50 Tour Dates, 1 Legendary Artist
Written by: Marie Spada
In an age when celebrities can rise through the ranks with dysfunctional reality shows, questionable public antics, and a plethora of suggestive selfies, it is easy to lose sight of those who have real talent. Despite the high volume of celebrities who have shot to fame under said circumstances, there are still those who rock on with real talent, blazing trails as musical mavericks. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to the epitome of talent, a one Miss Melissa Etheridge. With her nationwide tour setting stages ablaze with her musical genius, it is no wonder she is still acquiring a bevy of fans since her first record release in 1988. Now, she’s on her 13th studio album, and things just keep looking up for Etheridge. Whether it’s rocking a bald head due to chemotherapy at the 2005 Grammy’s, coming out in 1993, or scooping up Oscars and Grammy Awards, Etheridge has proved that she is one of music’s realest, most down to earth artists who has more than earned her title as a rock legend.
Q: A tremendous amount of heart and soul has gone into your 13 studio albums, from Road to Rock Stardom to This Is M.E.; in what way is This Is M.E. different from your albums in the past?
Melissa Etheridge: Well, it’s my first independent record off of a major label. Even though Chris Blackwell had always been, from the very beginning, very hands-off and let me do my own artistic vision, I was still within the corporate system. They would choose what single would go first, and were really on the business end. This was the first time that I really got to take it all and do it all myself. That allowed me to branch out a little bit, to work with some artists that no one might have thought I would work with. I think it produced some of my freshest, fun music that I haven’t made in quite a while. I love it. I love playing these songs live; people are really loving them.
Q: You’ve had an incredible journey, from coming out in ’93, to breast cancer, to Oscars and Grammy Awards. If you could tell us one of you most life-altering moments, what would it be?
ME: Hmm. You know, so much has happened! You know, probably the real, life-altering moment was the one where, early on in my career, I realized, ‘you know what, I do a lot of interviews, people are going to be asking me a lot of questions all the time, and I’m just going to be honest, completely truthful, and not hide anything’. Once I did that, once I made that choice, then everything that followed was because of that choice. Because of that choice, I came out and became an activist for the LGBT community. Because of that choice, I was bald on the Grammy’s, I didn’t want to hide any of that; I just wanted to be all out. Because of that choice, I’ve walked this path and amazing things have happened, and I am just grateful for all of them.
Q: With guitar being your first musical instrument of interest, do you have a guitar that carries special meaning for you that you prefer playing over other guitars you own?
ME: Oh, I have some guitars with really special meaning, and guitars from my childhood. I have guitars from the early days when I played in the bars and stuff. I don’t play those on stage, though. I have guitars now that I have purchased in the last 10 years that I love and bring on stage with me. They’re the ones that I love, and they’re the tools that I work with now and every guitar I have is special in some way; it’s crazy.
Marie Spada (interviewer): I can’t imagine how many instruments you have, given how many you play.
ME: I actually don’t know how many guitars I have, but probably just under 100…I think. But I have to stop buying them! I would have to live in a house of guitars if I keep going!
MS: Well, yeah, but that would be the best episode of Hoarders ever!
ME: Absolutely! Now that is cool!
Q: What have you done on your Little Bit of M.E. tour that you may not have done on other tours in the past?
ME: Oh, well this one is my solo tour! It is very different in that I have brought in a little bit of technology that helps me show more of my musical ability because I have a looper now. Now, I do it all live on stage, which is really important to me. So I have a hand drum, I play that, I put a beat up, I sing a song, play the guitar, lay down a guitar rhythm, pick up an electric guitar, play that, and it’s just really fun. It’s an inside, intimate look at my songs and performance, and it’s a great way to rock out and have a good time.
MS: Sounds like an amazing show!
ME: It is tons of fun; very high energy!
Q: What has been your most memorable city on your 50 date tour so far? I know you just got back from doing a world tour, too!
ME: Yes! It’s been amazing. The Greek was awesome. I’ve done these solo shows, then shows with the band, then shows with Blondie and Joan Jett. We did a show in St. Louis with 20, 000 people, then smaller solo gigs with 1, 000 people and it’s very intimate. Probably the one in St. Louis was one of the most memorable. The one I did with Joan Jett and Blondie in Spokane, WA was a crazy rockin’ night. The audience was very happy!
Q: It’s so nice to see such legendary women in music come together for this tour. How has it been taking the stage with Blondie and Joan Jett?
ME: I love it, because my agency was the one who put it together, William Morris Endeavor. It was such a brilliant idea, because it wasn’t like, Lilith Fair or something. It was hardcore rock and roll from legendary rock and rollers, and I knew I could hold my own with them and really add to the show. People were thrilled, and the audience was completely mixed with men and women, every type and age. People were just having a great time. No one even mentioned, ‘oh, these are all girls, ’ you know, not at all. I hope we do it again!
Q: Your songs always tell such an amazing story. What story were you trying to tell with your This Is M.E. album?
ME: II was trying to say that this is where I’m at. It’s filled with love, fun, sexuality, hope, and lots of music and guitar. It’s very upbeat and independent, and that’s where I’m at right now.
Q: What song on the This Is M.E. album carries the message that you most want to convey, and what is that message?
ME: Oh, goodness. Probably…well, that’s hard to say. I’d have to pick Monster, because it’s about being different and loving your differentness, and being real. That’s where we are at right now; our whole society is learning how to embrace diversity because that’s the only way we can move forward. That’s what that song is about, and that’s where I’m at.
Q: What can we expect next from Melissa Etheridge?
ME: Oh, so much! I have so much in the pipe now, as they say. Nothing that is developed to the point that I can tell you about it just yet, but the next three years are just going to be crazy. There is good music coming, and all kinds of possibilities just lining up.
ME: I am really looking forward to being in San Diego. I love playing San Diego so much. Humphrey’s is such a great place. See you there!
Catch Melissa Etheridge August 9, 2015, at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay in San Diego, CA.