For more than 30 years we've known her as "Sixteen Candles' " Samantha Baker, "Pretty in Pink's " Andie Walsh, "The Breakfast Club's " Claire Standish -- and so many others, even including Cordelia in "King Lear."
But these days we're hearing Molly Ringwald as much as seeing her -- and under her own name.
The actress, a veteran at 46, is touring to promote her first-ever album, "Except Sometimes," a collection of Great American Songbook standards recorded with a quartet. And while Ringwald insists that "I don't really look at (music) as a primary pursuit as much as a supplementary pursuit," she's happy to be reclaiming a space in her world for what was actually her first passion.
"I was singing before I was acting," says Ringwald, whose father, Bob Ringwald, was a jazz pianist and instilled a love of music in all three of his daughters. Ringwald, in fact, began her acting career at age five as the Dormouse in the stage musical "Alice in Wonderland," and the following year she sang on an album her father recorded with his Fulton Street Jazz Band.
"I've always intended to get a jazz group together and kind of do this on a small scale," Ringwald says. "Sort of my fantasy was to put together a trio or quartet and do little clubs here and there, which is really how I started this. I didn't really intend to record an album, necessarily. It wasn't really on my mind.
"So I'm kind of doing this as a little side project. I love jazz and I love music, so I wanted to get back to doing that. One thing led to another; we wanted to capture this period of time and Concord (Records) ended up buying it. One thing led to another; the album's out, and now I'm touring it."
Ringwald says she considered "a ton of songs" for "Except Sometimes," which she recorded in 2009, but primarily wanted "to pick songs that are a little more obscure and haven't been recorded quite as much. 'My Funny Valentine' and other fantastic songs have been recorded ad nauseum. I tried to pick ones that are standards but maybe not heard quite as often."
One exception from the Great American Songbook ranks is a languid rendition of Simple Minds's 1985 hit "Don't You (Forget About Me)" from "The Breakfast Club" soundtrack, which Ringwald recorded as a salute to the late John Hughes, her director in that film as well as "Sixteen Candles" and "Pretty in Pink."
"I was inspired, in a way, by John Hughes' passing away, and he was in my thoughts," Ringwald recalls. "I kind of wanted to do it as a tribute to him, so we started working on it just to see if it was even possible to turn it into a jazz ballad. I really like covers of songs that completely reinvent the song and make you think differently about it.
"So Peter Smith, my pianist, found these beautiful chords and we worked together and came up with this (version). I think it's a really nice tribute to (Hughes)."
Ringwald -- who lives in California with her second husband, Panio Gianopoulous, and their three children -- says she's "thinking about" her next album, which she expects will stay in line with what she did on "Except Sometimes." "I really love the Great American Songbook. I've always loved it," she says. "And there's so much more there, so I'm really interested in that. I've been working on some (Stephen) Sondheim songs, too, with jazz arrangements, and I've really enjoyed that. And eventually I'd like to start writing songs of my own."
But, Ringwald adds, she suspects "another acting thing" will come before that, and the twice-published author and occasional magazine contributor also has some writing projects in mind.
"I really do like all three things -- acting, singing, writing," Ringwald notes. "I really do approach everything I do from the point of view of a character; I think that's just from being an actor for so long, and that's what's always interested me most in acting and writing -- and, I suppose, in singing as well.
"I've heard that a lot of singers took acting lessons on the side, and it really makes sense to me. I think to really make a song land or connect with people, it needs to have an emotional core. So I do think the fact I'm an actor really helps my singing, so there's no need to give up one for any of the others."
Molly Ringwald performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 20, at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield. Tickets are $57, $52 for Jewish Community Center members. Call 248-661-1900 or visit www.theberman.org.
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