Once called the greatest teen star of all time for her string of roles in John Hughes’ films such as Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), and Pretty in Pink (1986) along side fellow Brat Pack actors Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald has had an outstanding career in film and television for over the past 29 years. Currently co-starring on the ABC Family show The Secret Life of the American Teenager, there hasn’t been many times that we have had an opportunity to forget the little redhead darling that was the Shirley Temple of the 80s
But, now Ringwald is showing us where it all began for her with the release of her first solo album effort Except Sometimes (April 9).A collection of jazz standard arranged songs, Except Sometimes represents the jazz Molly was introduced to by her jazz pianist father as a young girl of 5 years old. That’s when Molly appeared on her first jazz album singing the Shirley Temple favored I Wanna Be Loved by You with her father Bob Ringwald and his Dixieland Jazz band the Fulton Street Jazz Band. And even in her first major acting role at 10, Molly was singing as a little orphan in the West Coast Production of Annie. And her singing didn’t stop there. Before her long association with John Hughes and his Brat Pack cast teenage films, Ringwald spent the early part of the 80s singing on Disney albums. And then there was the Broadway and musical stage work with leads in Cabaret, tick,tick…BOOM!, Enchanted April and Sweet Charity in the early 2000s that called upon her singing and dance abilities.
So, for her fans who know it all, Except Sometimes is not a deviation from the American Sweetheart actress we know but an anticipated part of the complete performer Ringwald is. The actress/singer herself has said, “I grew up in a home filled with music and had an early appreciation of jazz since my dad was a jazz musician.” With songs selected for the album based on Ringwald’s long standing relationship with most of the songs, the song on Except Sometimes drawing the most attention is Molly’s choice to include a jazz rendition of The Breakfast Club Soundtrack Simple Minds recording, Don’t You (Forget About Me). Noting that over the course of her acting career, other things got in the way with doing an album project or releasing one like writing books Getting Pretty Back: Friendship, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick and When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories. They say good things come to those who wait, so for those of us who have waited over 20 years to hear songs from Molly Ringwald, we must be in for a treat. It was a joy speaking with Molly about this Except Sometimes, her association with the song selections on the album, the infamous rumor surrounding the casting of Annie, and my personal association with Molly herself.
Molly Ringwald: Oh geez, thanks!
BeBe: I mean those of us who have followed your career from the beginning or at least close to the beginning when you were in the cast of the West Coast production of the musical Annie when you were just a wee lass expected that you would put out some form of music a lot sooner than now.
Molly Ringwald: Well, everything in its own time (with a little chuckle). I feel it’s better late than never.
BeBe: You’ve had a wonderful film and television career over the past almost 30 years. Was there a time over that period that you thought about trying to do an album?
Molly Ringwald: Yeah, I did. I thought about it. I really thought the key was finding a pianist that I could work with. It was always in the back of my mind. I’d think about it , and then I’d get busy doing something else. But it was really meeting my pianist Peter Smith who musically directs and arranges everything. We really just love collaborating together. We’ve developed a sort of shorthand. When you meet somebody like that as a vocalist it makes the process much easier. Then we put the band together…..it was just all sort of synchronicity. It happened rather organically.
BeBe: I’m sure there are quite a few people who have known of your association with music, but I’m sure that is far fewer than those, of course, that know of your film and TV career (Molly acknowledges). I am one of those people who do know of your music because I was in a production with you back when you were about 10 years old and I was like 16.
Molly Ringwald: Oh, what show was that.
BeBe: I’m from the Sacramento, California area as are you, and we did a production of Oliver together (as apart of Fagin’s gang) at Sacramento State University once upon a time.
Molly Ringwald: (With laughter) oh my God! That’s so funny. I was actually younger than 10. I did Annie when I was 10, so I had to be about 8 years old.
BeBe: I remember at rehearsals when your father (blind jazz pianist Bob Ringwald) was there and how he would guide you while going through rehearsals. Was that connection musically that you had with him something that you were seeking in finding a pianist and music director which prolonged an album project for you?
BeBe: While reviewing the songs on the album, there are definitely a few track I want to specifically ask you about, but in general, this is a jazz standard-type of album with a stretch on the standards word a bit. But how did you come about choosing the songs that wound up n the album?
