Vonda Shepard: Interview

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We brought you the news just a couple of weeks ago that New York singer/songwriter (and Ally McBeal TV star) Vonda Shepard has announced a new UK tour for October 2022. Today we’re able to bring you this interview with Shepard.

Vonda, congratulations on the new album, Red Light, Green Light. Did you purposefully set about writing something so introspective, or did it occur more organically? 

Thank you so much!  I sit down at the piano, when I’m in writing mode, and just go with whatever reveals itself and needs/wants to be written.  Usually it is a melody with gibberish, first, with a lot of deciphering and editing.  On all of my albums you’ll find some very introspective songs, that often have an uplifting element.  

Ally McBeal is clearly one of the major successes of your career, and something you should be rightly proud of – but you were already a working musician of some experience when that opportunity presented itself – how did that role come about?  

Thank you again!  I had recorded two albums for Reprise (Warner Bros.) in 1989 and 1991 and had a couple of minor hits; Don’t Cry Ilene and Baby, Don’t You Break My Heart Slow, but then was dropped.  I then spent four years writing and recording It’s Good, Eve, which turned out to be my most acclaimed album, and which lead me to getting the role on Ally, which was a much needed gig.  I was playing that album one night in L.A. at a gig to which I had invited Michelle and David Kelley, and apparently the timing was fortuitous, as he was looking for the musical voice of his new show, Ally McBeal!  Those were the songs David connected with.  

You certainly had enormous success on that project, do you miss working on the show? 

I absolutely loved my job on the show.  I was also the music producer, working with so many of those amazing guest artists.  The schedule was gruelling, but incredibly gratifying, and when the 5th year ended, I was ready to move on.  I was juggling touring every hiatus and on weekends, as well as writing and recording my own solo albums along with the four Ally albums.  So no, I don’t miss it, but I have the most wonderful memories that I will always cherish.  

You have a history of collaborating with many other artists – Al Green, Anastacia, and Mitchell Froom for example – all of which goes some way to demonstrating your standing in the industry. Can you tell the casual reader how these collaborations transpire? 

I love that you included Mitchell Froom… my husband!  He was my all-time favourite record producer in the ‘80s, producing Crowded House, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, and many more.  I was doing my second album with Don Was, and we needed a Hammond B-3 player, and he suggested Mitchell.  I said “We can really get Mitchell Froom???”  That’s how we met, in 1990.  Starting with By 7:30, in 1999, Mitchell ended up working on all of my albums.  This is our 8th together.  Al Green, Sting, Robert Downey Jr. were all from my work on Ally.  Pretty cool!  

What is your favourite thing about making new music? 

My favourite thing about making new music is that I have new material to play live!  That keeps the show fresh for me, even if I only play a couple of the new tunes.  It’s also an amazing feeling to write something you like a lot that never existed before.  

New York has produced so many amazing musicians, where do you feel you fit in among them? How would you describe your sound? 

People think of me as a New Yorker, but I moved to L.A. when I was one and a half! 😂 I would say that I’m not as edgy as many typical New York artists.  I certainly tried to be at times, writing Newspaper Wife and Venus is Breaking… and those were genuine for me, but I think I fit more with the Jackson Browne, Carole King, Joni Mitchell California sound/meets Aretha Franklin (in my dreams!!!)  

This latest album will be your thirteenth; how much do you think your song writing has developed or progressed over the course of career? Did you at any point ever think about doing anything else?  

My songwriting has moved in a more soulful direction over the years, especially since From The Sun, where I began really stacking my background vocals.  My voice sounded better and felt more comfortable in that soul genre, rather than the whimsical styles.  I’m sure my years on Ally, singing all of those Motown, Stax and Muscle Shoals tunes influenced my writing and singing.  Lyrically I’m still trying to dig deeper and come up with new images.  I’ve thought about writing books, being on Broadway, being a photographer, being a nature guide!  A simple life.  

What makes you happy? What are you most proud of, both professionally and personally? 

I love watching my son play basketball!  I love reading a great novel, having an amazing meal with friends, sitting by a fire.  Justice makes me very happy… let’s see.  Proud of?  I’d say that whatever the outcome, I devoted much of my life to raising my son, and I think I laid a pretty solid foundation for him.  I’m proud that I came from a family with very little means and was able to break through and have a successful career in the very challenging music business… and I’m still at it… and it feels GREAT.  

 Who are you listening to right now? 

When I’m at the gym, I listen to Flo Rida, Sia, The Weekend, etc… I’m also into Madison Cunningham, Rufus Wainwright, Kat Edmonson, and I keep going back to the ‘70s!!  I listened to Three Dog Night today!  

What excites you most about touring and bringing your live show to the UK? What can folk expect? 

Well, I haven’t been able to tour for 2.5 years, due to Covid, so we’re ramping up and getting ready, and I can’t wait get out there and play for ACTUAL PEOPLE!!!  It will be thrilling!   I will be playing a few of the songs from my new album, Red Light, Green Light, of course, and some from my other albums, and since it’s the 25th Anniversary of Ally McBeal, we will be playing lots of the favourites from those albums!  Searchin’ My Soul, You Belong to Me, Walk Away, Reneé, Tell Him, etc… it’ll be so much fun!!  

The tour starts on October 4th in Pocklington, Yorkshire and ends at the prestigious Bush Hall in London on October 20th  – full list of UK dates is as follows;

October

04       Pocklington Arts Centre      
06       Glasgow Oran Mor
07       Sale Waterside
08       Gateshead Sage
09       Leeds City Varieties
11        Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
12       Shrewsbury Theatre Severn
14       Southampton Concorde Club
15       Milton Keynes Stables
16       Birmingham Symphony Hall
18       Torrington Plough Arts Centre
19       Bristol St George’s
20       London Bush Hall

Photo Credit: Pamela Springsteen

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