Judith Owen

"I've noticed that very dark people are really funny and every funny person I've met has their dark side," Judith Owen says.

"I've noticed that very dark people are really funny and every funny person I've met has their dark side," Judith Owen says. This is the perfect summation of the charming singer/songwriter, who has made an impressive career out of baring her tormented thoughts, then allowing herself and her audience to laugh together after each last note.

The Welsh-born entertainer moved to America in the late '90s, signing initially to Capitol but then getting out of her deal in 2000 when the label experienced a shake-up and never released her debut set. Her newest album, "Mopping Up Karma," released earlier this month via her own label Courgette Records, was gathered from the remnants of that dropped album, originally recorded with Glen Ballard.

It too, though, is a page torn from her own personal history book, a recorded diary of her emotional strife to overcome depression and anxiety disorders, and come to grips with the suicide of her mother when Owen was 15 years old. "The most-used word in my music vocabulary is 'mother.' You can literally trace my mental health and coping by listening to every CD I've made," Owen says.

Altogether, she's released eight albums on her own, selling a combined total of 13,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "My father, who sings opera, is the reason I sing. He gets so much joy from it, it was his form of escape. So I sing for him, I write for her."

Being such a personal craft, Owen's songs have a very theatrical quality to them, with big arcs and intense arrangements. Her husky, melodramatic croon has graced several TV and film placements, including "Today" and an episode of "The Simpsons." While she is "proud to say, I didn't sleep my way onto 'The Simpsons,' " it certainly doesn't hurt that her inspiration, "biggest fan" and husband/actor/musician Harry Shearer is one of the animated show's longstanding stars.

The pair met in Britain when Shearer was decked out in his full "This Is Spinal Tap" costume and Owen was singing a "stupid gig" at a hotel in 1993. The pair immediately hit it off and Owen eventually asked Shearer to marry her. They now spend time between Los Angeles and New Orleans. They've whipped up several collaborations, including 2005's "Christmas in July" EP and perform such collaborations live together. "We laugh so much together. He's a devout lover of music. Harry needs music and I need comedy."

Owen will tour in support of "Karma" throughout the summer and may join enduring touring companion Richard Thompson on the road. She has contemplated releasing other artists' music, but concedes that her goal of releasing one album per year "has kept my hands tied." However, she has three projects on tap in the next year or so: a trio album with bassist Sean Hurley and drummer Dave Mattacks, a collection of Welsh ballads and another stint of "Christmas" shows.