“Stop doing that hip hop stuff!”

In today’s musical landscape I personally would tend to disagree with this quote. And initially, so would Kandace Spring’s record label. The one person who saw through this noise, and that Kandace truly had a voice outside of the mainstream, was Prince. So who am I to disagree?

Born and raised in Nashville, Kandace received her first musical training from her father, a hardened studio and live musician with deep roots in the music community. Eventually he set her up with the Wooten Brothers (Rudy, Roy, Joe, Victor and Reggie) for lessons.

“…(Reggie) taught me a couple jazz chords, taught me how to play ‘Soul Train’ so when I came home and played it for my Dad he was like, “THATS AMAZING!””

After learning to play by using what Reggie Wooten describes as ‘ear theory’, Kandace’s father shopped around a demo and got her a meeting with Evan Rogers, which led to her deal with Blue Note. It was here where she started showing promise in using her ear to blend styles and sounds together to create a cohesive sound.

I would love to give an example of this but unfortunately, her first work with Blue Note, an EP, has been completely taken off the internet.

“I didn’t want people to get the wrong impression … after the EP people were telling me, “this is what you are, nobody wants to listen to jazz music.” So when I went back home I was like, “man, I can just work on these cars, and I’m making money, and I like dealing with people.” So ya, there was a point where I was like, “you know what? I would rather do this than go into the studio with ‘so-and-so’ tonight and do this annoying-ass stuff where they cover my voice up so I can’t hear myself.

…people were telling me if I keep doing jazz that I’m only gonna sell five records. So I was like, “alright then! I’ll sell five records and get back to selling my Chevys!”

As a self-described gear head it’s obvious that it’s hard to get her out of the shop. But it’s clear that these conflicting passions, music and cars, which kept her grounded. No matter the choices she made in music, she could always return.

“I’ve got a Corvetter C6 Convertible, 18″ wheels out front; 19″ out back, staggered cross wheel rotors, 6.02L 69 transmission, 0-60 in….. 3.9 seconds. Then a Jeep Wrangler lifted on 6″, 47″ tires and it’s got a massive exahust – it’s an ’07 but years don’t matter on Jeeps. And I’ve got a 1953 Bel Air.”

“…So I ended up talking to Don Woods and when he started hearing the finished (jazz) product he was like, “why weren’t we doing this in the first place?” So we ended up finishing the album and now we’re just so overwhelmed, somehow people are just thirsty for this kinda music.”

So maybe Prince was right..? Maybe people are thirsty for this sound in a world dominated by modulated, synthesized voices? Clearly he saw a lot of potential when he DM’ed Kandace after seeing her do Sam Smiths “Stay With Me”

Kandace has completely embraced this sound. Although she relied heavily on songs written by others for her 2016 release Soul Eyes the production of the record was clear that Kandance and her sound was now front and center. There was nothing to hold back the raw emotion, talent and groove that she had to offer as a cross-over jazz artist. She’s bottled something that represents her own style and put it directly into this LP.

But what about a really great Prince story?

“Oh man, I have sooo many of them… okay, let me start from the beginning:

He doesn’t just like to do music – he likes to go see movies, he took me on a Sunday drive through the neighborhood where he used to live and stuff, anyway I’ll get to that: OkayPlay had tweeted a video or something, my cover of that Sam Smith tune – and Prince saw that and retweeted that. So I’m thinking that’s it. A couple minutes later I get a DM, Prince had just messaged me. So I’m thinking, “nah that couldn’t be him.”

I have a friend Evan, who’s a great guy and a really big Prince fan, and he tells me how Prince writes – he spells ‘I’ as ‘EyE’ and just generally spelling everything wrong – so Evan is like, “that’s him! That’s how you know!”

Anyway, so the message was, “all your dreams are about to come true. You wanna come play with my band?”
An hour later Capital records called us saying that Prince had just called them and he wanted me to come play a show – the 30th Anniversary of Purple Rain.

3 days later I’m on a plane. Land in Paisley Park. I walk in and they’re designing the cover of the ThirdEyeGirl record, the one with the three sunglasses – so I’m talking to the engineer and a door opens up behind me and I turn and give him a big hug like, “Prrrriiiiincce!!”

I honestly had no idea how short he was. He’s so cute and so little! He was always wearing these little light-up heels, these little platform shoes.

So we end up closing this show for him, playing with both his male band and his female band. But the next day he took us to the movies – and when he goes he rents the entire movie theatre out and kicks everybody else out of the theatre, keeping one or two people to cook the popcorn and run the projectors.

Playback: What did ya see?

KS: We saw ‘LUCY’ with Angelina Jolie – but then we went back to Paisley and watched ‘The Notebook’ on his personal projector.

Playback: You watched ‘The Notebook’ with Prince at Paisley Park.

KS: HAHAHA Ya!

…anyway, so he comes around after a while and says, “I don’t like to work on Sundays.” So we all hop in his XLR and we drive through this park with people walking their dogs, it’s beautiful, it’s sunny out, and his windows are tinted but he rolled them down to get a little air so people are doing double-takes all over the place. The look on people’s faces was probably the best part of the entire trip!

So turn to Prince after a while and say like, “Hey Princy can we go to the Mall” and he turns to me and says, “if I do that I’ll bring 400 people back with me.”

.. the last thing I did with him was in January, on my birthday, he was rehearing for his piano and a mic tour, and he had a huge auditorium and it was just me and him hanging out and he started playing. So he essentially gave me a 25-minute show all to myself, I lay on some floor pillows and watched him play for about 25-minutes. It was pretty incredible.