MELISSA ETHERIDGE unabated: See her on July 22 at Hoyt Sherman Place6/27/2017
By Adam Rogan
Melissa Etheridge holds many titles. Rocker. Guitarist. Singer. Advocate. Grammy Award winner. Lesbian. Kansan. Cancer survivor.
She’s kind of a new-age hippy, even though she grew up during the hippie generation. Consistent, at the very least.
Etheridge is all about peace and love and acceptance. She practically preaches it.
“I think the world is going through a great huge change,” she says. “And I think this is the time when artists need to create art that inspires. I’m absorbing our world. I’m absorbing myself and my reactions and my thoughts and I’m writing, like I always do.”
Slowing down hasn’t really been considered since Etheridge’s first album came out in 1988. The longest gap between studio albums has been four years. In 2016, she released “Memphis Rock & Soul,” an album of covers from the Stax Records catalog, a label that rivaled Motown and signed artists like Otis Redding and Rufus Thomas — both of whom are covered on the record. It’s been on Billboard’s blues chart for nearly 40 weeks. And her next record could come out as soon as 2018.
“That’s what it’s all about, is music,” Etheridge says. “That’s my safe space. That’s the place that makes sense. Whenever I was stressed, whenever I had emotional issues, I would go play music. It’s still that way and it is still the only thing that I do really well. It saved my life.”
Etheridge came out as a lesbian in 1993 and was one of the first high-level celebrities to do so, four years before Ellen DeGeneres.
“People have always been kind of catching up with me,” Etheridge says. “… I love having songs be so meaningful a decade or two later. I’m not thinking that there’s only a little time left, and I can only do it for so long. I’m thinking I want to be that artist that people go to all the time.”
Bruce Springsteen is one of Etheridge’s favorite artists, and she took a page out of his book by becoming a respected and powerful live performer.
“I’ve tried to do something different, I try to give (my fans) a different perspective each time,” Etheridge says. “… I’ve felt that that was the key to success, to be that artist that you want to see over and over.”
That’s what Etheridge thinks has allowed her to have such a long career in music, that continuing devotion to live performance. Sometimes she’ll tour solo, just her and a guitar. Other times, like her current tour, she’ll have a backing band.
Etheridge has shown the ability to evolve. She’s worked on improving her guitar work, which shows in the rocking sound of “Memphis Rock & Soul.” She likes surprising fans with her freshly developed skills on the fretboard, especially compared to the simpler tunes that made her famous.
Unfazed by the fact that she hasn’t had an album go platinum since before the turn of the century, Etheridge continues to tour, attract new fans and make new music. There’s nothing else she needs.
Etheridge is scheduled to play Hoyt Sherman Place on July 22. Tickets start at $60 and can be found on www.ticketmaster.com, www.hoytsherman.org or by calling 515-244-0507.