Kandace Springs – 'Getting to play in Japan and Europe just blows my mind'

Kandace Springs

The Nashville singer talks to us about her idols and a pint-sized legend she knew as 'Princey'

'I'm a big tomboy when no one's looking,' insists Kandace Springs, whose first album, Soul Eyes, came out on Blue Note last year. 'Sure, I love getting my bedazzle on: it never hurts to glam up. But girl, I can't wait to get under the hood of my Jeep when I'm back home, do some tune-ups and bodywork.' Springs is so obsessed with cars (buying them, selling them, taking them for long, off-road drives in the mud) that there's a possible TV show in the pipeline, showing off her beloved Chevrolets and 4x4s.

For now though, this 28-year-old Nashville singer is touring America and Canada before heading to Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. She played here last year, during a UK tour supporting Grammy-winning, balaclava-wearing singer, Gregory Porter. This time around, Springs is headlining, and hopes Porter will join her onstage for a duet. Since her album, things have quickly gathered momentum and she can now tick the Jools Holland box off her jazz career-milestone list after playing his show in September. 'This year has been a trip. Getting to play in Japan and Europe just blows my mind. All my hard work is paying off and I'm very appreciative.'

Springs began playing piano aged ten, encouraged by her dad Scat Springs, a Nashville session singer. When a friend gave her Norah Jones' Come Away With Me, her 2002 jazz-pop crossover debut, it made a huge impression. Springs wanted to sing and play piano, with her own stripped-down, natural sound. Although offered a recording deal at 17, she knocked it back, preferring to play piano in bars, while valet-parking Ferraris and trucks for money during the day. Fast forward a few years, and she started working with Sturken and Rogers, the New York record producers who discovered Rihanna, and wrote hits for Shakira, Christina Aguilera and Luther Vandross.

Springs' 2014 debut EP led to TV spots on David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, plus Afropunk and Bonnaroo appearances. Compared to the smooth, soulful jazz standards she's recently been singing, the EP leaned in a younger R&B and hip-hop direction. She's now focused on the classy, old-time sounds of her musical heroes, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Nina Simone. '"Wild Is the Wind": that's my song. Nina would kick anyone's ass on piano. I love the emotion of that track. I like to sing "Strange Fruit" too: a beautifully ugly song, it really goes to some dark places.'

Her cover of Sam Smith's 'Stay With Me' also holds a special place in her heart after catching the attention of Prince. 'Suddenly, "Stay With Me" gets this retweet from Prince,' she remembers. 'I figured it was an imposter. Then I got a DM, asking me to play at Paisley Park for the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain. I was crying happy tears and running around my backyard. That's something I will never, ever forget. He let me call him Princey,' she adds, with a down-low, infectious laugh. 'I had to look down when he spoke; you don't realise how short he really was!'

Celebrity friends aside, she's hoping to make new fans on this tour. 'I have this big hair which helps me stand out. Ultimately though, it comes down to the music and the tone. I hope people hear something that gets to them the way that so many of my musical heroes have got to me.'

Kandace Springs, West Princes Street Gardens Spiegeltent, 15 Jul, 7.30pm, £20; Spiegeltent, George Square, 16 Jul, 8.30pm, £17.

Kandace Springs

Theres an increasingly loud buzz around Kandace Springs, the Nashville-based singer-pianist who combines old-soul jazz sophistication with a tasteful touch of R&B and pop. Shes been a protégé of Prince (playing at Paisley Park for the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain), she's toured with Gregory Porter and released her…

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