Everything is coming up roses for Melissa Etheridge these days. She wed Linda Wallem in May, just two days after they both turned 53, where she sang a song written especially for her with wedding attendees including Jane Lynch, Rosie O'Donnell and Sia. She also recently was one of the performers for WorldPride's opening ceremonies, alongside singers Deborah Cox and Steve Grand.
In July of this year, Etheridge released "Take My Number" as the first single off her 13th studio album, This is M.E. It was released on her own label ME Records, which is distributed by Primary Wave Records. Interestingly, the cover is a mosaic of photos submitted by her fans.
Windy called the talented activist right before an upcoming stop in Chicago on her new tour.
Windy City Times: I just interviewed Stephen Wallem, your new brother-in-law.
Melissa Etheridge: How about that?
WCT: It was for a cabaret show in Chicago.
ME: I am so happy for him.
WCT: You are coming back again to Chicago now.
ME: Oh, come onChicago is my favorite.
WCT: You are here all the time.
ME: I love Chicago because [the fans] keep seeing me! Usually when I come around I have to wait a couple of years to get back into a city because there is a "I just saw her last year" sort of thing, but Chicago always turns up so thank you, Chicago.
WCT: You have been in almost every venue. You were at the Chicago Symphony last time.
ME: Yeah, but this show is completely different than the symphony show. This show is the new songsalmost all of the new songs from the album, I think about nine new songsthen the hits. I am playing with Jerry "Wonda" Duplessis, who I worked with on this album and his band. He's from the Fugees. There will be a couple of back up singers. I am just thrilled to come to Chicago. It is going to be a blast.
WCT: Is there a lot of acoustic playing?
ME: No; that was the solo tour that I was on. This is the biggest band ever I have had out on the road.
WCT: How do you decide on a set list for this?
ME: Usually, I have had bands around for years so we know a hundred songs and I can change it up. We will play the hits but I will change up every night what I do. Because of the new record this set list will remain pretty much the same. It may vary a little so I don't crazy but it will be the new songs plus the hits.
WCT: Is there a song you are tired of playing?
ME: No; I love all of my songs especially when I have a new band. I am going to love singing "Come To My Window" again. It will be all-new.
WCT: Are you doing anything visual for the new "Monster" song?
ME: You know what? It's funny. I have never been a big visual girl but who knows? We might grow into it. I am going to play the crap out of that one. I love that song.
WCT: People have to see you play live. I have seen you roll around on the ground while performing. You don't half-ass a concert.
ME: No, it's an event and I am so grateful that people want to pay money to see me sing. For me, it is a thrill and an honor. It truly is so much fun.
WCT: You are constantly touring. When do you have a break?
ME: Well, we build them in. I am on a break right now while I am talking to you. The family understands. We all know that this is my life. When I am not there I am with my family. It's a balance.
WCT: What are the challenges of self-releasing an album for the first time?
ME: That is like jumping and believing that the net will appear. That's what that was. I went through a big change last year, personally and professionally. I really cleaned house and brought in a whole bunch of new people with new ideas and thoughts because the music business is completely different now.
They really convinced me that as an established artist it could be a smart move for me, and a lucrative move for me to get off a major label and try it myself. Because my management used to run my label, Larry Mestel knows that. Instead of running a label that sells a record, he's running a management firm that sells me as the person. Instead of it being about the one product it is about me and how to build it up. I'm just really loving it.
WCT: The new video "Take My Number" seems very personal, with all of the movie clips in it.
ME: Yes, because "Take My Number" is reminiscent and about my past. What would it be like if I went home after the divorce and that sort of thing. I was surrounded by the stuff in my office and in storage so we went through it and put it all up all over the place. It was crazy.
WCT: Is it easier to write songs when your life is rocky or when things are smooth?
ME: You know, it is easy to write heartbreak songs when your heart is broken, yes, yet I never go for the easy thing so I think writing songs that move people and hit a universal tone, whether its heartbreak or not, that is my goal. I work towards that by writing songs that resonate universally, whether it is happy or sad or whatever it is.
WCT: What is your "A Little Bit of Me" song referring to?
ME: That is the social-consciousness side of me, the social and spiritual awareness within me. It comes from yoga when at the end when you bow and say, "Namaste." "Namaste" is Sanskrit for the spirit within me recognizes the spirit that is within you. That little piece that is in each of us is namaste. It is a very Eastern philosophy about the oneness of all human beings. I thought that it would be nice to create this fun little finger snapping ditty about that philosophy so I did.
WCT: That reminded me of the yoga instructor on Orange Is the New Black. Do you watch it?
ME: No, I don't. That is so funny. The one television show that I indulge in is Game of Thrones. I can't afford the time otherwise with my family.
WCT: Do you bring your wife on the road with you?
ME: She will come out and visit me. We have teenagers, so she comes home and takes care of them because I am on the road. The whole family will come out to visit me for one week. I don't have them with me the whole time but we try.
WCT: How was WorldPride for you? You were there the same time I was.
ME: Oh, that was amazing. What I love was when you got to the airport everything was, "Hey, gays, welcome!" The city was literally opening its arms for us. I thought that was really sweet.
WCT: With gay marriage being passed all over the place, how do you feel about it politically?
ME: We have just as much right as anyone else to be miserable so come on! Naw, marriage is wonderful. I can say that because I am in a happy marriage.
I think it is just a natural progression. Now it is down to a generational change. The people that grew up with the fact that homosexuality was a mental disease, illness, and abomination during the '60s and '70s had a deeply held belief has to die out and it will. In another 20 years, when my teenagers are in their thirties and forties, they will talk about the olden days when it was like that and it will be gone.
WCT: People used to mention how things would affect the children but the kids that I know just don't care who is gay or not.
ME: Oh, my GodI told my daughter about Proposition 8 and she didn't know what it was even here in California. I told her that some people think that me raising her is bad for her. She just laughed and thought that was the funniest thing she had ever heard! She said," That is ridiculous and why would they spend their time thinking that?" Oh, it was funny...
Rock out with Etheridge and the band at the Cadillac Palace on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 8 p.m. Visit broadwayinchicago.com/show/melissa-etheridge-m-e/ to purchase tickets.