The singer behind oodles of hits happy to be back on the road
Karla Bonoff fell into music at a young age and it just seemed that would always be her path.
“It held my attention more than anything else,” she said. “Growing up in Los Angeles in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the exposure to music, and the ability to go out and play clubs, there was just this burgeoning singer/songwriter community; it was compelling and magical.”
During those days, Bonoff’s musical friends included Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Elton John, and she would go on to form Bryndle, a band with Wendy Waldman, Kenny Edwards and Andrew Gold.
Though Bryndle never made it big, Edwards and Gold would go on to play in Linda Ronstadt’s band, and that led to Bonoff writing three songs on the singer’s acclaimed “Hasten Down the Wind” album.
Throughout her long career, she has also written hit songs for Bonnie Raitt, Wynonna Judd and Lynn Anderson.
Aside from writing hits for others, Bonoff also started recording some of her own, including ‘I Can’t Hold On” and “Home.”
Today, she’s considered one of the finest singer/songwriters of her generation. She’s enjoyed critical acclaim, commercial success, enduring popularity, and the unwavering respect of her peers.
On Oct. 8, Bonoff will play the Barns at Wolf Trap and perform some of her classics.
“I’ve played there before and I’m coming back with Nina Gerber, who is a fantastic electric and acoustic guitar player, and we do an unplugged-ish kind of show,” Bonoff said. “We’ll do songs from all my records and some new stuff.”
During the pandemic, Bonoff recorded some Christmas songs just for fun, and by December, she had enough to release her first-ever holiday album. It did well and was even named among The New York Times’ best holiday albums for the year.
“That was unexpected,” she said. “I was really just looking for something to do, as I had a ton of shows booked and suddenly, those were just gone. A lot of my fall travelling now, including the performance at Wolf Trap, is making up for those lost shows.”
Now 69, Bonoff has a large catalogue of songs from her own releases, as well as those she has written for others. Each song means something special to her, and she finds that audiences all have their own favorite as well.
“People tell me my music means a lot to them, whether they’re going through a breakup or a divorce, and I’m really grateful that they have followed me for all these years,” Bonoff said.
With the records, “Restless Nights” and “Wild Heart of the Young,” released in 1979 and 1982 respectively, Bonoff became a radio staple and one of the most coveted songwriters around.
Ironically, one of her biggest hits is “Personally,” a tune she didn’t write herself. It’s one that Bonoff expects to play at the Wolf Trap show because it’s a favorite of hers and one she noted she always enjoys singing.
Her first show back was mid-September and she has a new appreciation for being back in front of an audience.
“I’m definitely happy to be working again,” Bonoff said. “It’s been almost two years, but the audiences seem just as happy to be back. It’s a little subdued, because shows are inside. But the venues have been good at asking for proof of vaccines or negative tests.”
This was the longest layoff she has had since she started in the business, and Bonoff admits that it was nice to not constantly be on the road, packing and unpacking, all the time.
“I enjoyed having time hiking and doing things like that, but after a while, it got a little boring and I needed to start recording and performing,” she said. “Honestly, I’m up there in age, so I don’t know how much longer I will be doing this because it gets harder physically, but I’m grateful to do this right now.”
She encourages fans to come out to Wolf Trap and support the venue and live music, and wishes everyone a great fall season ahead.