Melissa Etheridge is a mammoth talent armed with electrifying energy, a custom Les Paul guitar and a powerful, raspy voice that penetrates the soul. The Academy Award- and Grammy-winning artist spent the summer on an extensive tour encompassing solo and full band performances, festivals and several dates with Blondie and Joan Jett. Now she is back in the studio creating new songs to top those in her 13th album, “This is M.E.”
“The inspiration can come from a chord on the guitar, a memory or a glance out the window,” she said. “Sometimes the song comes quickly, like ‘A Little Bit of Me,’ which I wrote during an airplane flight. ‘Who Are You Waiting For’ was the most difficult in the album, because I wrote it for my marriage. It came straight from my heart, and I wanted to get it perfect, so it took a few weeks.”
Melissa Etheridge is proud of her numerous accolades, but none more so than the Academy Award for “I Need to Wake Up” from Al Gore’s 2006 documentary about global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
“Winning that Oscar probably gave me the greatest pride,” she said. “I grew up in Kansas, where watching the Academy Awards was an important form of entertainment. The academy has lots of categories, but only one for music, so receiving it was a major honor. When I first heard about the film, I thought it might simply be a slide show in a high school and had no idea what impact it would have on our lives.”
Protection of the environment is just one of the many causes she champions. A cancer survivor, a user of medical marijuana and a gay rights activist, she gladly expresses her opinions about many political and social issues whenever asked.
“Just by saying that I am in favor of something, I automatically become an activist,” she said. “Overcoming cancer has given me even more enthusiasm for my life and work. I have a holistic belief in the symbiotic relationship between the body and its diet. The energy I have on stage is all about health. The whole foods I am eating and the lack of sugar in my body take away stress so that being on stage is a celebration.”
Just as the lyrics she writes reflect her beliefs and emotions, her actions reflect respect for her heritage and love for her late father, a high school teacher in Leavenworth, Kansas. To celebrate his life, she performed a benefit concert there to raise money for a ball field named for him in a park near the high school.
She would have loved to share with him the genealogical information about her ancestors unearthed last season during her appearance on TV’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” In addition to discovering that her early immigrants placed family first, she was able to trace the movement of one from Quebec, Canada to New France in what today is Missouri. A highlight for her was visiting the house that he built there, the oldest one in the area and a designated historical site.
Now that she has her own independent label, she looks forward to pleasing her fans time and again. “The recording industry has changed and is becoming a renaissance for the artist,” she said. “My next album should be out in several months, so look for it.”
Melissa Etheridge celebrates humanity with songs inspired by her political and social concerns.