Interview With Melissa Etheridge

AE: I wanted to ask you about Live Earth. Were you upset that NBC didn’t broadcast your set on prime time?
[Sighs.] How bout all that, huh?

AE: Yeah.
You know, that experience was an eye-opener for me. Because having been so close to An Inconvenient Truth and Al Gore and seeing his vision being put onto a film, and then I was so honored to write a song for it.

When he first called, he said,
“Come see my slideshow and write a song for it.” I thought it would be
shown in high schools or something. I really didn’t know what was
coming, and to see it put out there on the major stage and then see the
world change, it proved to me that one single person can make a change.
One person.

And it gave me great hope, and I was so swept away with, wow!
We are learning. This guy showed it to us and we are seeing this, and
the world changed. Being green is important now, and so when he said,
“We’re doing a concert. Live Earth. 7/7/07,” I said, “I’m there.” I
said, this is an awesome
opportunity to talk about change, to stand up and change, because it’s
what we need right now. We’re either going to sink or swim. [Laughs.]

And then … when I arrived at
Giants Stadium, I started getting this sinking feeling because I saw
there was this big Verizon tent, and there was the corporate this over
here, and the corporate that, and I thought [sighs], you know what’s
happening? It’s that corporations are actually going, “OK, this is the
flavor of the moment. Let me, I’m going to paint myself green.”

AE: Right.

And the television picked it up, and all the commercials were very
green. And when I looked out in the audience — I mean there were good people, but
most of them were there to hear Bon Jovi, you know. I mean really, it
was Giants Stadium, come on.

Then I listened to the artists,
and a few of them would say, “Hey, you know, we’ve got to do this and
recycle and whatever,” and I thought, what I thought I was coming to
… a gathering of artists that were going to bring about some change
… I realized it was just kind of a media moment.

So I knew that my intention of
what I was going to do … I was going to
play two songs that people had never heard of that were political in
nature, and I was going to get up there and speak truthfully in the
music and speak to people about what’s going on and how we need to wake
up, and what’s happening in our government and how people need to rise

But I think we’re not [rising
up] because we’re so stuck in our — we’re all in debt. We all
have to work. And we all believe that we’re
here to work and then buy things —
produce things and then buy them — which
is the whole problem behind our environment. We keep consuming and then
just throwing things away. It’s the very source of the problem with our
ecology, this mindset of “work, eat, sleep.”

“I’m going to work, make money;
I’m going to go in debt so I can buy this thing, so in a few months
when it’s not the thing anymore, I can throw it away and buy the other
thing.” I’m not saying that we’re bad people because of that, but we
need to change our way of thinking.

And I got up there and railed
about it, and I walked off and I thought to myself, that’s never going
to see the light of day. [Laughs.]

Watch the second half of Melissa’s Live Earth performance

AE: I watched it live, but NBC didn’t show it on the prime-time broadcast.

I couldn’t even believe they didn’t show “I Need to Wake Up,” the song
from the movie that won the Oscar, and my friend Randi Rhodes said:
“Are you kidding? GE [General Electric] owns NBC. GE is a huge defense
contractor and is going to support the Bush …

And I just went, wow. There
really are people who don’t want this message out there. And one, it
saddened me, but two, it strengthened my convictions of, “Then this
message really needs to get out there.” This is really important.

I wasn’t surprised, and there
were many other people who saw that who went, wait a minute. Her
performance, none of it was on the evening broadcast. And I think … people see the truth in that.

I thought that what you said was really one of the most sincere
statements that whole day. Most of the other performers were just very
surface level, I think
Yeah, well, I think people are scared. We’re scared to death.
… I think that because I’ve had cancer,
I’m willing to be the crazy one, you know. It’s like, fine, if I have
to lay down on the barbed wire, I will, because it’s that important to
me and it’s that simple to me.

I live this every day, and I’m
not under the fear. So it’s like I want to say: “Look, look, look! Come
over here, come play over here! Come on, come on, you can do it!”
That’s kind of where I’m at.

AE: So will you take this album out on tour?

Yeah. Right now I’m doing one show in New York, which is just the
album, just the songs from beginning to end, but after that I’m going
to do a 2008 summer tour, and it will be this album and then all the
other stuff that I like to do.

Cool. Well, I also wanted to ask you whatever happened to that ABC
sitcom in which you were going to play a gay music teacher?

[Laughs.] You know what? First off, a press release like that, I didn’t
put that out. All I did was to go to ABC because I was looking for — this was before I was diagnosed with
cancer, and the music business was kind of bumming me out. Radio was so
narrow. It was like, I’m not going to compete with the belly shirts
anymore. I’m just not going to do it.

So I went to television and
went, hey, is there something I can do? Is there somewhere I can just
go to work five days in the week and then come home? That sort of
thing. So I went and I talked to ABC and I pitched this idea, and they
were like, “Yeah!” Then, even before we wrote a word down, they put
this press release out that I was going to be on ABC and on a
television show.

I was like whoa,
what? Wait a minute. So now of course we wrote something up, I was
diagnosed with cancer, it’s like, “No, no, no, I don’t want to do
that.” It just fell apart. It’s Hollywood. It happens every day in
Hollywood. It’s just one of those things.

AE: Well, is there anything else you want to say to your fans?

Aww, just — I love I
think it’s great. I love that the gay community has really set up shop
on the internet. We are some of the best bloggers and best sites and
most truthful — whenever I really want
to know what’s going on, I’ll go to those sites, so keep up the good

Get Melissa’s new CD The Awakening

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