Every so often a new singer emerges who's able to assimilate multiple musical touchstones and still come off sounding remarkably fresh and unburdened by the past. Kandace Springs is one of those artists. The 27-year-old, Nashville-based singer, songwriter and pianist counts such stylists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and Norah Jones as her heroes, but as evidenced by her sparkling full-length Blue Note Records debut, Soul Eyes, Springs mimics none of them.
Instead Springs allows her comely alto to become a conduit that touches upon soul, jazz and pop while transforming those aforementioned influences into a personalized sound that reveals itself effortlessly. "The artists who have inspired me the most all sang so naturally," Springs says. "That helped me find my own sound." The 11 songs contained on Soul Eyes all feature Springs playing piano alongside an illustrious cast of musicians that includes trumpeter Terence Blanchard, guitarists Dean Parks and Jesse Harris, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, organist Pete Kuzma, bassist Dan Lutz, percussionist Pete Korpela.
Through much of Soul Eyes, Springs sings about romantic affairs of the heart, starting off with the effervescent, country-laden “Talk to Me,” penned by Harris, who also wrote the gentle, life-affirming “Neither Old Nor Young.” The ruminative “Place to Hide” is a song by Judie Tzuke that Evan Rogers kept in the back of his mind for some time just waiting for the perfect singer to deliver it. It was Carl Sturken who introduced Springs to Mal Waldron’s signature jazz classic, “Soul Eyes.” Klein suggested the mesmerizing makeovers of two Shelby Lynne songs (“Thought It Would Be Easier” and “Leavin’”) as well as War’s haunting funk classic, “The World Is a Ghetto.”
Springs co-wrote the melancholy ballad, “Fall Guy” with Rogers and Sturken, as well as the searching, observational mid-tempo gem “Novocaine Heart.” She co-wrote the smoldering, cinematic slow-burner “Too Good To Last” — which features a soaring trumpet solo by Blanchard — with celebrated songwriters Greg Wells and Lindy Robbins. Springs composed the gorgeous solo album closer “Rain Falling” by herself. Featuring just voice and piano, the song dates back more than a decade ago to Springs’ late-teens.