Interview With Melissa Etheridge

AE: In
the press materials, it said that during your chemotherapy you went
through and listened to all your previous albums. What do they tell you
about yourself?

[Sighs.] It told me that on a subconscious level, there was a lot more
going on with my feelings and emotions than I recognized. I think
growing up in the Midwest, I was taught to oppress and suppress and
repress [laughs] my feelings and desires and dreams, and we’re supposed
to see the world as very large, but we’re supposed to think very small
and stay in our little box.

It’s like the first line of
“California”: “Only a few shall get, but everyone shall need.” We’ll
all want it, but there’s only a few that’s going to get it. And that
sort of mentality — it’s hard and it creates this desire, this constant, constant desire
and this disappointment … and now I’ve
forgotten, actually your question. [Laughter.]

I was just asking about what your older albums taught you about
yourself and your experience so far —

Right, right. I did a lot of
searching, and I really thought that happiness would be in fame and
fortune, and if I went to California and I ran after that Hollywood
dream and I became rich and famous, then I would be fine. And of
course, my path was very different than what I thought it would be. And
I did get to the top of the mountain, and I looked around and went,
“Wow, this is a really lonely place.” [Laughs.] And it’s impossible to
stay there.

So now I see these young women
who are climbing up that mountain going, “Whoopee! Give me the brass
ring,” you know, “Here I go.” And they get up there, and then there
they are, and so they start drinking and they don’t think they’re
pretty enough; they don’t think they’re skinny enough. Believe me, I’ve
been there. I tried to be skinnier and prettier and I did the whole

AE: Really?
In my own way. [Laughs.] I didn’t say I succeeded, but I felt that emotion.

AE: Looking back on your career now, do you have any advice for young musicians who are seeking that same dream?
[Emphatically.] Oh yeah.

AE: What would you tell them?

I’d say do it because you love it. Do what you love. Do not do it to be
rich and famous. Do not do it to achieve something to fill up some sort
of hole inside of you, because it will not.

Do make your music because you
love it, and make the music that comes to you and stand wherever you
can and sing, and sing what you love. And if you do it because you love
it and you find your happiness in it, then you will have contentment.
Then if something does come along, then you will be on solid ground and you will be able to handle whatever the outside world might give you.

I wanted to ask you a bit about one of the songs on the album, “An
Unexpected Rain.” For me, it was the most like your earlier stuff.

People who have listened to me for a long time and who are longtime
fans and know my first work and stuff, they all say that, and it was
purposely done that way. Because the subject matter is about the ’80s
and the choices I made, and that whole time period. I purposely made it
sound — I approached it in the way that
I did my first records and the sort of music that I was making then. I
wanted to conjure up the sort of sound that I had back then.

AE: How has your songwriting, or music making methodology, I guess, changed since then? What has developed?

Well, I think … [laughs] I tried to
chase some musical styles there for a while, trying to think that my
own style wasn’t good enough and that I had to have a beat or
… there was something else, I needed to
be more like someone else. You see that in some of my work a little

I never got carried away with
it, but I always did try it, and I think whenever I did, it kind of
lessened my impact because I didn’t trust my own power. I didn’t trust
my own talent and that what I am is good enough, and that’s what people
want to hear. So when I finally got that through my head, I approached
this album totally from a place of joy and love, and I can’t wait to
make this record the way that I make music and not worry about anything but just getting the song down.

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