Life and tour­ing af­ter Ali McBeal

Multi-award win­ning singer-song­writer Vonda Shep­ard is per­form­ing in Bury St Ed­munds this month. She talks to Wayne Sav­age about why she feels lucky hav­ing music in her life and how she al­most called it quits

EADT Suffolk - - Contents -

VONDA Shep­ard ad­mits her tongue was firmly in cheek when she chris­tened her 14th al­bum Rookie.

“I’m 53 you know,” she laughs. “I’ve been around all the blocks, as I like to say, not just one. I was just be­ing cheeky as you say over there. I feel like I should ac­tu­ally have more (al­bums) con­sid­er­ing my age. I’m a lit­tle bit hard on my­self with that kind of thing... But I had other things I was do­ing in my life, like hav­ing a fam­ily.”

The Los An­ge­les based singer-song­writer and mu­si­cian, com­ing to The Apex, Bury St Ed­munds, Oc­to­ber 13, con­fesses there have been mo­ments when she’s thought about call­ing it a day.

“About three years ago I thought ‘well, maybe it’s just over at this point’ be­cause I wasn’t writ­ing, I couldn’t write, it was a ma­jor block. I thought maybe I just had noth­ing to say.

“Then I go out and do a cou­ple of gigs and think ‘this is so much fun, I need this in my life’. Truth­fully, I feel very lucky to have music be­cause life can be stress­ful at times, and it’s such a great out­let. When I come off tour my hus­band (ac­claimed pro­ducer Mitchell Froom) says I look younger and bet­ter be­cause it’s like it gives you this en­ergy, it’s amaz­ing.”

A range of things were be­hind Shep­ard’s writer’s block. She’s per­haps best known over here for writ­ing Searchin’ My Soul, the theme song to the Amer­i­can le­gal com­edy-drama se­ries, Ally McBeal, star­ring Cal­ista Flock­hart, aired on Chan­nel 4. She says it’s never easy writ­ing an al­bum.

“Ev­ery sin­gle al­bum I’ve writ­ten has been in­cred­i­bly painful and ef­fort­ful. I’m a bit of a per­fec­tion­ist, and it’s just gru­elling. So the thought or mak­ing an­other al­bum – I was jus­ti­fy­ing it by say­ing ‘I’ve got plenty of al­bums, plenty of songs’.

“It sounds very graphic, but you need to get it out of your sys­tem and be brave and face the writ­ing process’, which is tough. I re­alised I needed new ma­te­rial to be in­spired, even if I play one or two new songs on stage it re­ally helps the whole show, and I also needed to re­lease some stress I was feel­ing.”

Shep­ard was no stranger to fame, en­joy­ing suc­cess in the States with Can’t We Try and Don’t Cry Ilene.

“Baby Don’t You Break My Heart Slow, which never was a hit but should have been,” laughs Shep­ard. “Ac­tu­ally Tay­lor Swift has cov­ered that song on a YouTube video so I’m just hop­ing some day some­one will cover the tune.”

How­ever, Ally McBeal came at an “in­cred­i­bly good time” for the multi-Emmy, Golden Globe and Grammy award win­ner, who not only ap­peared in ev­ery episode but also served as the show’s mu­si­cal direc­tor.

“Truth­fully, I feel very lucky to have music be­cause life can be stress­ful at times, and it’s such a great out­let”

She had moved to New York and was liv­ing in a “sweet” apart­ment in Chelsea writ­ing the al­bum By 7.30.

“I was work­ing very hard, try­ing to get gigs, play­ing for like 30 peo­ple, lug­ging my key­board in the rain, that’s the cliché and it’s true. I was 31, 32, think­ing ‘what is this?’. I worked so hard my whole life play­ing clubs, I had a record deal with Warner Broth­ers and now I’m barely scrap­ing by.

“When (cre­ator) David Kelly gave me a call af­ter I played a show in LA I was be­yond thrilled and be­yond ready. I had so much en­ergy and so much de­sire to con­tinue do­ing music so it was an in­cred­i­ble gift at that time in my life.”

It saw her work seven days a week read­ing

scripts, go­ing into stu­dio to re­hearse with the band. It was an “over­whelm­ing” amount of work, but she wouldn’t change it for any­thing.

“Most of my work was be­hind the scenes. I got to pro­duce St­ing, Chubby Checker, Gla­dys Knight, Al Green and all these leg­ends. It was a blast.” Shep­ard has no prob­lems be­ing so well known be­cause of one song.

“When you look back at the lyrics – ‘I’ve been searchin’ my soul tonight, I know there’s so much more to life’ – it brought me to the place where there ob­vi­ously was so much more. I’ve got a lot of de­press­ing songs that are very cathar­tic and I’m happy I wrote them but Searchin’ My Soul is a very up­lift­ing, fun song to sing. The au­di­ence lights up when they hear it so it makes me happy.”

Apex au­di­ences can ex­pect to hear it, songs from Rookie, Chi­na­town, By 7.30 and what she calls the party sec­tion to­wards the end fea­tur­ing some “Ally songs”. Last year’s sell-out UK tour was the high­light of her year and she can’t wait to re­turn.

“I had so much fun per­form­ing for my fans in the UK. I’m thrilled to be com­ing back and I’m go­ing to sit down af­ter ev­ery show and sign CDs and meet the fans if they want to come and say hi.”

Shep­ard doubts there’ll be chance of start­ing work on the fol­low-up to Rookie while she’s on the road. She usu­ally sticks to her jour­nal, al­though oc­ca­sion­ally some­thing will spark in­spi­ra­tion. She’s just ex­cited to do the tour.

“Def­i­nitely when I come home I’m sure I’ll have a lot of in­spi­ra­tion and ex­pe­ri­ences and I’ll def­i­nitely hun­ker down. It will be a good time to start again.”

Shep­ard won’t be lack­ing in things to write about, with Amer­ica’s up­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“I can’t wait for Novem­ber be­cause I def­i­nitely want to see Hil­lary (Clin­ton) win,” she laughs.

“I’m get­ting that out there. It’s this crazy, crazy at­mos­phere here in the US, and it’s un­be­liev­able how peo­ple speak their minds in a way that is so rude, so un­car­ing and full of lies. It’s a ter­ri­ble time in some ways, that’s why I’m hop­ing she crushes him (Don­ald Trump).”

Singer-song­writer Vonda Shep­ard

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