Music

10 Questions: Melissa Etheridge

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Melissa Etheridge has been on top of the world in 2019. Her highly anticipated album, “The Medicine Show” dropped in April, she began a tour in March and her namesake cruise took off on March 31, with dozens of renowned musicians on board. In July, she headlined San Diego Pride, and is currently writing the music for the musical version of the hit film “Mystic Pizza” [slated to come out in 2020 or 2021]. But this Grammy, Oscar and GLAAD Media Award winner still took time from to talk to me, confirming what I had been told by those who know her—she’s humble, down-to-earth and very friendly. 

How did it feel to be the headliner at this year’s San Diego Pride, especially as we commemorated Stonewall’s 50th anniversary?

Photo by Regina Paris

Oh, you know, it’s my job, it’s what I love to do. 

I try to remain kind of neutral. I’m gay, but you know I’m not gay, gay, gay all the time. Having played at lesbian bars in Long Beach, and down in Southern California for six years … it’s like getting back to my people. There is a certain gay humor that I can fall into, I can certainly talk more in detail what the songs are about. It was really nice to get down with my brothers and sisters and just be in the moment and celebrate how far we have come.  
Can you tell me a bit about the album?

I started thinking about it in 2016 when I saw where we were all headed as a collective consciousness, and through even internationally where we are all sorta vibrating. At the end of 2017 I started getting into the studio and thinking how to put musical thoughts together. It was different that I just walked the journey as it was in front of me, I didn’t feel rushed. I didn’t have any expectation of this is going to be this huge thing. As it went I said, yeah this sounds good, this feels good, this thought is where I want to be. I just kept following the path as it was lit up in front of me, and I came out in 2019 with this piece of art of thought and emotion and just energy of where we have all been in the last couple of years.

Tell me about the Melissa Etheridge Cruise.

It’s really fun. This is my third one. And, they came to me forever and I said no, no, no, I don’t want to go on any cruise. Then I went on one and went oh my God, this is amazing. Not only is it beautiful, but I get to super-serve my fans that really enjoy my music. I play over 70 different songs on the cruise, I get to go really deep. I get to play my new album for people, it’s just seven days of me [laughs]. It’s awesome, and there are a lot of great artists, because it’s about music. 

Who are some of your personal heroes; people you admire?

Rachel Maddow, I want to go fishing with her. That’s a little bucket-list. I admire Ava DuVernay, she has really taken her calling and stepped up.

Any of the Presidential hopefuls intrigued you so far?

I’ll take anybody. I met with Senator Warren, I think she’s an amazing human being, an incredible leader with a brilliant mind and a strong heart. I met Kamala Harris, I think she is a strong and powerful leader with a great sense off justice, could be a great leader. I met Corey Booker, I find him strong and smart, they are incredibly intelligent people. I think I met them all except for Kirsten Gillibrand.

Tell me about your LGBT fans.

They’ve been there, they have always been there. It’s something that no matter where I go in the world, it’s a percentage and an ingredient, and I’ve always thought that if people feel like this is a safe place, that coming to my concert they’re going to find people, they just feel safe being who they are. It’s a part of wherever I go.

What are a few of your favorite charities or causes?

I’ve always found that near and dear to my heart are very personal, so you’re going to find Gay & Lesbian charities, you know GLAAD is probably doing some of the greatest work around the globe, and of course HRC. Then I move into the health space, the breast cancer space. I shy away from a lot of the big cancer money machines because I concentrate on the smaller ones.
I have a charity called ‘Pink Ribbon Garden Project,’ which is part of the Libby’s Legacy coming out of Orlando, FL. It’s a very small organization that gives mammograms to those who can’t afford them in Orlando and other cities. And then we are teaching in places that suffer from food injustice, underprivileged neighborhoods how to actually garden and form a real food supply.
And the other one is cannabis. The marijuana, MPP (Marijuana Policy Project), NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and ASA (Americans for Safe Access), the groups that do so much work in Washington to get some for all the injustice that the drug war has brought on.

You are an avid environmentalist. What basic things would you like the public to know about the state of our global environment?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with how bad it seems, yet the only way out of it is to start. All we have to do is take a moment to acknowledge, yeah, we are part of the earth, we need the earth and everything the earth causes and represents in our air, environment, water, our trees and this whole system that is like a body that we interact with. All we have to do is to understand that we are a part of it.
I believe that in the next 10 years, it will be the absolute priority and it will change, and we will change our earth and sort of the way we think about humankind. I think that’s one of the big changes coming.

With multiple hit records, 15 Grammy Award nominations, two wins, an Oscar, star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, how do you reflect on your remarkable career?

You’re sweet! I’m 57 and when you get to this point, oh wow, I don’t feel any different. You look back and you know what? I got to do a lot of the things that I wanted to do, and there is so much more in front of that I still want to do. And I think that’s the key, being grateful and having that gratitude, yet looking forward with anticipation.

For more information about Melissa Etheridge, visit MelissaEtheridge.com

Vic Gerami is a noted journalist, a columnist and the host and producer of the prime-time radio show, “The Blunt Post with Vic” on Independent Radio KPFK 90.7 FM (Pacifica Network). The program covers breaking and headline news, politics, and current events. Guests on the show have included Congressmembers Adam Schiff, Jackie Speier, Tony Cardenas, Maxine Waters, Judy Chu, Jim Costa, Norma Torres, Grace Napolitano, Raul Ruiz, Barbara Lee and Linda Sanchez, as well as former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. Gerami began in the media industry at Frontiers Magazine, followed by positions at LA Weekly and Voice Media Group. Gerami was twice selected as a finalist in the Los Angeles Press Club’s National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards “Columnist of the Year” category in 2017 and 2019, His celebrity Q&A column, ‘10 Questions with Vic‘ is internationally syndicated, and featured interviews with Melissa Etheridge, Paula Abdul, Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons), Kathy Griffin, Matthew Modine, Laverne Cox, and Marianne Williamson. In July 2020, Gerami was announced as a finalist in 7 categories for the Los Angeles Press Club’s 62nd Annual Southern California Journalism Awards.

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