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On the very first edition of THE INTERVUE 2023. We have one of the most recognizable voices of my generation. In the 1980s, you heard her voice on the radio with Dan Hill on that beautiful love ballad Can We Try? In the 90s, we were all “searching our souls tonight” as she performs on the iconic Fox series, Ally McBeal. Now she is bringing her latest album, her 13th Red Light Green Light to the Rams Head on Stage in Annapolis this Wednesday, January 11th and tickets are available. So go to Rams Head on Stage and click HERE to get those tickets.

Ladies and gentlemen, what can I say we have our first guest or 2023. And I’m very excited to talk to her. Vonda, Shepard

Vonda, welcome to THE INTERVUE!

Hi, Dean, thank you so much. I’m so honored. And man, you are an organized person with all that you just said.

Well, thank you very much. I mean, after almost fourteen years of doing interviews, it’s like walk in the park. Well, I’m so glad to talk to you, especially that this is your 13th studio album, which is named for the stop and go feelings that we all experienced, especially within the last two years. And it’s been seven years since your last album. And I want you to walk us through the genesis of creating Red Light Green Light.

Well, you know, someone asked me recently why it took so long to write another album, you know, seven years, right and record. And I realized that it’s because I was kind of like burnt out. Oh, yeah. I was I just got I needed to, I guess I needed that kind of a break. I was still touring. But what happened was when the pandemic hit, you know, I was stuck at home. I could only clean out so many closets and drawers and, you know, learn new recipes. I was really craving, having a new album to play, even just three or four songs live that were new to just freshen up the set.

I hunkered down and really worked hard on during the pandemic writing and then working with Mitchell Froom, who’s my husband, who produced the album, you know, we had a lot of time to do arrangements and work together. And it’s just really came together well, and we recorded it over the pandemic. We knocked that one out, and I’m so happy with it. So, it was great.

Well, I am so happy that you are bringing new music to the table, especially a lot of songs when I listened to the album for the past week. It is brilliant. It’s wonderful. And it’s amazing. I mean, it feels like a lot of vibes going on. Especially I love the title track, which to me, it has a lot of 70s by, but with a modern-day twist, I want you to talk about Red Light Green Light – the song?

Well, you nailed it. I mean, really, I am still super drawn to the classic 70s sound with the grand piano and, you know, real musicians, and not a lot of programs stuff. But Mitchell wanted to be a little adventurous on this one. And he took it in a slightly more modern direction. And it really it doesn’t, you know, take away the credibility of the client, just make the kind of have another layer and elements. I think it really works well for the phone to fuse those two styles.

You’re right. And it really does. I mean, it’s a good vibe. I’ve actually added that album and all the songs on to my iTunes. I’ve been listening to it all day, especially in preparation for this interview. Do you feel that your songwriting has developed or progress through the years as we mentioned earlier?

Yeah, that’s true. You know, it’s weird. When you ask that question. I was thinking of something interesting and clever. To say, No, you know, actually writing, for me has the same feeling as it has from the beginning, the need to get something out of my system or to express something. So the process is pretty much the same as it’s been since I was eight years old and started writing. I think, and I’ve always worked really hard on lyrics, like, I don’t like to settle for the first draft of lyrics. So that but that’s also part of the process.

I guess you just grow as a person and subject matter, you know, maybe it reflects what you’re going through as me at this age. You know, writing a little bit about the political stuff and writing about the pandemic, which was such a new subject, and, you know, here, here and there other issues that I don’t normally touch on, but there are then the classic, you know, longing, deep ballads that I can’t get away from apparently.

So let’s step back in time a bit to 35 years ago, because growing up, especially in the 80s, I’m an 80s, baby 91. And to hear the song again, can we try love ballad working with Dan Hill and seeing the music video for the first time recently, it brought a lot of feels to that song. What was it like to have that as your debut on the national stage and working with Dan Hill?

