Thursday, August 23, 2007

‘Ally McBeal’ songstress Vonda Shepard

Vonda Shepard is back.

After taking more than a year off to have a baby, the acclaimed singer-songwriter is completing work on a new album and will kick off a handful of intimate shows this summer when she plays at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano Saturday.

“I started playing (Los Angeles area) clubs, playing original music when I was 14,” Shepard said in a recent phone interview. “I played for 10 years before I got signed.”

By the time Shepard was signed to her first major label contract with Reprise Records in 1987, she had already paid her dues as a backup singer and keyboardist for both Rickie Lee Jones and Al Jarreau.

Shepard released a self-titled debut in 1989, as well a 1992 follow-up, “The Radical Light,” before being dropped from the label. But her story clearly didn’t end there.

She continued to perform in the Los Angeles area and in 1996 released an independent album “It’s Good, Eve” that also helped connect her with an ever-growing fan base, including famed TV producer David E. Kelley. Shepard’s music was introduced to a global audience once she became a fixture on Kelley’s “Ally McBeal” series (which ran 1997-2002).

“It gave me a career all over the world,” said Shepard, noting she has been able to perform across the U.S. and overseas while selling more than 12 million records worldwide.

“The other side is a lot of people want to hear ‘Tell Him’ (Shepard’s version of the Exciters’ 1960s hit was featured on 1998’s “Songs from Ally McBeal” album).” There are songs from early in Shepard’s career, including material she sang on the show, that still find a regular place on her set list. Her remakes of “You Belong to Me” and “Walk Away Renee” are selections she still enjoys performing, but it is her own “Maryland” that remains a personal favorite.

“I feel that song every time I play it,” Shepard admitted. Her most recent albums include 1999’s “By 7:30,” 2002’s “Chinatown,” as well as the aptly-titled “Live – A Retrospective” released in 2005.

“I only have three songs left to go,” said Shepard, adding she hopes her forthcoming album is available by Christmas. “I do really look forward to the new album being finished.”

Those attending her show in San Juan Capistrano will get to hear at least three new songs that have been recorded and are set be included on her forthcoming project.

“I have to play them,” she said.

Shepard and Brooke Ramel will perform at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, at 8 p.m. Saturday, August 25. (For those who can’t make that show, she is also scheduled to finish her five-date tour at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 29).

Tickets, available at the Coach House box office, are $25.

Information: 949-496-8930.

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