compositions here are being honored for their place in a larger history or for being important to Springs’ individual growth, The Women Who Raised Me should summon as much curiosity as certainty from listeners.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

How would you describe your relationship with jazz, given that The Women Who Raised Me traverses several styles?

Really good. This is the stuff I started out playing when I was 13, 14, 15, into my early 20s. It wasn’t until I got signed that a couple of labels … well, honestly, they tried to change me to veer more into the hip-hop lane, saying, “Oh, you know, jazz doesn’t sell anymore.” I caught a lot of hell going through it. Meanwhile, everybody’s listening to so-and-so, while I’m playing Ella Fitzgerald and I’m playing [Duke Ellington’s] “Sophisticated Lady,” “I Put A Spell On You” and all this stuff. People are like, “You know, your audience isn’t gonna be around much longer.”

And so, it’s really nice to be able to do this album, finally. I had to kind of put my foot down about two years ago and say, “I know I want to go in the jazz lane.” Indigo was a little more modern, but still old-school. But The Women Who Raised Me is going to be almost all straightahead jazz.

Where does this album fall in terms of prioritizing historical responsibility versus personal storytelling?

It’s actually a little of both. Some of [the songs] are about what I’ve gotten from [the artists] and some are about honoring their stories. I want other generations to be familiar with Nina Simone. I’d say, most people probably haven’t heard of her, based on what I’m seeing. And that’s kind of sad. I’m [thinking], “Jeez, dude!” But, you know, anyone 10 years older than me will say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of Nina,” most of the time. So, it’s inspiration for women. Me and the all-female band—they’re so talented—that I tour with, this is kind of a thing we’re making an impact on folks with. And everybody seems to love it, so I’m digging that.

Do you think your work can lead people into the jazz community, make them listeners and fans?

Well, I like that I can just be kind of a crossover. Sort of like Norah Jones was for me. Her voice is so silky and smooth, and she’s got such a different texture. It just drew me in immediately. But she’s not pure jazz, either, though she can sing pure jazz if she wants. But for me, I can do either as well—and mix it up. Roberta Flack is one of my biggest influences with Nina Simone and then Ella Fitzgerald, and then mix it all. I think anybody can appreciate that type of voice.

Where are you emotionally when you perform songs like “Solitude” or “Strange Fruit”?

You listen to and think about the artist that sang that song, first off, giving respect to them. Sticking true to the melody for the most part—but there is something to adding your own texture. Singing from your soul, that for me is the most important thing. When you sing, it’s almost like a chemistry that you can create that triggers certain emotions through certain textures. It’s like an art, and I’ve always found ways to express myself that way.

I don’t know if that makes sense, but I see music in colors. I never learned like, [music] theory or anything like that. I know basic chords and some changes but not, like, “Now we’ll go to the G-flat minor 7 with the flat fifth,” or anything like that. I couldn’t really tell you what that is. I can play it, though, because I know what it looks like in my head as a color. I see a color or shape for each of them in my head when I’m writing a song, and that’s how I learn songs. I don’t think of music in mathematical terms at all.

For me, it takes a while [to learn new music]. I’ve always been that way. But because of that, I think you can go to a deeper level for the song, because now it’s a little more personal. From an artistic point of view, I think you get more of a pure … you feel the emotion more when you approach it that way. To me, that’s everything.

People are like, “How do you do this and that?” I say, “I’m not paying attention to the fancy terminologies or rhythms and stuff. I’m just singing from my heart.” And then saying, “I think this color looks beautiful there. It sounds beautiful here.”

This is what moves me. DB



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