Actress Molly Ringwald carves out a career as a singer.
Though she rose to stardom in the teen-driven, generation-defining 1980s films of John Hughes, including “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink,” Molly Ringwald has since proven talented in a range of mediums. She’s penned two books, including a novel-in-stories called When It Happens To You, has kept her acting chops sharp by starring on ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of an American Teenager” and now, perhaps most surprisingly, she’s fashioning a career as a songstress, issuing an album on the respected Concord Records label. On March 19, she’ll showcase her musical talents in Chicago, taking the stage at City Winery.
“Except Sometimes” marks her recording debut, but music is anything but new for Ringwald. The daughter of jazz pianist Bob Ringwald, she was raised listening to Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Art Tatum. (And thanks to her country-music-loving mother, she was privy to a good helping of Hank Williams and Roger Miller, too.)
“My father was very focused on the music, rather than the lyrics, so I think that he helped me the most in developing an ear,” says Ringwald. “He worked with me on pitch as a young person, and on understanding rhythm. Essentially, he taught me how to ‘swing.’ I think I came to understanding lyrics naturally because I’ve always been drawn to words, in all aspects of my artistic life.”
As a teen she discovered The Beatles, and shortly after got in to Elvis Costello, The Cure, Kate Bush, Squeeze and The Jam. Although she never lost her love for the standards she heard as a child, acting, writing and being a mother drove her life, not music, and when Ringwald did begin to entertain the notion of singing, she envisioned a few gigs in “dingy little jazz clubs,” not an album and attendant tour. “Life takes you to unexpected places,” she says. “I just make myself available for the adventure!”
In her new role, Ringwald hasn’t taken a complete departure from her acting roots. For the redhead — whose repertoire ranges from “The Very Thought of You” to the “The Breakfast Club” anthem “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” — rendering a song is not so different from inhabiting a character. “I approach songs as I would approach a scene that I act, asking myself the same questions: Who is this person? To whom are they singing?” She says. “Some nights it’s me singing to someone I know personally, other nights it’s a character singing to someone else from my imagination, or from a book that I read. Some nights I don’t think about anything, and just feel swept away by the melody and the poetry in the sounds of the words, playing together.”
Molly Ringwald Quintet: $40-$55, March 19, City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph, (312) 733-9463. For tickets, visit Citywinery.com.