There is no one on the entire planet, straight or gay, young or old, who isn’t familiar with the name Melissa Etheridge. A gay icon and activist, She continues to astound audiences with her creative lyrics, her unique, jazzy, raspy, sexy tones and her pop/folk melodies. Having collected TWO Grammys, an Academy Award and a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame, she is about to release on September 30 her newest album, “This is M.E.” The release is her debut for ME records, and probably one of HER “finest hours.”
The first track, “I Won’t Be Alone Tonight,” is a powerful song with an upbeat rhythm projecting Etheridge’s natural vibrato as she sings the chorus. “Take My Number,” her new single, tells a story that keeps one mesmerized by its lyrics. “Do It Again” is reminiscent of a Janis Joplin vocal, while “Monster” is jazzy, bluesy and seductive. My own personal favorite, “A Little Bit of Me,” is fun and rich with an uplifting beat coaxing one to want to sing along.
I was honored to be able to speak with Etheridge and found her to be incredibly sweet and intelligent. She is truly dedicated to her fans and a real professional. I especially enjoyed the fact that during the conversation she seemed to have a strange calming affect on me, and I just loved her. She’s a mom, a wife, an entertainer and simply enchanting.
Congratulations on your new album and your new marriage!
Both are amazing. Thank you so much!
Do you have a particular favorite song on the new album?
It’s funny ‘cause I’m crazy in love with all the songs, but if you were like, “OK, you can only listen to one,” it would kind of depend what mood I was in, but I would have to say “Ain’t That Bad” is probably the one that makes me giggle every time I hear it and can’t wait to sing it live. But then I go, maybe that’s “Monster.” I haven’t found the track that I keep skipping over. I don’t have that track on the album.
Now you’ve won two Grammys and an Oscar, you have a star in Hollywood, you sang live for New Year’s Eve at Times Square with the entire world watching you: What stands out in your mind as the most fun and exciting time for you professionally?
Oh my gosh, it really would be hard to say which one. I’ve had so many wonderful, wonderful, amazing experiences in the music business, and I’m just grateful for it. I would have to say that – again, if I had to choose one, I would say the 2005 Grammys. It meant so much for me to step out on stage and sing after being on chemotherapy. Still to this day, 10 years later, I still have people walking up to me and saying how much that performance meant to them, so that still touches me, that performance that was almost 10 years ago.
That was an incredible performance. Every time I’ve ever seen you, you look so happy performing.
I am. I’m very happy to perform.
When you get up in the morning and have your coffee or whatever it is you do, what inspires you to get motivated?
I get up and have a smoothie first. I’m not a coffee person. But what motivates me? You know, life does! Every morning I’m grateful to have the gift of life, the gift of this reality, this moment that I have in front of me that I can create, this gratitude.
Now, you have a lot of kids.
I know. I don’t know how that happened!
How do you schedule the kids, the tours, the music, the time?
That’s the #1 priority around here, my schedule, and it’s kids and work, and I love them both! It’s a fine balance between the two, and I have many people – an assistant, a tour manager, my wife. We meet every week about schedule, because it’s the most important thing of our life.
If you weren’t famous, what would you be doing?
I’d probably still be making music, ‘cause music is just what I love to do, and it makes me so happy when I make it. If I couldn’t make music, I might be a teacher. My father was a teacher, and I could stand up in front of people like I love to do.
A lot of talent who I interview seem to have an opinion that the music industry isn’t what it used to be, to say the least. What is your opinion on the future of the industry?
Well, it depends on who you are and how you look at it, because I know that music is only becoming a more important part of every human being on the planet. Music is an expression. Music has always been and will always be a part of our reality in life, so knowing that it’s how people receive their music – there’s a part that’s complex, and there are those that are making a living distributing other people’s music to the world. They are the middle person, and that is slowly eroding, because I can now reach my fans directly. Through social media, I’ve got hundreds of thousands of them right there that I can say, “I’ve got a new album,” and I don’t need a record company. If you were in the record business, you might say, “Yeah, industry is done, it’s over,” but the new mode is: Whoever can deliver, whoever can be a business person and an artist can reach the public still. The public has a demand. They love music. Music is not going away. It’s still a way that people express themselves, and the youth especially [are] looking for music to define them.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
My sense of humor. It’s very precious to me, ‘cause it makes me happy. It’s a way of looking at life as a metaphor and not taking it personally. I can make humor in light of a lot of things – in a good way, not in a way of I’m dealing with it but in a way of keeping it out of darkness.
If you could choose someone to play your life in the movies, who would you pick?
I was thinking about that the other day, because that’s a question that some people ask me every now and then, and it’s Jennifer Lawrence. That’s someone that would get the crazy freakin’ life that I’ve been through.
If you could have picked two celebrities to be your parents, who would you have chosen?
That’s funny. I would pick Nikola Tesla and Barbra Streisand.
I like that.
Yeah! Come on, Nikola Tesla and Barbra Streisand.
How is your life different than you imagined it as a child?
When I was growing up in the Midwest I had the quintessential dream of Hollywood and the stars and lights, and I’m gonna go become rich and famous, and I will have no troubles. Of course that’s a child’s dream. My reality now is completely different, yet better than I ever thought it could be.
You are a new addition to a crayon box. What color are you?
What’s your favorite color?
That’s a turquoise. Yeah, turquoise.
What or who has inspired you through life?
Well, just the journey. The quest has inspired me, the constant unfolding and opening of the box – the layers, one after another. I’ve gotten inspiration from people along the way: Martin Luther King, Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Buddha. It goes on and on, the messages as they come every day.
If you could have dinner with someone in history, who would it be?
Alexander the Great.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I believe in lust at first sight. I believe that that could carry you along the way. I believe that love starts inside yourself. You have to be in love with yourself first before you can be in love with anyone else.
You probably don’t have a lot of time to do this too often, but when you are driving alone in a car, what is it you are thinking about?
Usually I’m thinking about music. If I’m in the car alone I’m cranking music, loud! So I’m usually thinking about free spirits and music. I love to drive, and music, that’s my favorite.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Right here in my office. I see myself touring. I see myself creating music and just being part of this beautiful fabric of reality and Western society. I love it!
Have you ever done Fire Island?
No, I have never been to Fire Island. What kind of gay am I? I’ve never been to Fire Island.
I could take your gay card away for that.
I know! I’ve been to Provincetown.
What would you like to promote for yourself right now?
Just the message of living and love, how beautiful life is and how fortunate we are to be working through whatever it is we’re working through.
What is one thing you’d like me to know about you?
Well, that I love making music, and I really cherish the connection I have with my fans.