It’s common to hear a particularly well-rounded, successful fellow with broad interests referred to as a “Renaissance man.”
But the term is rarely applied to women.
Molly Ringwald is one female who would fit that bill. Of course, she’s best known as an actress, having starred in John Hughes’ trilogy of Brat Pack classic ‘80s films “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink,” plus the ABC Family series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” She’s also an author, having recently written a memoir and a novel.
But many of her fans might not realize that Ringwald is also a talented jazz singer, and has been since the age of 6, when she sang on her father’s album, “I Wanna Be Loved By You.” Today, she’s finally found the time to record an album as an adult – “Except Sometimes,” which is heavy on selections from the Great American Songbook, save for a cover of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” a poignant nod to “The Breakfast Club” and its late director Hughes.
Backed by her quartet of piano, bass, sax and drums, Ringwald performs Tuesday and Wednesday, with two shows per night, at Jazziz Nightlife in Boca Raton. She talked to Miami.com about the show, making the album, and whether she really turned down starring roles in “Pretty Woman” and “Ghost.”
You have four shows in two nights. How different will your sets be?
If there’s two shows in one night, there’s usually a turnover crowd, so we do a lot of the same songs, but usually switch some of them out.
Will you do more than just material from “Except Sometimes?”
Oh yeah, we’ll do a lot from “Except Sometimes,” but I like to switch it up and try things out that we’re working on, because it makes things more fun.
Were your choices for the album, such as song selection and limiting the band to a quartet, difficult to make?
You know, it was, because we recorded twice or maybe even three times the songs that are on the album, so it was really hard to choose exactly which ones we would do. But it had a lot to do with the way it all sounded as a band.
What was the most important thing personally for you to convey with this album?
For me, it was just music that I grew up with and that I really enjoy, and I really loved playing with the band – we had just started to play together in 2008, and we got this great vibe going. So I wanted to capture this time and the feeling. And I think that I really did.
What singers do you idolize?
I have a lot. Probably Ella Fitzgerald is the pinnacle in terms of her technique and the beauty of her instrument. I also love Anita O’Day, and more modern, Susannah McCorkle I think was a really great interpreter of the Great American Songbook. And Blossom Dearie. In terms of female voices, those are probably my favorites.
How would you critique your own singing?
Ha ha! I don’t know that I really can – I don’t have any distance. I enjoy it – I think that’s really what I try to pay attention to the most. And sort of letting go of the technique, not holding the note -that was the main thing, because I grew up as kind of a belter, you know, sort of judging my voice by how long I could hold a note, or how strong my voice was. And I think as I’ve gotten older it’s more about interpreting a song and creating a feeling, and less about technique. I think I’m too critical – I always find that when I just let it go and really listen to the musicians that I’m with and sort of just enjoy it and think less about what I’m doing, is when I get into that sweet spot.
Your choice of including “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” on your album – was that strictly as a tribute to John Hughes, or also a nod to your Brat Pack career?
I think it was both. I recorded the album in 2009, and the whole album was recorded and mixed and mastered and just waiting for me to do something with it. And then I got very busy with the books and couldn’t devote the time to releasing it. But at the time, when we recorded it, it was right after John Hughes had passed away, and he was on my mind a lot and I thought it would be really nice to do a tribute to him. And also there’s sort of an element that a lot of people don’t necessarily think of me as a singer even though it was something that I did before anything else, and I thought it would be a nice bridge for people who loved those movies. Because a lot of people come to my show and have never even been to a jazz show. I mean, forget about seeing me as a singer: They’ve never seen a jazz show at all.
You started out singing before acting. Despite the great big-screen success you found, do you feel that music is your first love?
I think music is definitely my first love because it’s the thing I did more than anything, and the thing that I’ve done the longest, but I really don’t think that I could be really satisfied just doing one thing. I feel that my acting speaks to everything else that I do. And I approach songs very much like an actress. I think one of the things that makes me an interesting singer is the same thing that you could say makes me an interesting actress. That sort of emotion and the ability to connect with a character – and in turn, I think that’s sort of what I bring to my writing as well. They all kind of feed each other.
You became a star while you were still in school – what was that like?
Well, a lot of the school I did was on the set, and fortunately I had a teacher that I really loved that traveled with me on most of the movies that I made when I was still in school. But I was very, very focused on the movies and the acting and what I was doing, so I don’t think I paid as much attention to my school as I would like my children to [laughs].
Is it true that you turned down the lead roles in “Pretty Woman” and “Ghost”?
You know, I really don’t know. I don’t specifically remember. I remember seeing an early script of “Pretty Woman” when it was called something else and was very different. But I don’t really know if I technically turned them down. When you’re really hot there’s like a handful of actresses, and every script that comes along is sent to whoever’s hot at that time. So I’m sure those scripts were sent to me, but it was so long ago.