Why We're Fond of Vonda

With a season of Ally McBeal behind her and the show's soundtrack making it to the charts, Vonda Shepard toured the country this summer, and more than once she was interrupted. "Ally McBeal, I love you!' a voice would scream out through the crowd.

"First of all, I'm not her on the show, and second, she's not a real character," says an amused Shepard, 34.

But with her weekly piano ballads, often tied to Ally's own soul searchin', it doesn't take a giant leap to see why fans seem confused. Her latest song, "Maryland," to be released on October 6 by Sony Music, will be played on the October 19 episode. It comes from a time in Shepard's own childhood, growing up in Encino, California, when her mother often would talk of moving to the "simple life" back East. "She just kind of had a vision of living there," Shepard says.

They never moved. (Her parents separated when she was 10.) After a career of ups and downs (she was picked up by Reprise and then dropped in 1992), it looks as if things are turning in her favor. The Ally McBeal soundtrack sold more than 1 million copies, and she has just started working on a new solo album, scheduled for a March release. "People say to me, 'You've made it.' But I've been in the business too long. It can be very fleeting."-Ted Johnson