Molly Ringwald :: More Than Just Pretty

by Joel Martens

Rage Monthly

Friday February 20, 2015

When fame comes early, where do you go from there? It's something that gets asked often in regard to young actors. The truth is, for some... It can be a quick ride up and an even faster ride down.

Molly Ringwald was one of those kids who appeared to have it all, and to get it overnight. Nothing could be farther from the truth in her case; this lovely lady grew up steeped in performance. Her father is a noted performer himself, an accomplished jazz pianist, who formed several jazz bands and large scale festivals throughout his many years in the music world.

Fortunately for Molly, Daddy took her along for the ride. She performed with him for the first time, as a 4-year-old and released her first album, "I Wanna Be Loved by You-Molly Sings," at the age of 6. This multi-faceted titan hasn't stopped since that tender age... singing, dancing and acting, in films, on television and Broadway, writing books (one a recent award-winner titled, "When it Happens to You"), with another in the works. She's contemplating a third album, has a popular advice column in the London Guardian, a traveling cabaret show, three kids and a handsome husband. Where, one might ask, is the proverbial partridge and pear tree hiding in this busy woman's life?

A wonderful conversation was had about all of it; I hope you enjoy the many shades of Molly Ringwald.

This is a question that I like to start out with for performers. What is your earliest memory about music?

I think my earliest memory is, well, I actually remember my mother bringing me in to sing for my dad. She listened to me during the day and knew I could sing and was the person who told him that I could. My dad didn't believe her. So, she brought me in to sing a song for him. That really is my earliest memory, singing for him.

It's interesting how that works. Don't you think that you learn so much faster when music is in your life early on?

I definitely think that you do and it's something that I think about with my own children. But, kids have to love it and you have to let them find their own way. To master an instrument or anything for that matter, you have to have that love and desire to practice. It can become an endless battle with your children, if you're not careful (laughs).

I started out with piano lessons, just like my brothers and sister and we just didn't practice enough to get proficient. It's really one of my biggest regrets now, that I don't play the piano, or for that matter, another instrument. Well, I play the ukulele a little bit, but that's kind of it (laughs).

It is so much harder to begin as an adult, it's like trying to learn a new language. You wish kids had that kind of foresight, but they just don't. They don't think they are ever going to be sick and they don't think they're ever going to die. We all think, "I'll do that later, I'll do that later."

Later comes so fast as you get a little older. What's the lyric? "That old devil time..."

Yeah, yeah, of course... We learn as adults that you have to do it right now, if you want to master it.

Who are or were your biggest musical influences growing up, beside your father?

Early on it was Jazz, because that's what we always listened to at home. Later, as I became a teenager, I became more interested in other things, more contemporary music. I really love all different types of music. I listened to The Smiths, The Kinks and Elvis Costello, all of that. Then, I kind of came back to Jazz, but it was more about things from the American Songbook: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Anita O'Day and Blossom Dearie. But, there is at least one song from every different genre of music that I like.

I have to tell you that I find your voice fascinating. It's rare, because there is a quality to your singing voice that is completely different than your speaking voice.

That's funny, you are not the first person to tell me that. What's my speaking voice like?

There's a reed-like quality when you speak, sort of a clarinet tone as opposed to a flute-like quality when you sing.

A lot of people, who have heard my album or heard me singing, often say to me, "That's you? Really, that's you?" (Laughs) It seems like sort of a magic trick that I do. On top of that, people often don't know that I can sing in the first place, so it seems sort of like a rabbit that I pull out of a hat. It's actually really kind of fun to be able to surprise people like that.

I guess if I had to describe you and the music I have been listening to, it would be a solid Jazz sensibility. There is a tonal awareness that is very necessary for Jazz because of the atonal nature of the chord structures and you have it down.

