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Prince protege Kandace Springs is doing her late mentor proud

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Kandace Springs had a good friend to turn to when she was at a creative crossroads while making her debut album.


The late superstar discovered the Nashville jazz and soul singer two years ago, when he found a video clip of Springs singing Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" online. He retweeted it to his followers, causing a viral rush, and then sent her a direct message that led to him inviting Springs to perform at his 30th anniversary concert for "Purple Rain" at his Paisley Park complex in Minneapolis.

"I walked in and saw all his plaques and wards and stuff, and then this door opens to my right and goes boom! And it's like, 'Omigod -- Prince is here!'" Springs, 27, recalls by phone from Washington, D.C., adding with a laugh, "I didn't realize how short he was; I had to look down to see him. But I ran and gave him a hug, and he was a little, like, 'Whoa...' But I think he liked it."

Springs, whose father was a recording session backup singer for a wide range of mostly R&B and country artists, became "good friends" with Prince. And as she began working on her album -- "Soul Eyes," which came out in June -- he provided invaluable counsel, especially when those working with Springs tried to steer her in more mainstream and pop and even hip-hop directions.

"I played that stuff for Prince, and Prince hated it," Springs says. "He would call me, harassing me -- 'Kandace, go back to playing 'Sophisticated Lady' and 'The Nearness of You' and 'Rain Falling,' the real jazz stuff. You could be the Roberta Flack of your lifetime.

"I mean, he would get angry. He even called my producers and told them to take me back to jazz."

Prince wasn't the only one saying that, either. Last year Springs decided to heed the advice and switched gears. She signed with Blue Note Records and recorded "Soul Eyes" with producer Larry Klein, Joni Mitchell's ex-husband and a chief collaborator with her and others, including Herbie Hancock. The set mixes standards and interesting covers, including War's "The World Is A Ghetto," and it certainly stakes out ground for Springs as a contemporary jazz stylist.

"It's very organic, and there's not a lot of people in the younger generation making this kind of sound, with real instruments and stuff like that," she says. "It's been a long journey, but I'm really happy to be where we are now."

And even though Prince passed away two and a half months before "Soul Eyes" came out, he was still able to hear what his friend and protege had done.

"After finished the album in January I went to Paisley Park to see him, which turned out to be the last time," Springs says. "I played him this organic record, and he was like, 'Yes, this is it. This is great.' I got his approval, so that felt good."

Kandace Springs

Sunday, Aug. 14. Doors open at 8 p.m.

The Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale.

Tickets are $15.

Call 248-544-1991 or visit themagicbag.com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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