Vonda Shepard

July 7, 1963

Vonda Shepard Artistfacts

  • When David. E. Kelley was formulating a new dramedy called Ally McBeal, he envisioned the show's star, Calista Flockhart, pouring out her emotions through songs at the end of each episode. That is, until he heard Vonda Shepard perform the song "The Wildest Times of the World" at an L.A. club.

    "It was the proverbial lightbulb going off when he saw me up there," Shepard told Songfacts. And that was the song that made him realize this was the voice - I was the voice, I was the sound for the character's emotional make up."

    The two were actually already friends through Kelley's wife, actress Michelle Pfeiffer. Shepard appeared on every episode of Ally McBeal, which ran from 1997-2002.
  • Vonda Shepard describes her childhood as "incredibly left-of-center." Richmond Shepard, who raised the singer and her three sisters, was a mime who brought home clowns and other circus performers the way other people might bring home stray dogs and cats.

    The future singer was also exposed to the theater world through her father's additional work as a director and producer, but it wasn't a welcoming place for such a shy girl. Shepard explained in an interview with Paul Freeman: "I was incredibly shy and the thought of performing was terribly frightening. What I did lean towards, from a very young age, was music. I started to write solid songs and make demos at the age of nine. I put my shyness, my fear, into the music."
  • Vonda Shepard's name was linked to Mitchell Froom's long before the pair married in 2004. Froom - a noted music producer who has worked with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Crowded House and Elvis Costello - first appeared alongside Shepard as a guest artist (organist) on her 1992 album, The Radical Light. Froom's credits widened to producer and composer for Shepard's other albums, including By 7:30, Chinatown, From the Sun, and Solo.

    Shepard doesn't have a problem working with her husband, but she has to be a little more careful about her lyrics, she tells Songfacts: "My relationship is great. So I'm going back and I have to say to my husband, 'This is not about you, honey,'" she laughs.
  • Although Vonda Shepard has the gift of a powerful voice, she had trouble letting that voice out until she found a job as a singing waitress for the Great American Food and Beverage Company. Shepard told Songfacts how the gig helped her as a shy eighteen-year-old:

    "I got good at expressing myself loudly and putting out the energy. That restaurant was tremendously helpful to me to come out of my shell. I was feeling very confident when I went in and did that song, and I was full of emotion from whatever was going on."
  • After five years of making steady 5:00 a.m. calls to the set of Ally McBeal, Vonda Shepard came to the conclusion that being a musician was a lot more fun than being an actor. "There were fun times and there were fun moments, but there was a lot of waiting around, there was a lot of re-shooting. It's pretty boring filming," she told Songfacts.

    This, however, didn't stop Shepard from giving her all as the show's resident lounge singer. While she sat at a muted piano, she could have slacked off while mouthing the words to her songs, knowing her vocals wouldn't be recorded until later. Instead, she really belted out each song and didn't cut herself an ounce of slack. "That's why it looks really real. That's something I'm proud of," she said.
  • Vonda Shepard appeared on every episode of Ally McBeal's five-season run and performed with high-profile guest stars such as Gladys Knight, Sting, Barry Manilow, Al Green and Jon Bon Jovi - but it was her collaboration with Ally co-star Robert Downey Jr. that proved most memorable for many fans. The two recorded the duet "Chances Are" in 2001. Although Downey Jr.'s struggles with drugs and alcohol were common headlines in the 1990s and early 2000s, Shepard remembers the star with fondness:

    "Ah yes, Robert Downey Jr.! What a brilliant, high octane character! Yes, I was in the studio, as I was the producer of the albums and sessions. I worked with him quite a bit doing preproduction for the songs ... including "Snakes," which he wrote himself. Robert's approach to recording was that of a serious recording artist... most of the time," she said in an interview with Anne Carlini.

    "Chances Are" is featured on the 2001 soundtrack album, Ally McBeal: For Once in My Life.

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