Vonda Shepard has a career that most artists only dream of - one that successfully spans decades. Beginning in the 80's, Vonda hit it big with "Don't Cry Ilene" and her duet with Dan Hill, "Can't We Try." Then she took the 90's and 2000's by storm with her 5 year stint on the incredibly popular TV show "Ally McBeal" (who's theme song she wrote and performed) where she played the sexy lounge singer onscreen, and music producer for the show offscreen. Vonda hasn't slowed down since. She's put out four albums since 2002 and is still touring worldwide as we enter 2011. We were able to chat with Vonda about how she balances touring with being a mom, her latest studio album of new songs "From The Sun," and why she loves Orange County. Check it out:
OCG: Is it hard balancing your touring schedule and being a mom?
VS: In general it's very tough balancing work with having a child, as so many parents understand. The kind of work I do often requires self motivation, as in sitting down at the piano to practice, or to write. Because I write at home, if my son comes home from preschool and I see his adorable face, it's going to be very tough to force myself to stay at that piano when I could be playing baseball with him, or chasing him around the house!
OCG: You shared the stage with My Chemical Romance this Christmas for KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas show. Did it feel like you were back in your days singing backup for Jackson Browne or Rickie Lee Jones?
VS: I did sing with My Chemical Romance on that show, as well as Conan and Jimmy Kimmel Live. It was a blast singing back-ups again, especially for a rock band, which is really a first for me. My good friend Carmen Carter got me the gig. I often call her when I'm producing music for T.V., so she returned the gesture. It really was like the old days, only I needed earplugs in this case! (They were lovely, very respectful guys, by the way).
OCG: That was a different genre for you. Do you enjoy branching out musically like that and collaborating with various musicians?
VS: I do enjoy branching out, and mostly, I love to sing, so when I got the call I said "sure, why not... sounds fun!" Also, I got to hang backstage and be onstage with two of my favorite people, Carmen Carter and Lorraine Perry! Singing with them really pushes me to be strong... I wish I could bring them on tour with me!
OCG: Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
VS: I'd love to do a song with Seal. I adore his husky, loose, beautiful voice, as well as his unique chord changes. Would love to write something with him... and tour with him. (Seal, are you out there? Maybe you're having a coffee in some cafe in Orange County this very moment and reading this! Woo hoo!)
OCG: Any other music genres you’d like to try?
VS: I had the wonderful opportunity when I was on Ally McBeal to do a few songs with horns, which we often doubled or tripled in the studio, giving the effect of a big band. I loved having that powerful horn section behind me, and have had visions of doing a big band style album (but one needs a budget for this!) I also love African music, specifically Habib Koite and Oumou Sangare. To somehow collaborate with them would be absolute heaven for me. A friend who knows Habib pulled me up on stage with her and a few other friends to dance while he played and sang to us... my dream night.
OCG: You’ll be back home playing some shows here in LA and Orange County at the Coach House. What’s the best thing about playing “home town” shows?
VS: Home shows can actually be a bit stressful. It's sort of like being the host of a party where you want everyone to enjoy themselves, so there can be a bit of pressure. However, it's also fun to look out in the audience and see my best friend singing all of the lyrics to the songs, or to see my sister smiling and giving me encouragement.
OCG: You’ve played the Coach House a few times now. Are you excited to come back?
VS: I'm so excited to come back. I've been playing there since my first album came out in 1989, so I have some history there. I have a fantastic band, with tremendous talent and energy, so the show should really be a lot of fun. James Ralston on guitar (Tina Turner for 22 years!), Jim Hanson (Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, etc...), and Michael Urbano (Sheryl Crow, Smash Mouth, etc..).
OCG: You’ll be playing songs from your most recent album, From The Sun. How was this album different from your past albums?
VS: From The Sun leans on the soulful side of my voice, and has tight, stacked background vocal parts that really add another dimension to this album and to the live performance. Most of the guys on the album will be with me, so it will sound like the real deal. I feel that From The Sun is my most focused album since It's Good Eve, which came out in 96'. We will also do songs from Eve, Chinatown, By 7:30, as well as some favs from my former day job!
OCG: What is your favorite song on the record?
VS: My favorites are "I Know Better" and "Another January." For those who do not have the record yet, you can pick it up on my website vondashepard.com. We sell the CDs through CD Baby.
OCG: You play a lot of great covers at your shows too. What’s your favorite cover to play?
VS: My favorite cover to play is "Sweet Inspiration." I remember the day I first heard that song, driving down Pacific Coast Highway; I got the chills and became quite thrilled at the prospect of recording the song. It's one of those that I will probably play forever- it really gets people on their feet!
OCG: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
VS: Well, I'm not having any more children, so I'll have a 10 year old in school. I will probably only tour in the summer and on weekends, but I don't think I will ever give up touring, as long as people are in those seats! I have a dream of writing songs for movies, which is not far off, possibly (I sang in the movie "Love and Other Drugs" recently for James Newton Howard). Perhaps another T.V. show is on the horizon...in town work is always good! But wandering the streets of Prague, Bucharest, Paris, Hamburg, knowing I have a show that night at a lovely theater ... well, in the words of Ina Garten, "how bad could THAT be?!"
OCG: Since you’re a Southern California girl, what’s your favorite thing about Orange County?
VS: I know it's a cliche, but the weather and the beaches. I love walking north, toward Malibu, and seeing the magenta Bouganvillia blooming on the mountainside and watching the marine layer roll in off the ocean. Throw in a Mojito, and this is really shaping up to be a good day.
Don't miss Vonda Shepard at The Coach House in San Juan on Friday April 29th! You can get your tickets here. You can also listen to her album From The Sun here. Check out her video for "I Know Better" below.