Autor: Richard Constantinidi
Etichete: Ally Mcbeal, By 7:30, David E. Kelley, From The Sun, Mitchell Froom, Piano, Rickie Lee Jones, Songs From Ally Mcbeal, The Radical Light
Singer/songwriter Vonda Shepard enjoyed one of the more unique career breakthroughs in pop music history; while most performers rely on radio airplay or relentless touring to win fans, Vonda Shepard instead shot to fame as a result of the hit television series Ally McBeal, which featured her performing live on an almost weekly basis.
Vonda Shepard was born in New York City in 1963, but her family relocated to California a few years later; there Shepard studied voice and piano, and was just a teen when she recorded Can’t We Try, a duet with singer Dan Hill.
After touring as a backup singer for Jackson Browne, she recorded her self-titled debut in 1989. A second album, The Radical Light, found her without a label or a manager, instead becoming a fixture of the L.A. club circuit.
There she developed a small but ardent cult following.
Among her fans were TV producer David E. Kelley and his actress wife, Michelle Pfeiffer. David E. Kelley created the comedy-drama Ally McBeal for the Fox network, and he booked Vonda Shepard for the show’s musical voice. Not only was the old, forgotten Searchin’ My Soul (off The Radical Light) used as the series’ theme, but Vonda Shepard herself became a regular cast member.
Consequently, Songs from Ally McBeal was released in mid-1998. By 7:30 was released in April 1999; a second Ally McBeal song collection followed later that same year.
The series was aired in more than 30 countries around the world…
10 years later, the artist included Romania in her Tour and that’s how CZB.ro got a chance to interview the California-based artist.
CZB: You started playing the piano when you were seven. How many hours a day do you rehearse on breaks and on tour?
Vonda Shepard: I was 6 when I started playing piano. My parents were very interested in culture, the arts and started all 4 girls young with piano lessons. When I’m gearing up for a tour, I practice about 3 hours a day by myself. When rehearsals start, it’s about 4 hours a day. When I’m not on tour, if I’m in Writing Mode, I practice about an hour a day, unless I’m writing, in which case I sit at the piano off and on for about 2- 3 hours a day. Once we’re on the road, soundcheck is about an hour or sometimes more, and the show is almost 2 hours, so that’s a lot of playing and singing!
CZB: You started playing LA clubs when you were 14. How do they allow minors to play in clubs and When did you realize that Music is your vocation?
Vonda Shepard: Yes, I began playing clubs at the age of 14. I had my parents drive me to the shows, and I played a place where they served food, so it was not illegal. Later in life, however, I had to sort of stay in a certain areas of the clubs- not near the bar. I realized that music was my vocation after the very first show I did. Up until that point, I was interested in Science – astronomy, physics, etc., but the moment I played that first show, I felt so at home- so comfortable. I finally found a safe place to express myself.
CZB: Did you watch Liberace on TV when you were little and has he influenced you in any way?
Vonda Shepard: I never watched Liberace. I had seen him maybe once on T.V., but found him to be very ostentatious.
CZB: Do you consider Ally McBeal a blessing or a curse? (I was looking at the album cover of Songs from Ally McBeal featuring … and it made me think about the compromises artists have to make, since your name was on the cover, but not your face).
Vonda Shepard: Ally McBeal was most certainly a blessing. I just love to work; to play music, survive making music. It was such a gift to me… I had been struggling for quite a while trying to get somewhere in music, so for all that I had to sacrifice to do Ally McBeal, it was quite worth it. We have dreams and visions of how we think our lives are going to go, or should go, then we are thrown a “curve ball”, as we say! I think it’s important to be open to unusual possibilities that come along. Ally McBeal gave me an audience all over the world. My only conflict now is making the set list… trying to please the hardcore Ally McBeal fans, while being true to myself. Many years have passed since the show, and it appears that people are into my newer material as well. When you sing a song with conviction, it pulls people in.
CZB: When music was featured on Ally McBeal, how much of the music was actually sung live on set and how much of it was prerecorded and mimed on set?
Vonda Shepard: All of the music on the set was prerecorded, so we mimed the entire time. I often would have to learn these very difficult bluesy licks that I had sung…
I didn’t make it easy on myself!
CZB: How important do you consider timing and luck in an artists career?
Vonda Shepard: Timing and luck are extremely important, however, if you’re not prepared when the moment comes, you’ll miss out. I mean one must practice, write to the best of ones ability and be ready.
CZB: I understand you love traveling. How many months of the year are you usually on-tour and how does this fit in with family life?
Vonda Shepard: Yes, I do love to travel. I usually do one European tour a year for about 6 weeks, and I do small tours in the States. We did a 9 day run a month ago. I also fly out a lot on weekends to do “one offs” (one or 2 shows). I began traveling when I was 15… had my 16th birthday in Paris! When I was 20-21, I toured with Rickie Lee Jones as a keyboardist/ backup singer. This is when I really got the “bug” to travel. We stayed in lovely hotels, walked around beautiful cities and played music at night. Pretty good life! As for how it fits in with my family life, I bring my little boy with me everywhere. My husband doesn’t come out on the road with me very often, as he’s always working, but we’re used to that kind of lifestyle. We always have a great reunion!
CZB: Do you sneak out into town incognito after shows to see small parts of the cities you play in, or are you constantly careful about your diet and rest while on the road?
Vonda Shepard: I am very careful about not getting too tired on the road. I travel with my son, who is 4 years old now, so I need to be rested for him as well. So no, I don’t ever go out after the show, unless it’s the last show of the tour, or we have a business dinner that is very important. I do love, however, to walk around during the day… to sit in cafes and check out the local shops and restaurants. Now with my son, we find a local park… I love running in the beautiful parks in Europe.
CZB: Do you like trying out local cuisines wherever you travel? What is the most interesting foreign food you’ve tried out so far?
Vonda Shepard: I do love local cuisine. Also I am very into seasonal cuisine – whatever vegetables are truly in season. I am a bit limited, as I don’t eat red meat or pork, which are very popular in many places in Europe. I love going to Italy, as they have great vegetarian food and fish… not very exotic, but wonderful.
CZB: How did you meet your husband, music producer Mitchell Froom? When did you realise the relationship was becoming serious and that he would understand your career ambitions?
Vonda Shepard: I met Mitchell on my second album, The Radical Light. I was working with Don Was on 2 songs, and we asked Mitchell, whom I was a great fan of, to come play Hammond B-3, which he did. He was married at the time. It wasn’t until I was nominated for an Emmy, as was he for a theme song he had written, that we ran into each other. We began working together for a few months on By 7:30 before we began dating. He knew from the day we met that I was very serious about music.
CZB: How is your four year old son (Jack Froom, b. 15 April 2006) coping with all the inconveniences being on the road with Mommy?
Vonda Shepard: Jack LOVES to travel! He loves airports, hotels, buses, the band. It’s like a second family to him. Life on the road has gotten easier since he had turned 4. He’s much more able to deal with me leaving at night to go sing. He has yet to watch the shows! He says he doesn’t like when I sing! (because he cannot sit on my lap).
So, thank you for being so patient in receiving this interview! Hope to see you all soon!
The artist interview was conceiced by RiCo
The CZB Concert Review
11.FEB.2010. Cluj-Napoca, Romania
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CZB Album Reviews
Songs from Ally McBeal
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