Chef Candace Nelson helped start the cupcake craze with the opening of her store Sprinkles here in LA. Her song list includes the sugary pop she listened to growing up overseas, an 80’s icon, and her personal anthem - an upbeat ode to positivity and sunshine from Bill Withers. Candace is also a judge on the Food Network show “Cupcake Wars,” now in its second season.
For More: http://www.sprinkles.com/
1. Mary J. Blige - Family Affair
2. Lionel Richie - Dancing on the Ceiling
3. Cyndi Lauper - All through the Night
4. Rooney - When did your heart go missing?
5. Bill Withers - Lovely Day
Eric J Lawrence: Hi, this is Eric J Lawrence from KCRW and I’m here with chef Candace Nelson. She’s credited with starting the cupcake craze with the opening of her store Sprinkles here in LA. She’s also a judge on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” Today we won’t be talking cupcakes, unfortunately, but we are talking about something else very near and dear to my heart and that is music. We’ll hear some songs that have inspired her as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Candace, thanks for coming down.
Candace Nelson: Thank you so much for having me, I’m thrilled to be here.
EJL: So what’s the first song you’ve got for us?
CN: Mary J Blige’s “Family Affair.” I have to admit, I do love hip hop and I’m a huge fan of Mary J Blige. Let me preface this story by saying that I love and would have chosen this song anyway…but this song is incredibly special to me because it was the song that Mary J Blige performed on the Oprah show where Oprah first talked about our cupcakes, Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Sprinkles had been open about 8 months, my husband and I had been worked to the bone, and we had just gotten through our first holiday season. We get this call from Harpo Studios and they say “Oprah herself has requested 350 Sprinkles Cupcakes for her studio audience tomorrow morning. Can you guys get them to Chicago?”
Clearly, you don’t say no to Oprah, but we had no idea how we were going to get 350 cupcakes to Chicago the next morning. So we said yes, and we hung up the phone. So my husband, and his brother who happened to be in town, and I hand carried 350 Sprinkles Cupcakes on a red-eye to Chicago. Anyway, we got there and it was probably four in the morning and we started plating those cupcakes. We were there before even Oprah and Mary J Blige had arrived. They rolled in all groggy and headed to their green rooms. Of course we were wired, still in our clothes from the day before, and taking everything in. We were still backstage when we watched Oprah basically deliver a verbal love letter to our cupcakes and Mary J Blige perform this song. So, to this day, anytime I hear this song it kind of sends a shiver down my spine.
EJL: That was Family Affair from Mary J Blige. What’s the next track you’ve got for us?
CN: The next track is Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling.” This is probably one that people haven’t heard in a while. But, I have to say, that when this song was popular I was actually living in Southeast Asia. My family lived overseas for a lot of my young life. And I was living in Medan, Sumatra, of all places. As a preteen, I was desperate for American culture, pop culture, or culture of any sort -- whether that be food, like cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies or music like Lionel Richie. You couldn’t walk more than 10 ft in Indonesia without hearing this song blaring from a sauté cart or a store or a café.
And the great thing about it was, in Indonesia at the time, there were these vast stores of pirated cassette tapes which of course is a huge no-no. But I was so excited about it because I could go into the stores and mom and dad said “Pick out 10!!” They were so inexpensive. Of course nyou’d get them home and there would be typos in the credits and recording quality wouldn’t be that great but my music collection was vast. Anyway, my thirst for pop culture was easy to access there, with cheap music. My thirst for American goodies, not so much. I had to bake them all myself, so that was sort of the beginning of my baking career back then.
EJL: That was “Dancing on the Ceiling” from the gravity-defying Lionel Richie as selected by our guest Candace Nelson. What’s the next track you’ve got for us?
CN: The next track is certainly proving that I am a child of the ‘80s. I definitely was. I was watching MTV when that astronaut was putting the flag in the moon. Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night.” The great thing about this song, and the album that it was on, was that it reappeared later in my life, which I think all good music does. It just kind of stays with you, forever.
At the time I was going to boarding school, my parents were still living overseas and I was at an East Coast boarding school. Everyone was listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and The Grateful Dead. I have to be honest, I had never heard of the Grateful Dead before I went to this school. So my musical tastes were a little bit more on the “alternative” side, if we can use that term. I just remember holing up in my best friend’s room and she had similar “alternative” music tastes. We just listened to this album over and over again. I just think Cyndi Lauper was so iconic during the 80s for her style, but when I rediscover this album it is so surprising to me how beautiful her voice was and how talented an artist she was. I just find this song to be incredibly soulful and beautiful.
EJL: That was “All Through the Night” from Cyndi Lauper, 80s legend. What’s the next track you’ve got for us?
CN: Up next is Rooney’s “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” And this is just a great song. I love it. It’s incredibly energetic and addictive. I have my friend Jennifer to thank for it. I’ve always thought the ultimate luxury in life would be to have your own music stylist. People have personal trainers, they have image stylists but I mean if someone could literally create the soundtrack to you life! I mean, going grocery shopping to your favorite songs instead of listening to that awful elevator music. Wouldn’t that be great? You would be so excited!
CN: One of the hard parts about being so busy, and having a family, and a business to run is that you really don’t have that much time to scope out music. Now KCRW comes pretty darn close. It comes really close to being the music stylist of my life but, even better, I have a really dear friend who is a music supervisor at one of the big studios.
Every month she sends out her selection of “hot picks” in her mind. She has been largely responsible for a lot of the great music I’ve discovered in the last few years and I definitely wouldn’t have known about this song had it not been for her. So, thank you Jennifer.
It’s just so incredibly energetic and upbeat and addictive. I could listen to it over and over again. It’s also an LA-based band, which I think is fantastic. It also happened to be a song I was listening to a lot when my son was born. So I think I have extra special memories because of that.
ELJ: That was Rooney with “When Did your Heart go Missing?” So Candace, what is your final song selection?
CN: My next song is Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” I think if I could pick a personal anthem, this would be it. I really like to keep things positive and upbeat. I mean…my business is cupcakes, which is like dealing in sunshine right? So this song is just mellow and upbeat and has this great feeling of optimism and possibility. And these are all things that I love and I think these are all things that are very Los Angeles. That’s why I love living here.
EJL: Well Candace thank you very much for coming down and joining us here at KCRW.com.
CN: Thank you so much for having me.
EJL: For a complete track listing and to find the songs online go to: kcrw.com/guestdjproject