Having a successful career as a singer-songwriter in your own right is something, but when that 40-year career also includes writing songs that have been sung by performers such as Linda Ronstadt, Wynona Judd and Bonnie Raitt, that puts you in a whole different league.
Karla Bonoff has had that career.
Beginning at age 15, Bonoff formed her first band, The Daughters of Chester P, with her sister, Lisa. Her next band, Bryndle, included Kenny Edwards, Wendy Waldman and Andrew Gold. When the band broke up, Edwards and Gold joined Ronstadt’s band, Ronstadt heard some of Bonoff’s music and the rest is history.
Oh, and you may recognize her from the single “Personally,” which was released in 1982. (She didn’t write it, however. Its composer was Paul Kelly.)
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, along with Nina Gerber, will take the stage Sept. 29 at Henry Strater Theatre. The two will be performing old favorites and music from Bonoff’s latest release, “Carry Me Home.”
Released in February, “Carry Me Home” was a while in the making, Bonoff said, thanks to the wrath of Mother Nature.
“It took a while because we had a couple of disasters here where I live in Santa Barbara – we had a massive wildfire and then something they call a debris flow, which was a pretty horrible kind of flooding situation, so there were a lot of evacuations,” she said. “It took me a long time, but Nina Gerber and I went in and just recorded a lot of the stuff the way that we play it these days and a couple of new things.”
Bonoff said she’s pleased with how her voice sounds on the album’s 16 tracks.
“I think it’s a good representation of how I sound now, which is a little different from some of those early albums,” she said. “When I made my first and second record, I hadn’t really sung for that long, so I think I’m a better singer now. And also I think the arrangements in some cases are more updated, so I don’t know, I think it’s more contemporary in some ways.”
Bonoff’s shows in Colorado – along with Durango, she’ll be performing in Denver, Loveland, Colorado Springs and Cedaredge – come after a tour of Japan, where she has enjoyed a loyal, and growing, fan base for decades.
“My second album was really big there; it was promoted a lot, and I think they’re different than here – once you kind of have the fans there, it seems to kind of last forever and it’s generational,” she said. “I also think they still play me on the radio there, so we had a lot of young fans this time, kids in their 20s, and I was trying to figure out how they got turned on to the music and, it’s hard with the language barrier. ... I think they still have some kind of radio that’s playing ’70s singer-songwriter music, so the kids are getting exposed to it more than they might here. So the audience keeps building there. It’s harder to do that here; audiences are more fickle, music’s changing all the time.”
You’d think that after such a long career and a lot of time spent on the road, Bonoff would be slowing down, and to a certain degree, she is, but she and Gerber continue to log performances – and miles.
“It’s four or five days a month, I’m generally off December, January, so it’s not that grueling, but it’s enough to sort of keep my foot in the water and not be bored,” she said.