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Walters channeled various influences into her debut effort -- 1997's Grotto, which she released while living in Denver and playing with a band. At the time, the Assorted Beverages included Ian Hardin on drums, Phil Hegel on bass and Jim Nasi on guitar. Grotto's abrupt time changes and complex song structures focused on a young artist exploring her limits. Her chameleon-like vocal ability was apparent as she summoned the spirit of Bush, Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays, and the Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser -- at times simultaneously.

"Toddy and her Assorted Beverages was never a bar band, so we never really catered to the big, party, weekend dancing crowd," she says of the small but loyal following she had in her home town.

The singer's creative expression has not been limited to musical pursuits. After studying performance art at the University of Colorado, she explored her desire to act. In 1993 she met South Park co-creator Trey Parker at CU. At the time, Parker was busy creating his first ode to insanity, Cannibal the Musical. The movie is about Alfred Packer, the first man ever to be tried for cannibalism in America. Walters landed a role in the film out of college and soon after became romantically involved with Parker.

In 1998, while the two were still dating, Walters recruited Nasi and new bandmembers Jeff Mince on drums and Brad Van Loenen on bass to make the trek to L.A., believing that the West Coast would offer a more thriving musical environment. After arriving in California, the group parted ways over conflicting priorities and Walters's new musical direction, which involved more experimentation with electronica, more reliance on her own guitar playing and less of a need for the traditional rock-band lineup. In 1999, Mince and Van Loenen were recruited by Nina Hagen and ended up joining the '80s icon on several tours.

Walters's on-again, off-again romance with Parker ended, but the association with him led to a new musical outlet for her. "I wrote two songs for South Park episodes," she explains. "I did one song that was a re-creation of an Enya song, but it had to be a little bit different so Enya can't come back and sue. Then I wrote another song that was sort of a re-creation of an Indigo Girls song. It was called, 'I Love Domestic Chores.' It was sung and written as sort of a lesbian anthem; it was funny."

Walters can't say the same of every Parker project.

"The way South Park hits on deeper issues while being funny is creative genius," she says. "Cannibal just had success written all over it. Trey has success written all over him. He is very interesting in that way. But I think Orgasmo was definitely not great art, and by far, I don't think it is the best thing they have ever done. It's kind of like Trey needs to just sort of stick to what he's better at. As far as my acting, basically I just did anything that he had to offer and I never pursued anything else."

While comedic acting is something Walters has toyed with, music remains her true ambition. In 1999 she recorded a full-length demo with the help of L.A.'s Artists Breathe and Smack3000; she's currently wrapping up a new collection that she calls her "dream album." Walters says she feels much more connected to her most recent songs, largely because she shaped the creative process from writing to recording. Her current sound is that of a musician reclaiming her inspiration.

"So many producers are control freaks, and so many people are just so button-happy," she says. "The song should dictate what is best. I'm the kind of person who can be a little bit submissive in a way, so I didn't really stand up for myself in the studio. That's the one thing I've learned that I really need to work on. For one thing, I really haven't gone on the bandwagon of co-writing. I definitely like the newer stuff that I'm doing and having a little bit more control over it. Some of the older stuff was too poppy for me."

Walter has maintained her sense of humor in the face of frustration.

"I just need a break. I think it's my right as an American citizen to have a record released once," she says, laughing. "It seems like everyone has put out a record. I mean, if Sebastian Cabot can put out a record and cover Bob Dylan songs, why can't I? I've been told that they don't know how to market me. I'm just like, 'What do you have to do? I'm a pretty girl who has good songs. What more do you need?' Do I need to be wearing a dominatrix outfit or something for them to be like, 'Oh, I see that!'

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Patrick Casey