Vonda could be described as many things: angelic, ambitious, determined, sincere, sensitive, and an artist in the truest sense. Anyone who has met her or even just heard her sing, will tell you of a gentle soul that radiates spirit, a spirit that is carried into her records. If you doubt this at all, just watch her lips when she sings. The miracle of her music, is that she speaks in tounges, almost, relaying her deepest emotions only in the subconcious. 'I think of it as letting go of the controlling part of the brain, and letting the subconcious take over'.
Not all sources have been quite so complimentary, however. Q predicted that Vonda's gig would 'hardly guarantee to set ther pulse racing', and Entertainment weekly said that, 'Searhin' My Soul' had, 'An appeal even thinner than (Ally star) Calista Flockhart'. They obviously haven't heard her play, as she is awesome.
Born, July 7, 1963, to parents, Richmond and Hadria, she was one of four sisters, Rosetta, Luana and Brianna. They were a poor family from New York City, that moved to California early in her childhood. The referene to 'I was born in a cardboard box, New York City, 1963', may not be all that much of an exaggeration. Her father, Richmond was an actor and director, her mother a model.
Vonda began on the piano, at age seven, putting in long hours, every day of the week, a habit still kept up to this day. She started playing LA clubs, age 14, and at 16, she began to persue her musical career full time.
When Vonda was ten years old, her mother left the family, leaving father, Richmond, with the four children. This goes to explain the lyrics on 'Cartwheels', 'Oh Mama, you want us to forgive, but you did nothing wrong.' Vonda evidently kept on good terms with her mother, but she talk much about it to the public.
She attended high school, at Birmingham High, while on the Californian side, of one of her many moves between East to West.
In her early twenties, Vonda studied to become an actress, for four years, before deciding that music was her calling, and started playing live gigs again, full time. Considering that this was about the worst time possible to try and launch a career, with the biggest female musical interest coming from the roit grrrl movement of Hole, L7, and the like, she did well to gain a small but steady following, in LA, which contained Michelle Pfeiffer, future wife of David Kelley, the Ally writer and creator.
She picked up jobs playing keyboards and backing vocals for Jackson Browne, Rickie Lee Jones, and Al Jarreau, amongst others, and recorded a duet with Dan Hill. The song, 'Can't We Try', was her first top ten hit. She eventually secured a contract with Reprise records, (Neil Young, Green Day, etc), and released her debut, self titled album. The single and first track, 'Don't Cry Ilene', which came complete with video, flopped like a wet fish, not noticed at all by the record buying grunge obsessed public. Never one to be easily deterred, Vonda released follow up album, 'The Radical Light', in '92. This album, complete with the future Ally theme, sank like the first. She was dropped by a frustrated Reprise, just weeks after it's release. I wonder what she would have said, if you went back in time and told her that in ten years she would hit worldwide fame on a TV show about a kooky lawyer.
In 1996, she borrowed enough money, about $100000, to record third outing, 'It's Good Eve'. This one, dispite going the way of the first two, did pick up some praise in the press. Not that she didn't deserve a little praise by now. '... the surprise is in the gorgeous harmonic sophistication of her original ballads, from breakup laments as pointed as 'Long Term Boyfriend', to smartly written odes d'amour, such as 'Like a Hemisphere', from her favourite, Entertainment Weekly.
Not long after it's release, Vonda moved back again to New York. Even less long after that, came the minor miracle that began her rise to fame. Newly-ish married, Michelle Pfeiffer, and David Kelley, discovered that they were both fans of an obscure, small time singer, called Vonda Shepard. David decides, after visiting another Vonda gig, to sign her up to sing on his latest new TV show. She was naturally pleased to get the work, but she never anticipated the magnitude of the role she would play. 'I was like,"yeah, I'm going to make a couple of thousand dollars"', she said, 'I thought I was going to just have a couple of songs on the show'. Er, nope. She ended up being a central character, with her name roughly halfway down the credits. The soundtrack album enevitably followed, meaning Vonda would have to put in a grueling workout of recording time in the studios, to get the thing finished. 'It's a grind, but it's rewarding in the end', she said. The album is a smash the world over, and any hope of a rest was dispelled by North American and European tours all summer long. But then Vonda always said, that she has a gypsy soul.
Her fifth album, 'By 7:30' took a year to record, but it was finally released shortly after the soundtrack. With the benefit of Sony studios, and a Sony advertising budget, this was a smaller, but very respectable sized hit.
A sequal soundtrack soon followed, complete with Amarican, European and Australian tours to match. She is back on TV, with the new series of Ally, and she looks and sounds very happy. Who knows what the future will hold. There is talk of yet a third soundtrack album, and you never know, she might even get a spare moment to see her family and friends.