Singer-songwriter Vonda Shepard heads to Belly Up in Solana Beach Aug. 13 for ‘Rookie’ launch
It’s a quiet Monday in Maine, but Vonda Shepard has her mind on a gig halfway across the country — even though she’s currently on vacation.
“I’m really excited for it,” she said of her upcoming performance Aug. 13 at the Belly Up Tavern, which doubles as the release show for her latest album, the curiously titled “Rookie.”
“The name of the album is kind of a joke for myself,” said Shepard with a laugh. “There’s a song on the album also called ‘Rookie,’ and the lyrics are, ‘I’m not a rookie.’”
In fact, Shepard has been pursuing her music craft for multiple decades. She first skyrocketed to fame in the 1990s, thanks to her involvement with the hit show “Ally McBeal,” for which she was a large part of the drama’s soundtrack, writing the hit single “Searchin’ My Soul” and appearing on screen as well.
However, “Ally McBeal” was just a blip on Shepard’s radar, as she’s been writing and recording since the late ’80s. (She first appeared on the charts in 1987 for the hit song she recorded with Dan Hill, “Can’t We Try.”)
Now an independent artist, Shepard took five long years to write “Rookie,” during some of which she admits she had writer’s block. Used to bouncing ideas off a ’70s-era boom box, Shepard pivoted for “Rookie” and upgraded her technology.
“The first two or three years of the process, I was struggling. Then, I bought an instrument called a Zoom” — which allowed Shepard to brainstorm with ease. “That little thing saved me.”
Despite her struggles, Shepard hasn’t wavered in her passion for crafting songs.
“I find writing the most gratifying stage of the entire album process,” she said, adding that it’s also “by far the hardest. But once you nail it and get the song … That’s a pretty exciting thing to do in life.”
The power of the internet also did its part in bringing “Rookie” to life.
“When I set out to make the album, there weren’t a lot of options out there for an artist like me,” Shepard conceded, the days of a thriving music industry in the rearview mirror. “I had two choices: pay for the production myself or try a Kickstarter. So we went with the Kickstarter.”
Originally preparing to raise only $2,000 from the crowd-sourcing website, Shepard and her producer/husband, Mitchell Froom, raised a collective $36,000.
“The end result was that we could make a very high-quality record with the exact mixer I wanted,” said Shepard. “The whole process was very intense. I learned a lot about social media doing it, and I’m really thrilled. The album comes from a great place because we just cut loose and let it rip. Thanks to Kickstarter, we had the freedom to do what we wanted.”
Next comes touring her new work, the first leg of which takes her to Solana Beach and the Belly Up.
While Shepard, who lives in Los Angeles, would normally make a night out of it and spend time in North County — this upcoming gig marks her third appearance — she instead has to drive up to Los Angeles to fly to her next show in San Francisco the next evening. However, all of the travel is just the icing on the cake now that “Rookie” is finally complete.
“I did write a few extra tunes, and if I’m smart I’ll continue working on them now while I’m still in that inspired phase,” teased Shepard about a possible next album. “The Kickstarter thing was pretty exciting too, so I may continue with that as well.”
Catch Vonda Shepard at the Belly Up on Aug. 13. Doors open at 7 p.m., the show starts at 8.
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