Molly Ringwald: I think they are songs that I’ve really loved over the years. You know we performed a lot more songs than are on the album, but these were the ones that I really loved or that sounded really great with the band. They just all kind of came together.
BeBe: I see you do have Where is Love? on the album, a song from the musical Oliver! Speaking of our association. Has that always been a favorite of yours since the days when you did the show back at 8 years old?
Molly Ringwald: Yeah, I love that song. You know they were thinking of casting me in the lead of that production (the title character who sings the song).
BeBe: Well you were the only little girl playing a boy in Fagin’s gang. I guess that was your first experience with drag (laughing).
Molly Ringwald: (also laughing) Yeah!
BeBe: You know I’ve always wanted to ask you of a little rumor that was going around when you auditioned for the lead of Annie in San Francisco. The rumor of why you were not cast as Annie was said to be because you and the young girl (Patricia Ann Patts) eventually winning the role were in a “scale-off” and she was able to hit the higher note. True?
Molly Ringwald: Oh no, that’s not true. I was a much better singer than she was. In fact she was the weakest singer of us girls trying out for the part. The girl who played Annie wasn’t shy at all, and that probably was the decider. I hit much higher notes than she.
BeBe: Getting back to the songs on the album, I’m sure every one is speaking with you about your version of Don’t You (Forget About Me), the Simple Minds’ song that was on the soundtrack album for your film The Breakfast Club. Though you definitely have a connection with the song, it doesn’t fit in with the standards-type choices on the album. You definitely don’t think of Don’t You (Forget About Me) s a jazz standard. So, what was the thinking behind including this song on the album?
Molly Ringwald: When I recorded the album, it wasn’t that long after John Hughes (director of The Breakfast Club) had past away (August 2009). I recorded the album awhile a go, and then put it aside when I got busy with writing books. John Hughes was just on my mind a lot when recording, and I thought it would be interesting if I could record that song as a jazz standard. We completely changed the chords. I don’t think there is one original chord of the song in our version. I thought it was an interesting way to integrate my past into who I am now. A lot of people know that song that don’t know anything about jazz, so if they come to music because they are a fan then they end up deciding that they like jazz, I think that is a win-win situation.
BeBe: Speaking of song recognition, people will recognize your lead of song on the album Sooner or Later which was popularized in the Pop genre by Madonna on her album of songs inspired by the Dick Tracy film. Going back to your statement about people coming to your music as a fan and not necessarily as a lover of jazz, was putting Sooner or Later as a lead off song part of that strategy of pop songs familiarity with your fans?
Molly Ringwald: It was actually Concord Records that sequenced the album. They put it first, and I was fine with it.
Molly Ringwald: The other day someone told me they heard the song on the radio from which the title of the album, Except Sometimes, comes from I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes) written by Hoagy Carmichael (recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Nina Simone, Carly Simon and Linda Ronstadt) and based on a poem by Jane Brown.
BeBe: Though Except Sometimes is your first solo album, you are no stranger to the stage with success on Broadway with Chicago and the National Touring Company of Sweet Charity. Are you excited to get back on the stage to perform with the tour for this album?
Molly Ringwald: I am. I’ll be performing in some intimate venues which are my favorite as opposed to larger ones. I like to see the people I’m singing to. And the intimate venues, I think, suit my music very well.
BeBe: With my experience in knowing you from way back when in the theaters of our hometown of Sacramento, I was not of course surprised with this release from you knowing your roots in jazz with your Dad, but as mentioned earlier I am surprised that it took so long to hear a collection of songs from the little girl with the pipes compared to a young Judy Garland. I’ve been, along with others, in anticipation of this for years.
Molly Ringwald: You’re the one who can say ‘I knew her when!’ You and my Mom and Dad.
Molly Ringwald introduces the songs from her new solo album release Except Sometimes inSan Francisco on April 16 at Yoshi’s Jazz Club. For more information and tickets www.Yoshis.com/sanfrancisco
Other concert dates:
May 8-9: The Iridium, New York City
May 10-11: The Smith Center, Las Vegas
Except Sometimes now available on iTunes and Amazon.com