Molly Ringwald has pretty much always been a singer.
“I started out singing jazz with my dad when I was 3,” Ringwald recalled during a phone interview.
At the age of 6, the ingénue had recorded her first album “I Wanna Be Loved By You: Molly Sings” with her father Bob Ringwald’s jazz band. With music as one of her first loves, it’s something she naturally figured she’d pursue, though other things took early priority.
“I always thought I wanted to get my own band together. It just took a while,” she said. “The opportunity never really presented itself.”
Not until 2004, when Ringwald met pianist Peter Smith, the man who would eventually contribute to the album with both hands — as a performer and as a producer — to create “Except Sometimes.”
“I didn’t think it would actually result in an album,” she admitted of their first sessions together. “I thought it would just be something I’d do in clubs. (But) it just kind of grew from there.”
But it wouldn’t be until 2008 that Smith and Ringwald started picking out jazz standards, and the arrangement for “Except Sometimes” began.
“I’m interested in songwriting,” she explained. “But I really love ‘The Great American Songbook.’ I feel like it’s one of our national treasures.
“I kind of selected songs based on how (the project) came together as a band. All the songs that I do are from ‘The Great American Songbook,’ but I tried to pick some that were maybe a little more obscure.”
The album was recorded in the winter of 2009, and then…
“I got tied up writing books,” Ringwald confessed.
After releasing a quasi-memoir/advice book in 2010 and a novel two years later, Ringwald was finally ready to devote some attention back to her original passion. Released in April of 2013, “Except Sometimes” has been the subject of tepid critical review. Lesson learned: One danger of selecting songs made famous by the likes of Billie Holiday is then being continually compared to the likes of Billie Holiday.
But for Ringwald, the album was made for the same reason the books were written or for the same reason she spent time on Broadway: It’s another creative outlet for sharing her passions — just like she’s always done.
“I can’t really worry about what people talk about,” she said. “I just have to keep doing projects that are interesting to me. It’s hard to explain why you like something. But for me (jazz) is like musical comfort food. Maybe it’s the association to my childhood, but it’s just pleasing to me. I love it lyrically. It’s poetry to me.”
And while she can look at the album now — nearly five years after recording it — and find things she’d do differently, it’s not something she dwells on for too long.
“I think there’s always things that you would like to change,” she said. “I feel like I’ve grown so much. When I recorded the album I felt like I’d grown a lot from what I did when I was younger. There are things I would do differently, but I look at things as being representative of their time.
“Except Sometimes” ends with a jazz cover of the Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” It’s representative of a time in her life — an era that people associate with Ringwald more than any other — and it’s a time that she’s proud of. But, just like the album itself, it’s just one part of Molly Ringwald:
“You can’t change those things,” she said in self-reflection. “It’s just of that time.” CV
Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines.