You don’t often get the opportunity to have a chat with a two-time Grammy award winner, so of course when we were offered a moment with Melissa Etheridge ahead of her April tour with Sheryl Crow, we jumped at the opportunity. The two ‘old mates’ will be touring Australia next month and will perform the Byron Bay Bluesfest before hitting the cities.
Speaking from sunny Florida, Etheridge is extremely laid back and has a smile in her voice. It’s 7:30am Adelaide time, and I apologise to her for my ‘early morning dry, husky, sexy voice’.
She laughs and replies with “I live with that voice, it’s all good.”
Ain’t that the truth!
Blessed with a musical talent that was identified at a young age (8), it was 30 years ago that Etheridge grabbed the attention of Australian audiences with her hit song Bring me Some Water. Several Grammys, and a brave fight with cancer later, she’s still doing what she loves and giving joy to her fans worldwide. Who could forget her iconic appearance sans hair from a bout of chemotherapy, at the 2005 Grammys, where she gave a stellar performance singing Janis Joplin’s Piece of my Heart with Joss Stone? It took a lot of courage to do that, but Etheridge is never one to shy away from a challenge.
Asked how her health is these days, she’s optimistic and blissfully happy with her lot in life.
“14 years cancer free, and doing really well. I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. The Grammys was a big moment for me and that was my first time back in public. It was such a warm hug from the audience, the world in fact. Not a week goes by when somebody doesn’t mention that to me. It’s a big part of my life.”
If you didn’t see it 13 years ago, here it is for your viewing pleasure.
And of course, you’re no stranger to Australia, how do you feel about coming to visit us again with your buddy Sheryl Crow?
“Oh I’m really looking forward to that, it’s so beautiful there. The food is lovely, the sun is shining in that special way, and Sheryl and I are both looking forward to it. We’ve wanted to do this for a very long time, heck, we’ve been friends for 30 years.”
Of course, we’re glad to have you here anytime!
“I first started going to Australia in 1990, and I’ve gotten back every few years or so. You guys have always loved my music and supported it. There’s a big music scene down there- you guys love rock and roll and have always been great supporters.”
Do you have any specific memories of Adelaide?
“Well, that was the place where it first happened for me. When I got the call in the first month or so about who was playing my record (Bring Me Some Water), my Manager said ‘there’s this town called Adelaide and the song’s doing great there’. That’s the first I’d heard of the city. It was the first big connection with my record, so I have always had a special connection with Adelaide.”
That is literally music to our ears Melissa! Another endorsement for our great city’s creative bent. I explain that it’s now Mad march, with pretty much every bloody thing happening at once. This pricks her ears up, she assures us she MUST come and experience it sometime.
“That’d be a great time to be there- I’ll make it happen sometime.”
Etheridge has interests outside of music, and has campaigned for many causes over the course of her lifetime so far. Her latest foray is that of medicinal cannabis, something she passionately believes in. She makes cannabis wine in her own time. (There’s an innovation SA winegrowers!)
“You know, I have 4 children all living with us (her wife Linda). When I’m not out on the road or in the studio, I’m at home with my children, going to their concerts etc. My time is precious to be, so I go and advocate for things like that (cannabis). There isn’t a whole lot of time after all that. “
So, what made you pick up a guitar in the first place at 8 years old?
“My father brought it home for my oldest sister (12), I was just in love with the Archies, the Beatles, and pop music generally. I would pick up a badminton racket and pretend to play, so when a real guitar came along I was like ‘please let me play. My father said my hands were too small, but I demanded they let me.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
And are most of your songs about personal relationships or whatever comes to mind?
“All my songs are very personal in that they come from a place inside of my person. Each of them are either personal observations or relationships, feelings, fears, passions etc. But they all come from a very personal place. I found that the more personal I get, the more universal they become, so I just stuck with writing what I know.”
On being referred to as a gay icon, how do you feel about being labelled that way?
“Well, if I can inspire or help someone stand on their own and say ‘this is who I am’, then I’m blessed. I love that I can help people. It’s not a problem at all to be labelled that way.”
Do you ever pinch yourself as to how your life has turned out?
“Oh yeah. It’s important to see what you’ve done and say ‘yeah, I did that’, now I have more goals to strive for. It’s also good to be grateful for what you’ve done.”
And finally, any advice you’d offer 20-year-old Melissa Etheridge?
“(Laughs), Ha, I’d say ‘don’t sweat the small stuff. Love yourself as much as you want others to love you. ….and do more sit ups! (We both laugh)
We’re really looking forward to seeing Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow hit Oz next month as they bring their biggest hits to fans across Australia for this special tour.
Dates are below.
Tuesday 3 April Riverside Theatre, Perth
Wednesday 4 April Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre, Adelaide
Friday 6 April Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
Saturday 7 April ICC Theatre, Sydney
By Dazz Hassan