Local Songwriter Focuses on her Musical Future

The Nicole Springer Band. Photo: Kelly Powell: Elements Studio Photography

After years of being estranged from her family because she is a lesbian, Kansas City musician Nicole Springer says she’s channeled those feelings into creating the six new songs on her EP, Willing, that she’ll be releasing in November.

Springer has played local venues for years, both solo and with groups, including the Plaza Art Fair, the Human Rights Campaign Battle of the Bands, festivals such as Boulevardia and Middle of the Map, and local TV morning shows. She recorded the new EP with the three musicians in her new band, fittingly called The Nicole Springer Band. 

Read Monica Soto's review in the November issue of Camp.

“I actually was in bands between 2012 and 2017, The Clementines and The Good Hearts,” she said “That was my last one before I took about a year and a half break from performing. So then I came back in February, kind of had to clean up my mental health a little bit, cut some ties with some people, and all of a sudden … music became a thing again. Like I was finally ready to come back to it. And so in February, I had my first show back. And from there, it’s just been … this quick climb up. It just feels like in this universe, I’m really riding the wave right now.”

Springer, 34, said that music is now her full-time job and career.

“I worked in customer service the last time I worked,” she said. “That was last September, so it’s been over a year now. My wife and I, we sold our house, and it allowed me the opportunity to quit – to be honest – a very unfulfilling, very depressing customer service job.”

Springer is married to Bethany Cain, who writes for Camp and was one of the founders of OutSkrts, the women-focused summer music festival in Kansas City. They live with their cats and an adorable small dog named Deb.

Photo: J. Long

Springer says her story started when she was 19. “I was disowned by my family for being gay, and so that’s where it began. Then I worked for the government. I’ve worked in a cubicle doing data entry for years and years and years while I tried to do music. And it wasn’t until I met Beth and had that partnership, I kind of started, like I said, seeking out ways to get through some of the trauma of younger years.”

Springer said that part of the family estrangement hurt because it separated her from her younger brother and she didn’t want that.

“But it was really, really bad terrible stuff. But after six years, I didn’t really have the energy anymore to not forgive. Like my mom said, let’s move on,” she said.

Springer has used that experience for her songs, and she said that the issues between her and her family also concerned some “toxic” things happening that she just had to let go in order to move on.

But with help from Beth and from a therapy app she uses, she said she is “really committed to figuring out why I am the way I am and how I can be better every day.”

Springer says she wrote her song “Come Clean” as she “started my whole journey of wanting to come clean with myself, too. Like I can’t be honest with my wife if I’m not honest with myself, too, because I’m denying her the truth of who I am.”

When she was not writing her own material, Springer says, she has done covers of many songs. With her friend Mike Harper on bass guitar, she would perform cover duos of ’80s and ’90s music. Springer said that Harper approached her about adding two friends of his – George Biggs on electric guitar and Dane Walters on drums – to their performances. Springer said this also gave them the chance to perform at the recordBar in Kansas City, Mo.

“These are all guys that typically played metal hard rock, and now they’re playing, like, this heartfelt Americana thing,” Springer said. “Like they’d never done anything like this, and they’re having a blast and they cut right to it.”

Springer attended college briefly for music but didn’t graduate because of the emotional issues in her life at age 19.  But she credits college for getting her involved in singing in a chorus again after she found the gospel choir there.

“I grew up in gospel choir,” she said, and church gospel choirs were an important part of her musical experiences during childhood.

“Oh yeah, I was singing as a guest soloist, probably from like 9 years old on, and then I joined when I was 14 and became a soloist there.

Photo: Mike Schwabauer

“It’s kind of an easy way to start singing, because if you were raised in church, it’s convenient. They’re pretty accepting of who can be in the choir. I learned a lot of harmonizing and writing parts and also just passion, because although I’m not religious now at all, at the time I was a genuine Christian. Which was interesting because I was also a gay child. I didn’t know it, since I was a kid, obviously, but you know, I was having crushes on girls and also, like, begging God to forgive me for it.”

Springer said that she and Beth formed an LLC called Surefire Creative, where they can develop various art and music projects and other creative ventures.

“I plan on expanding and doing every kind of creative. We’re talking about writing a screenplay. Like we can make artwork – why would we do anything else?”

Springer said she’s always inspired by singers such as Brandi Carlile and, in her younger years, Joni Mitchell and others.

“But actually,” she said, “the big moment for me as a kid was when I saw Janis Joplin performing on [television]. I sat up so close to the TV screen, I think I go cross-eyed, and she was singing ‘Maybe.’ That love of just singing your frigging heart out. And I knew that is how I wanted to sing. Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

“So that’s kind of always been my goal is to sing with that much passion and conviction and vulnerability. And that’s what I try and make my music about. And it’s just not my music – my life is, is to have that vulnerability, to be honest and truthful and do what’s right, but to also be strong and be able to defend yourself as needed.”

Where to Hear Nicole Springer’s Music:

  • EP release show: 7-8:30 p.m. Nov. 10, Listening Room, InterUrban ArtHouse, 8001 Newton St., Overland Park, Kan.
  • Songwriters Round with Erin Eades, Nicole Springer and Megan Luttrell: Doors at 7, music at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21, The Rino, 314 Armour Rd., North Kansas City, Mo.
  • You can hear Springer’s previous band, The Good Hearts, at https://thegoodheartsmusic.bandcamp.com/releases.
  • Starting Nov. 16, her new EP, Willing, will be digitally released for purchase. Stream it from all digital sources, such as Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music and YouTube Music, as well as directly from her website, http://nicolespringersings.com. The physical EP will be coming soon to shows and record stores, according to Springer’s website.

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