Welcome: Kandace Springs

If Kandace Springs‘ new album Indigo sounds like something new, that’s because it is. Simple while funky. Classic but contemporary. Straightforward in the way it breaks down complex ideas and genres. And, at the end of the day, undeniably human. That said, it isn’t quite a rebirth for the Nashville-born artist, who after stints living in New York and Los Angeles has returned back home to Music City. She’s long had that lithe and smoky voice and an intensely expressive mastery over the piano. For those paying attention, Kandace’s second album finds her unleashing what was there all along, all at once, for the first time.

For Kandace it boils down to a question that connects past to present: “What would Nina Simone do if she had the technology of today? You could never put Nina in a box—she would do a blues followed a classical piece, a jazz standard and then a Beatles cover. This LP took a lot of inspiration from that—it’s a mix of everything that I am.” Indigo offers a fairly plausible answer to that impossible query: songs that swirl classical composition with quiet-storm cool, jazz poise with hip-hop swing, tropical warmth with soulful depth, and earthen groove with airy psych. With all but two of the tracks here produced by the mighty drummer-producer Karriem Riggins—the living bridge spanning Oscar Peterson and Diana Krall to Erykah Badu and J Dilla—Indigo creates a vibe as familiar as it is previously unheard.

Take “Indigo Part 1,” and “Indigo Part 2,” a pair of interludes that give the album its title, where allusions—Rachmaninoff, Portishead, Sade—emerge and melt into the liquid soundscape. It feels like magic. And then there’s “Don’t Need The Real Thing” with a breezy dancehall beat that’d sound at home in today’s Top 40, except far more musical and almost hypnotic in its combination of plaintive bass and busy percussion. Kandace’s versatility is underscored when one juxtaposes “Breakdown,” a pop ballad stunner that Kandace co-wrote with the track’s producer Jamie Hartman (Rag’n’Bone Man), and “Unsophisticated,” a sultry jazz ballad that features Roy Hargrove‘s trumpet playfully intertwined with Kandace’s voice and keys.

Ask her how Indigo became the name of the entire project & she replies, with an air of mystery, “The album is an exotic flower, its own kind.” The more you listen, the more that makes sense. In fact, she could be describing herself.

Kandace grew up the bi-racial daughter of a soul singer in a country-western town. Her dad Scat Springs had his own band but also sang backup for an incredible array of musicians: Brian McKnight, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Michael McDonald, Donna Summer. He did voices on Nashville radio too, while Kandace’s mother had a full-time gig raising three talented daughters at home. Kandace’s first passions were drawing and cars. “My dad gave me a Matchbox muscle car and my mom gave me a Barbie,” she says. “I drew a mustache on Barbie and never played with her again. I still have the Matchbox.”

She collects, rebuilds, and resells cars to this day, but her plans to one day study automotive design were put on hold at age 10 when Scat brought home an upright piano (side note: Kandace still plans to pursue her dream of going to automotive school one day). She couldn’t leave the keys alone, and soon mom started taking her to lessons, while dad let her tag along to sessions and led his own three-girl choir in the living room. “He’d make us do hymns but we hated it,” Kandace laughs. “We’d be singing and crying at the same time.”

Well it worked out great. Kandace's special mix of R&B, jazz, and pop has been showcased with her first effort Soul Eyes (2016) and now with Indigo. This album couldn’t have been made by anyone but her. Once you listen you'll definitely say Kandace Springs is Doin' It.