Melissa Etheridge on inviting celesbians to her shows and the good old days with Ellen, Rosie and k.d. lang

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It’s been 27 years since Melissa Etheridge debuted her self-titled album which introduced her as one of contemporary rock’s best new artists. Her first single, “Bring Me Some Water,” earned her Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female and although she didn’t win that year, she went on to win in both 1993 and 1995 for “Ain’t it Heavy” and “Come to My Window.”

Last night at the Greek Theater, Melissa played her most beloved songs in front of a Los Angeles crowd, prefacing each song with a memory of where she lived in L.A. and what (or who) inspired each one. Hardcore fans might already know all of these song origins, but as someone who was at their first ever Melissa concert (I know, I know—I didn’t deserve my lesbian credentials),  I was thrilled to hear stories of romance, lust and heartbreak before she poured into classics such as “I Wanna Come Over” and new songs like “Monster.” 

Melissa Etheridge Performs At The Bardavon 1869 Opera House

Having come out at the height of her career in 1993, Melissa (now 54 and the mother of four children) has been an LGBT pioneer while also continuing her prolific songwriting (she’s released 14 studio albums, including a Christmas LP) and won a battle with breast cancer that has also made her an activist for the legalization of medical marijuana. Never afraid to speak up for what she believes in, Melissa is expert at channeling her beliefs into music without being preachy, and her song “I Need to Wake Up” from the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Song.

Melissa Etheridge’s name has become synonymous with lesbian culture, from her appearance on Ellen’s infamous “Puppy Episode” to being referenced in a pre-coming out Ellen Page sketch on SNL, and that’s something Melissa does not seem to worry about one bit. A public figure whose personal life has been of interest to major magazines as much as it has the queer community, the singer has always been an open book who isn’t concerned about anything but the truth, which is one reason her lyrics can be both universal while also so very gay. (I feel strongly she would take this as a compliment.)

As Melissa played her final show from a short but successful tour with Blondie, it seems she’ll be spending her time at home with wife Linda Wallem and their children for the foreseeable future. (For the record, if you have never had the chance to see Melissa play live, you must. She was fantastic and, as far as I’m concerned, a living legend.) I spoke with Melissa about the summer and why she’s inviting Abby Wambach and Ruby Rose to her shows.

 

AfterEllen.com: What’s it been like sharing the stage with Blondie?

Melissa Etheridge: Oh, it’s so much fun. Oh my God. I love it because a lot of people went, “Huh—that’s an interesting combination!” It works perfectly because you look out in the audience and there’s every kind of person. They range from people who were listening in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s until now, so you’ve got teenagers and then you’ve got a few grey-hairs out there. Every time she plays, I’m just dancing with all the songs because you know so many of the songs and it’s just a celebration of rock ‘n roll. A few nights ago in Spokane, it was me, Blondie and Joan Jett, and that just—that was such a rock ‘n roll night. And huh, look—it’s all girls! But that wasn’t the point of it you know.

 

AE: I’ve noticed you’ve been tweeting out to Abby Wambach and Ellen Page to come out to your shows. 

ME: It’s so funny—I reached out to Ruby Rose and people in our community that have really stepped out and are kind of changing the paradigm and are comfortable in their outness and in themselves and, as I see, a real beacon of power. I just find it fun to reach out and go, “Hey! Hey—would you like to come?” And they’re always so wonderful. Ruby Rose was such a fan and they’re always so respectful. Abby was sweet also. I just wanna say, “Hey—well done, good job. Come celebrate with me.” I’ll show you what it’s like to have thousands of lesbians screaming at you.

 

 

Melissa Etheridge you killed it tonight!! God I’m blessed to witness the greats.

A video posted by Ruby Rose (@rubyrose) on

AE: [laughs] I love that community support. Have you ever felt competitiveness with other gay women?

ME: Oh that’s so funny. No. There’s not enough of us for there to be any, you know? At first it was pool parties with Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, k.d. lang and myself. 

Equality Rocks Concert at RFK Stadium - April 29, 2000

AE: The good ole days!

ME: Yeah and now we haven’t all been together in a hundred years. And that was then and of course, k.d. was the first one who jumped and then I said,  “Okay, let me see what this is like.” And we just learned from each other’s experience and really helped each other as much as we could. Women have their—we’re women, so we’re going to have our ups and downs anyway. As far as competitiveness, no, not at all.

Gilda's Club 11th Anniversay Gala Benefit

AE: I’m glad to hear that! I read your piece about the marriage equality decision in Rolling Stone, but can you describe to me how you felt when you heard the news?

ME: Oh, well it was news that we had been hoping for so there was a great expectation of it. And I have always felt—20 years ago, I said it’s gonna be a Supreme Court decision. It’s gonna be that sort of decision. I don’t think there’s gonna be a politician who’s gonna take this on their shoulders. And so having seen it work it’s way up through the courts and then, two years ago seeing the overturning of DOMA, I just felt like, OK, this is the precursor. The next one is gonna be full-on “yes”—rights are rights, you know? I was so relieved and happy and yet there is that sense of there is a difference. There’s that feeling of difference I feel everywhere I go now. I don’t have to think, “Am I making someone else uncomfortable?” It’s like, this is a right. It’s part of the fabric of who we are and it’s not something they can take away anymore.

 

AE: You’re always working on something—what do you do on your downtime, when you don’t have to be doing anything at all?

ME: Downtime, what’s that? Well, anytime I’m not working, I’m with my family. That’s my priority so sometimes that’s just me in my house doing a jigsaw puzzle and having my family all around me. My wife and I both enjoy cooking. Fine dining is probably one of our favorite things to do. Reading and we both enjoy fine television and fine movies and things like that. We’re kind of like everybody else. 

57th Annual GRAMMY Awards - 17th Annual GRAMMY Foundation Legacy Concert - Arrivals

AE: What TV shows do you watch?

ME: Oh, see, I’m crazy about Game of Thrones. I don’t watch a whole lot of television so other than that, I love documentaries. And sports—we watch sports. I’m a Kansas City Chiefs fan—childhood, you know. And she’s a Green Bay Packer fan. She was born in Wisconsin but she was raised in Rockford, Illinois. She kept the Packers. It’s in the blood.

 

AE: The last time we spoke was right before you released your new album which you did independently and with some different approaches to songwriting this time around. What has the reaction been? Have you been pleased with what you’ve been hearing from fans?

ME: Oh, so much. The fans have really, really taken to it and that’s what I was hoping. I know on the larger scale, that’s not even my concern anymore. If  something breaks out into that world, great, I certainly welcome that, but that’s not my focus. My focus is on people who love my music, who want to hear my music and want to come to the concerts and the songs like “Monster,” they just ate it up. “Ain’t That Bad,” “Like a Preacher”—they’re really loving it. I’ve gotten such great feedback from the fans about this album and I think it’s because I had that sort of, as much of myself as I could put into this in mind and I think they really always resonate with that.

 

AE: So what about writing another record? Have you already started?

ME: Yeah, it’s funny, you know—the game is different now. It used to be you do an album so that you could tour and now it’s all different. You just kind of have your touring and you have your constant connection with new music. You’ll hear new music from me soon. I’m not exactly sure—because I have so many options—I’m not quite sure what you’ll hear first.

 

AE: Are you still working on the Broadway musical?

ME: Yep, Linda and I, when she’s not working on her television stuff and I’m not doing music we’re working on that. Unfortunately it’s on the third burner. We move forward little by little. I still say in a couple of years, we’ll have something up.

 

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