No need to remind anyone who Molly Ringwald is -- teenagers (and the rest of us) are still watching those movies, and it's fair to assume they will for another generation or two, at a minimum. But it might come as a surprise to some who adore her 1980s work with John Hughes that she has been a lifelong singer as well as an actress. The daughter of a professional jazz musician, Ringwald has now come full-circle, returning to her first experiences in the creative arts with the release of Except Sometimes from Concord Records, a lush, polished album of standards. She will appear at Yoshi's SF on Tuesday, performing as part of a CD release party. Ahead of the show, Ringwald spoke to us by phone about her early experiences with music and the evolution of her multifaceted career.
You're no stranger to music -- not by a longshot, despite what a lot of people might think.
No, it's something I grew up with. My dad's a jazz musician, and I grew up around traditional jazz. So [doing the album] sort of felt like returning to my roots, in a way. And it's something I had wanted to do for a while, but got busy doing other things. So I'm really happy to have come to it. Better late than never!
Was it music that initially led you into show business?
I was singing with my dad -- Bob Ringwald -- and he's always had a band. I'd go to gigs with him, and sit in and sing a couple of songs. He was really the person who taught me about jazz, and about music. That was my thing; it's what I was passionate about, plus it was special father/daughter time. And then I got into acting through community theater. But as a teenager, I felt that I had to choose, and I chose acting. I kept singing; I just decided I wasn't going to pursue it professionally.
How did you go about selecting the songs that ended up on the album?
When I got together with Peter [Smith], who is my pianist and arranger, we had days where we would just sit by the piano and sing every song that I liked and could remember. We kind of worked up a repertoire together. Then we brought in the other band members, and I started to do gigs that were completely under the radar, just to hear [the songs] in front of an audience. It was really great and fun and joyful, and I wanted to have a record of that time. Everything happened kind of organically; I didn't know that it was going to be a real record, released by Concord, or anything like that. I tried to pick songs that maybe haven't been heard as much as other standards. Anytime someone releases a standards album, it has "Embraceable You" on it, or "My Funny Valentine," or "Skylark" -- really fantastic songs, but you've heard them all so much. And lastly, there are songs that just sounded really good with the band, where all the elements came together.
So you were doing club dates before you ever planned any kind of recording?
Yeah, I didn't know I was going to do a record. I just wanted to sing music with these guys. There's a lot of things that I do -- I'm an actor and a writer -- but I have to say that singing is the most joyful, and I did it because it was something I really wanted to do and enjoy doing. And I was pregnant, too, when we were gigging in L.A. -- up until I was eight months pregnant. And then I took a break, and we recorded the album when my twins were six months old. In fact, you can hear my son's giggle on the album, at the end of "Exactly Like You."
Being eight months pregnant and performing, especially singing -- that has to be incredibly hard to do.
Well, pregnancy is hard to do! But I thought it was a good thing. I always feel like you should do what you love while you're pregnant, and that you should expose your children to music as much as possible. I do believe they can hear that stuff. So, I think it was a good thing. Although it's kind of funny to be a chanteuse and sing sexy songs when you're eight months pregnant.
Last summer you released a novel that was very well received [When it Happens to You], and now you've put out this album. How does acting get prioritized at the moment?
Well, I just finished a long television show [The Secret Life of the American Teenager], and I'm developing a new television show. So it's something that I definitely want to continue doing. I'd like to write and direct and act in my own projects -- that's the direction I'd most like to go.
Was it a challenge to break out and write your books and make music -- to do things that were different from what you were best known for early on?
I don't think it was a challenge to do them. But the films I did were kind of a phenomenon. Not that many projects are going to come along that have that sort of impact. Most people don't even get to have one of those in their careers. So anything else I did -- I don't know if it would match it on the same scale. And I've always been attracted to things that maybe aren't as commercial. I feel like I have to do what's attractive to me, and interesting and inspiring. And I've been lucky to have sustained a career doing stuff like that.
Molly Ringwald appears at Yoshi's (1330 Fillmore Street) on Tuesday, April 16, at 8 p.m. For more information and tickets, visit www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco.