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The Sound

Melissa Etheridge


Grammy winner talks about her journey, which has involved breast cancer, cannabis, LGBT issues and Twitter.

Photo by Lauren Dukoff

Melissa Etheridge’s album debut in 1988 showcased her raspy, bluesy voice, and the female rocker’s unique sound paid off. During the last 30 years, she has sold 35 million albums, including five that went platinum and three multiplatinum recordings. Etheridge has been nominated 15 times for Grammy Awards and won twice. She won an Academy award for her work with “An Inconvenient Truth,” which is about climate change.

Etheridge released her 15th studio album, “The Medicine Show,” in April and plays Hoyt Sherman Place on June 20. CITYVIEW talked with her about her life and new album.

Etheridge began work on the album in 2016. Early on she realized it would be a deeply personal quest.

“I knew to start the album, it was about what I was dreaming, believing and the experiences I’ve had,” she says. “Then 2017 hit, and not only was it personal, but my message became universal with all the intense things happening in the country.”

She’s grown accustomed to intense adversity throughout various life situations. She’s heavily involved in LGBT issues after coming out as a lesbian. She overcame breast cancer and is vocal about cannabis usage.

“Once my music became successful, it’s given me a voice and allows me a platform to talk about these issues,” she says. “I’ve learned to be responsible, respectful and never preach. As I’ve done that, people have sought me out.”

The singer has put together her own brand of cannabis products through Etheridge Farms, after discovering it helped her during her chemotherapy cancer treatments.

“I didn’t want to just put a label on it without knowing the wellness part,” she says. “I’m working with a scientist and a herbologist for something I can trust.”

Staying true to her roots, the superstar continues playing music she grew up with.

“The Kansas station played everything from Led Zeppelin to Tammy Wynette to Marvin Gaye,” she remembers. “That’s the music I listened to, and that’s the music I make. It’s all mixed in together.”

With numerous awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to her credit, every once in awhile, Etheridge takes a break to take a look back.

“The awards sitting on the shelf are fun, but it really is a representation of the journey I’ve been on,” she says. “The journey is the part you don’t see on the award.”

Melissa was involved in social media early on. In 1994, she was one of the first musicians to have a website.

“People asked, ‘What’s this fan club?’ Back then we could reach and keep in contact with hundreds and thousands of fans,” she recalls.

Now she’s moved on to her own Twitter account and feels it’s transformed the music industry.

“I love how instant it is,” she says. “You can answer questions or get immediate feedback on anything. I love the fact that I don’t have to go through a middle man or record company to respond.”

At her Iowa concert, she’ll play songs from the new album, as well as deep tracks and old favorites.

“I’m blessed to have hit songs that people want to hear,” she says. “Expect to hear some great rock ’n’ roll.” ♦

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