Thank you so much for that. I guess it's because I have been singing that style of music for so long. When you learn to sing properly as a young person in terms of vocal placement and technique, you don't ever really lose your voice. I learned how to use my voice and it's one of those things that you just can't ever forget. Though, I can remember, as a teenager, wanting to have one of those cool, raspy voices, but just couldn't do it. I would go to amusement parks and scream my head off and still not lose my voice (laughs).

It is a muscle like anything else. Anyone who starts out young keeps at least a part of what ever they do over a lifetime.

It's true; my husband is a third degree black belt in Taekwondo and he started very young. Even though he doesn't train regularly now, he has a great body and it's just there. He just has this fantastic ability that's a part of his posture and stature because it grew that way. It really speaks to how much he learned early on.

It really does affect everything when you train, vocally. You learn how to breathe differently, to stand and speak differently. A perfect example of that are Broadway performers nowadays. I marvel at how they're able to keep up their voices over the course of a year.

Most of them are trained well, they are very skilled, so much more than most. I trained when I was younger and then gave it up for a while. Most of the women that have that voice, have trained constantly. I think in some ways, that early training as a vocalist was the only way I was able to do what I did as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Many of the women who took on the role were not professional singers and it was just too much for their voices.

I sort of did the same thing with dance. I took lessons when I was younger, but I didn't keep it up. I ended up in Sweet Charity, which really is all about dance and it was so incredibly hard. By the end, I had improved a lot, but, at least half of the time, I just kept thinking, "What am I doing?" I was surrounded by people who had been dancing non-stop since they were like "two" (laughs), I felt so clumsy and so very awkward. It wasn't pretty and really not one of my favorite years (laughs).

Tell me a little bit about your upcoming shows in San Diego and in Los Angeles.

Most of the shows that I do, start out as more of a promotion for my album, "Except Sometimes," but have changed now, since it came out. Early on, the shows featured pretty much every song from the album. Now, because we are considering what we plan to do next, there are new songs that we're testing out.

Each show is a little different; I always like to add a couple new songs to keep it fresh. Basically, to keep it more interesting for me (laughs)! Hopefully, that keeps it more interesting for everybody else. I tend to talk to the audiences too, nothing is scripted and it so depends on what the energy is in the room or what I feel like chatting about. It's good and I feel like it ends up being a fun night.

It sounds like your working on putting together another album -- is that true?

Thinking about it. I'm trying to figure out what that's going to look like and using the shows to ex- periment a little bit. I'm also working on my next book and it remains to be seen which will win out - they're going to have to arm wrestle for my attention. I'm still acting, of course, working on television and all of that. I also have three kids so that keeps me really, really busy. I also write an advice column for the London Guardian as well, so I have a lot going on.

That's for sure. I'm overwhelmed just hearing about it! Here comes a frivolous question... It's our love and marriage issue, so I want to get your take on what you feel makes for a healthy, happy relationship.

I think I would probably have to say that more than anything, it's about communication. Any long marriage or relationship goes through its ups and downs, and the only thing that can keep you engaged, I think, is to communicate well. Also, always giving your partner the benefit of the doubt.
My husband and I have this thing in our marriage that follows that kind of logic. We call it "The Last Cookie" (laughs), which is something my husband came up with. Always try to look at any situation like a plate of chocolate cookies. You both really like chocolate cookies, but you know that your partner really loves them - even more than you do. It's the idea that you just let them have that cookie (laughs).

You can, of course, extend that to pretty much any kind of situation, like having the last word. How important is it to my partner? Is it more important to them, than it is to me? If it is, then you give your partner that last cookie. (Laughs) That's one of our secrets.

That is about the sweetest thing I think I have ever heard. It creates such a wonderful image. Words... or cookies... to live by, for just about any given situation-thank you for that!

It was lovely talking with you. I hope I get to see you at the show.


Molly Ringwald will be in Irvine at the Orange County JCC on Saturday, February 21, for tickets and all things Molly, go to iammollyringwald.com. She will also be in San Diego at Martinis Above Fourth on Thursday, March 5, for tickets and more information, go to martinisabovefourth.com

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