Monday, May 14, 2012
VONDA SHEPARD Comes to New York!
Long before Ally McBeal, Vonda Shepard was making a splash in the musical world with her raw talent and sheer determination to succeed. Once she was signed to appear as a regular on "Ally McBeal", millions more soon found out about Vonda as she recorded over 500 songs for the show. Today, she continues to record and add to her amazing resume! Her new CD "Solo" has just been released and Vonda is touring to support the CD. I had the greatest pleasure to talk with Vonda the other evening from her California home...
MICK: Your new CD "Solo" sounds awesome. When and why did you decide to record a CD with just you and your piano?
VONDA: Several months ago, I was talking to my European record label and they said "Let's do an interim solo project". I'm still writing my next album and it's taking a while. We could do this in between. He wanted to do this and rerecord some previous stuff. As I thought about it, there are so many fans out there who have requested this of me, including playing a tour solo. I had been too intimidated and vulnerable to go on the road by myself on stage but I did it! I did the record, went to Europe and toured. It was very exciting and powerful!
MICK: Did it take long to record?
VONDA: Not long at all. We did around 3 songs a day so it took about four days to record. Then it took a few days to mix it.
MICK: Your rendition of "Walk Away Renee" is great! Has anybody from The Left Banke heard it yet?
VONDA: No they have not heard this yet! If they have, I would be shocked!
I love that song and I remember hearing their rendition of it and Riki Lee Jones did it also. That song and "You Belong To Me" are the only covers on the album because those are songs I identify with.
MICK: "Solo" is your fifth collaboration with your husband, producer Mitchell Froom. How is he different from other producers you've worked with?
VONDA: Before I ever met Mitchell or worked with him, I was a big fan of his. His records were my favorite records, especially Crowded House. I used to study his production and tried to emulate his style when I recorded. On the album "It's Good, Eve", I would ask myself "What would Mitchell Froom do here?". When I started to work with him, I really saw why his records sounded so good and unique. He really is the master of deconstructing and adding space where it needs it. The changing of one chord that will make the whole song go to another dimension that the artist would never have thought of. It could be just a passing chord or a bass note change. I'm very lucky to be able to work with him!
MICK: On your current tour that comes to BB Kings in NYC on May 21, are there other musicians with you?
VONDA: Yes there are! I was going to come solo because that's what I've been doing. But I thought it would be fun to do a little run with the guys. We have a lot more fun with the three of us! We have James Ralston on guitar. He was with Tina Turner for 22 years! A fantastic rhythm guitar player and he sings like a lead singer. On bass is Jim Hanson. We've been playing together for over 14 years now. He has played with Johnny Cash, Bruce Springstein, Rodney Crowley...some great people! We do anything from very intimate, where we just have acoustic guitar and bass, then just build it up to the big soul section!
MICK: Growing up, who did you admire?
VONDA: I admired the hardcore singer/songwriters of the 70's...Carole King, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor. I was hugely influenced by Candi Staton, Chaka Kahn and Stevie Wonder.
MICK: You've met most of them, right?
VONDA: I've met Chaka and Stevie; I've worked with Jackson Browne and I've been on the road with James Taylor. I've met Carole King. I still haven't met Aretha Franklin!
MICK: Do you keep in touch with Calista Flockhart [from their work together on Ally McBeal]?
VONDA: Calista is one of those friendships where if I ran into her today on the street, we would give each other a huge hug and it would seem like
yesterday! She and I had this kind of connection. We don't really stay in touch. We speak maybe twice a year and attempt to have dinner, but we are both very busy with our children and our careers. We both live in LA where everybody is busy!
MICK: When you write a song, what comes first for you...the words or the music?
VONDA: Usually is kind of gibberish and the melody with a couple chord changes. I have to interpret and edit the gibberish and try to discover what my sub conscience is trying to say and what feels good to sing. Usually there is one word or one sentence that defines the song. Sometimes it's a really bad sentence but it sounds good and I keep going over and over it. Try to make it something that is well written and also sounds good to sing!
MICK: When you are writing, what inspires you?
VONDA: Relationships are a big subject for me and most people. Working out problems with people that you can't necessarily communicate to the person. Nature inspires me a lot. Many of my songs have images of the beach or the rain in some way. Sitting in a cafe and watching the people and make up stories about their lives is something I like to do. I miss that because now I have a little boy and I don't have the liberty to sit for two hours!
MICK: What are some of your favorite venues to play?
VONDA: There's a place in Paris called La Cigale. I've played Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and adore it! I love playing outside, especially when the sun is setting. I also love a gorgeous theater like The Beacon in NYC. I've played Royal Albert Hall in London and it's gorgeous.
MICK: Do you have any relatives still living here in New York?
VONDA: My father still lives there. My cousins also. We will probably catch a Broadway show, after my show, which will be fun!
MICK: What do you do to unwind?
VONDA: I love to read! I also like to cook a lot. My new thing is gardening. I just planted a vegetable and herb garden!
MICK: Is there anybody in particular that you would like to work with?
VONDA: I think it would be great to work with Seal. I think our voices would really do well together. Some of the others ones like Bono would be awesome. I've produced a lot of amazing artists when I was on Ally McBeal. People like Sting, Randy Newman, Bon Jovi. But I really love Seal's rich voice.
MICK: What is your next project?
VONDA: I am working on my next album and also writing it. I've finally found a couple of great songs that are close to being done. I'm very excited about those! I still play a lot of the songs from my last band album which is called "From The Sun". At the show, I will be playing 3 or 4 from that album. They are not getting old to me yet but I'm ready for something new and I might play one of the new ones at the show!
Vonda Shepard and her piano will be performing at BB King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd Street, in New York City, on May 21, at 8 PM.
Opening is singer-songwriter Jann Klose (http://www.jannklose.com)
Tickets are $28. in advance, and $32. day of show
The venue phone is 212-997-4144
The web site is http://www.bbkingblues.com/
Vonda will have her new CD at the show and will autograph them after the show.
The only place you can purchase them is through Vonda's website: