Although "Searchin' My Soul" became the familiar anthem for the TV show Ally McBeal
, Vonda Shepard wrote the song much earlier. It first appeared on her second solo album, The Radical Light
, which was released on Reprise Records, who signed Shepard after she appeared on 1987 hit duet, "Can't We Try." The album tanked, and she was dropped from the label. She continued performing - often around Los Angeles - and gained a fan in Michelle Pfeiffer, whose husband, David E. Kelley, was putting together a TV show about a young lawyer with extensive relationship issues. Kelley and Pfeiffer saw Vonda perform, and when she played a song called "The Wildest Times of the World" (from her 1996 indie album It's Good, Eve
), Kelley decided that she would be perfect for a role on the song.
"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," Shepard told us. They recorded a cover of the 1963 girl group hit "Tell Him
," which Kelley planned to use as the theme song, but Vonda convinced him to use one of her originals. Said Shepard, "My manager and I really wanted one of my own songs as a theme song, so we played a bunch of producers about five of my songs, and then they chose 'Searchin' My Soul,' and said, 'If you can squeeze this in to one minute, this can be the theme.' So then I was suddenly doing the theme. And then David decided to have a bar scene, so I was in the pilot. I was still living in New York when we did the pilot. And then I kept getting calls saying, 'Can you record this song? Can you record that song?' It was very casual at first. It was just me and my guitar player or me and the band."
Vonda parleyed the small role into a regular appearance on the show, becoming the first musician on a major series to have a regular role as herself. She appeared in every episode of Ally McBeal
, almost always behind the piano in the bar scenes. The show was a huge hit, and when it took off, "Searchin' My Soul" was released as a single, reaching #16 in the US. It was included on the Songs From Ally McBeal
album, which featured Vonda singing many of the songs she performed on the show. The album sold over a million copies and led to five more soundtrack albums from the show. (For more, check out our full interview with Vonda Shepard