Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
A SINGER MAKES HER CASE
AS THE SULTRY BUT UNIDENTIFIED BLONDE who warbles her way through the bar scenes on TV's Ally McBeal, Vonda Shepard can't help but seem mysterious. But when David E. Kelley, the show's creator, contacted the real-life singer-songwriter last February to say she got the part, there was no mystery about her response. "I was so excited, I screamed," recalls Shepard. "I said, 'Yeah!' I hoped something like this would come along."
Not that winning the role was complete luck. Shepard, 34, released two albums in 1989 and 1992 and counts Kelley's wife, actress Michelle Pfeiffer, as one her best friends (they met in 1982). A longtime fan of Shepard's music, Kelley hired her for Ally and chose her 1992 song "Searchin' My Soul" as the show's theme. "He's told me he gets inspired by my music," Shepard says. Kelley even titled one episode "100 Tears Away" after another Shepard tune, which she can be heard singing as Ally (actress Calista Flockhart) cries at the hour's end. "The song is about how sometimes you have to feel your sadness," Shepard says, "before you can feel your happiness."
Certainly both emotions are familiar to Shepard, who is single and lives in Los Angeles. After Reprise Records dropped her in 1992, she toured as a backup singer for Jackson Browne, became "disillusioned by everything" and almost quit music. Only after she began writing her third album, It's Good, Eve (VesperAlley Records, 1996), did her career hopes rekindle. "I had no idea it would be through television," she says. "I didn't even watch television for two years."