Well, it’s such a funny story. I’ll try to, I’ll try to consolidate it. But I thought it was 1986 or 87 something like that. And I had been touring with Eldorado as a keyboard player. Yeah, I was singing and playing keyboards with algebra. I was doing artist development with Warner Brothers for a few years already. It’s all in the thick of it, you know, had toured with Ricki Lee Jones. I’m home one day, and I get a call from the studio manager of a studio literally five blocks from my house.

And she knew me her. Her name was Lisa. And she said, Hey, Rhonda, what are you doing right now? I’m not, I’m just practicing, you know, I can always come down to the studio. She can we know, we knew each other. We were acquainted. And she said, guys down here, he’s looking for a singer to do a duet with and I thought of you. So it was Lisa. And I walked literally walked over. I think it was the Fourth of July.

I know all these funny details. And I went in, I sang with the band had just met me sweetheart sang with him. And they really do that, that he got the job. Come back tomorrow. I came back the next day, learned the song and we did the duet. And suddenly, I’m on tour with Al Jarreau, and we’re in Europe or I remember where we were actually. We were on a tour bus and all of a sudden song comes on the radio. I hear my voice I hear like you know, it was just amazing. I started screaming out on my first hit, you know, on the radio. It was great, great story.

It is a wonderful story. And I’m so glad that thirty-five years later, that song is still timeless is still relevant. And a lot of people including myself can relate to that song.

Another song that’s worth listening to is These City Lights which is the last song on the album and it delves into the political climate of recent days.  And I wonder what was your motivation of writing and composing that song?

You know, it was right around the right in January. I was feeling anxious, really anxious. I was feeling like, things were getting very out of control. I didn’t like what I was seeing, and I had to write about it, get it off my mind. It was just so intense. You know, I knew people are gonna ask me about that song.

And in the song, you hear understanding and love is, those are the keys to all of this. It’s not a vindictive song, but it is a song of like, crying out, like, it’s like my version of “Can’t we all just get along”. So that’s what that’s about. It was very cathartic to write it, but painful, of course.

And it’s funny that today is the second anniversary of January 6th especially since I’ve been a Washingtonian all my life to hear about that and see about in my hometown, and then to work, not too far from the White House, at one point and see all the barricades around the White House. It’s frightening that this happened here in my home where it could happen anywhere else.

It really hits you hard, and must have been shocking to you. Yeah. And it was shocking to watch and, and I, as I say all the time, most people in this country and in the world, most people are really good people. There are things that happen that get out of control. So anyway, that’s about it on that subject for now.

Yeah, I definitely agree. You have worked with such amazing artists over the course of your career to Dan Hill, Al Green on Ally McBeal, Emily Sailers from one of my favorite bands Indigo girls, to your husband, Mitchell Froom, talk about some of these collaborations, and what do they mean to you personally, to work with amazing talent?

Well, man, it’s an honor to work with all of those people you mentioned, you know, on Ally McBeal, I was just given this gift of being the producer of most of the music on the show. So it would be a parade of incredible talent, you know, Gladys Knight. Robert Downey Jr. Like you said Al Green, who was one of my favorites. As a child, he was one of my all-time favorites. Chubby Checker, Randy Newman, I mean, the list is long, Jon Bon Jovi. I got to work with them. And I was very comfortable in that setting, because I have had so much training building up to working with Mitchell is this really an amazing experience, because he’s, he was my favorite record producer, before we ever met.

I was doing my second album, and Don was a great producer invited Mitchell to come play on the record. And that’s when I met him. And we sort of loosely stayed in touch very loosely. And then working with him is just a fascinating process because I playing the song. And he analyzes it and nods his head and plays it back to me, you know, without looking at the keyboard. He knows the whole song, you know, really in the right key, and started with doing arrangements. And I say, Wow, I love it.

Let’s not do that here. But we worked we collaborate really well together. You know, working with Ricki Lee Jones, I was in her band, the first band I toured, and I played keyboards and sang with her. That was one of the best experiences of my life long. And Jackson Browne, I sang with him for a couple tours, and I opened for him a couple tours because he kind of took me under his wing a little. I just had such a great like journey here so far.

And it’s been a wonderful journey so far within your career. And we can’t be remiss if we don’t talk about Ally McBeal, which I cannot believe it’s been 25 years, September 1997 since we were exposed to that wonderful comedy drama on Fox. And I want to know, what do you miss about the entire experience of being on that show?

What do I miss? It was so intense, and so labor intensive. I don’t miss being overworked but I do sometimes miss the excitement and kind of the, the position I was in as a producer, I had a lot of I had a lot of respect. And a lot of a lot of work ahead of me and I love working. I could I could look ahead and see, I’m going to be good for the next, you know, year or whatever. Not financially, which was really helpful, by the way. But it was, it was just more the prospect of someone trust me with this job.

It was really good for myself and the team. And they said, You take this I kind of you know, I liked that I liked having that job. So besides touring and doing writing songs, and just being the producer of the music was very, it was a great experience for me. Yeah, and I’m still friends with some of the cast. I’m still friendly with them. And David, you know, we kept that going.

That’s wonderful to hear and especially, it’s still one of the top selling television soundtracks of all time.

That’s pretty cool.

Absolutely. I never asked this question to musicians. So you’re gonna be the first I will ask this question to what do you enjoy about making beautiful, outstanding music for people to enjoy come Wednesday?

Well, there is really nothing I mean, recording and writing are fun. But there’s nothing like sitting at the piano in a club or theater and seeing the smiles and think people sing along. I just if I make a good record that I feel, you know, happy with and I and then I love to play. It’s an amazing feeling to share with an audience. It’s a very, very high feeling makes me happy.

I cannot wait to come to the round said Wednesday. Thrilled, we can’t wait to get there.

Well, I definitely cannot wait to see you there on Wednesday. What can my fellow Washingtonians Marylanders, and Virginians expect for the Red Light Green Light tour? And I believe this is the first stop this year. Is that correct?

What can they expect? I do, you know, a couple of them. Each album, you know, I’ll do a couple of From the Sun. A couple from Rookie. Couple from It’s Good Eve And like all the favorites, you know. And then I’ll do some of the favorites from Ally McBeal. It’s going to be you know, a mixture of prompts, and most of the hours that will probably be toward the end. Yeah, we did. I have a full band, by the way, an amazing band. James Ralston played with Tina Turner for twenty-three years. He played with me for twenty to twenty-one years, and Jim Hanson on bass with me for twenty-eight years. And secondly, Fritz Lewak, he plays with Jackson Browne for the last like thirty-two years. That’s where I met him. And he’s my drummer sometimes. And he’s incredible. We’re really, we’re really tight. We were just in the UK for a month.

I’m so glad that the people in the DMV will get to experience your tour first, that’s amazing. What type of music do you listen to nowadays?

I jumped around a lot. I mean, I still sometimes go back to weird eras. Like I wasn’t in the mood to listen to some 80s stuff. I was listening to Howard Jones yesterday and the Eurythmics, and I think that’s more 90s, right?

Oh, no, no, no, that’s 1980s I can swear by it.

So it wasn’t an 80s mood. Sometimes I get into 70s mood, and I listen to a lot of you know, like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon. My son is sixteen and he listens to hip hop, because he’s a basketball player. And they play a lot of that, you know, those games. I’ve actually learned a little bit about hip hop and gotten into some, you know, it’s more like a song by song. It’s not so much a whole album in that realm for me, but I’m open to you know, I’m open to a lot of different kinds of music as long as it makes me feel good when I listen to it.

And my last question is since we are now still in the beginning of 2023 asides from touring and asides from promoting your album, what are you looking forward to this year?

I’m looking forward to having and relaxing and being in the moment with my family and having just typical good times with my family and friends. You know, having a good meal and having a good conversation. I know that sounds very simplistic, but that’s kind of what I, after making this album and touring and promoting and I’m doing all this stuff. I just looking forward to some just relaxing, calm, quiet times.

You know there is nothing wrong with simplistic. I mean, at the end of the day, when all the work is done, and we accomplish our task. All we can go is to spending time with family or sometimes with me, getting down on my bed, nice pillow, listening to some music and just be.

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