Melissa Etheridge has been working in the music industry for over 20 years and in this time has established herself as a music legend in the rock world. Hayley Woodgate interviews her about her new album Fearless Love, what it means to be back in the studio, and her dream of performing a "knock down, drag out" session with Janis Joplin.
Melissa Etheridge has been awarded numerous accolades such as entertainer of the year at the Juno awards alongside an Academy Award for best original song, "I Need to Wake Up". She has battled with breast cancer, been open about her same-sex relationships, and is now about to release Fearless Love, her 11th studio album, on April 27.
Working with new band members who have extensive industry knowledge and producer John Shanks, who helped create the popular 1999 album release Breakdown, this is a modern rock album with classic old school influences blended in to create another Etheridge classic. "Fearless Love" is the first single released, which opens up the doors to a great album of fresh rock rhythm.
With an upcoming tour in North America and Europe, an upcoming appearance April 27 on Dancing with the Stars, and performing "Fearless Love" on the Ellen show (May 4), Etheridge has a full schedule and rock fans have a whole lot to chat about. Here is what she has to say in response to the questions Hayley Woodgate put forward…
Fearless Love, the new album, is due out April 27th in the US. What is the meaning behind the album title?
Well it's about being fearless. It's about choosing love over fear. It's a way, a philosophy of living life that suits me well.
Having experienced so much in the music industry, do you still get that same exciting feeling like when you released your first album?
It's different. It's still exciting. Nothing's going to change the process of creating and recording and putting it out and giving it out to the world. That's still exciting no matter how many times I've done it.
This album you’ve worked with producer John Shanks, who you’ve worked with previously on the album Breakdown, which was a huge hit. There are also new core band members Sean Hurley, Victor Indrizzo, and Jamie Muhoberac. It’s a great mix of talented musicians but why the change for this album?
I like change. Change keeps me at the top of my game, I believe. Change moves energy around and I felt this album was different than what I've recently done. I thought John could really get the best that it could be and bring the best musicians in. It's just where I'm at.
With Fearless Love being your 11th studio album release to date, how did you feel being in the studio recording again?
The studio is a very special place. It's like the laboratory. It's very sacred. I love going to the studio. The way we did for this album, there is a studio in Malibu that looked over the ocean and we all lived there for two weeks and just created. That was a very special time for me.
You have Joss Stone and Natasha Bedingfield adding guest vocals. How was it working with these talented singers?
The crazy thing was, I wasn't even there when they came in and played. I talked to Joss over the phone and, of course I know her from the GRAMMYs. John was working with Natasha and he played the stuff for her and she really liked it. He asked her if she wanted to do it, she said she really liked it and wanted to, so he got both of those gals. I'm so honoured, they're so… it makes me crazy to hear how they sing on this album. It's wonderful.
Song writing can be a very personal thing. Have you ever written a song in an emotional state that you wish you kept to yourself?
Sometimes that's there, yet I know that's when I'm at my best, at my most personal and most intimate because those are the moments that become the most universal.
The song "Drag Me Away" has this fantastic instrumental section throughout that bears a reminder to old classic rock band influences. Which bands have influenced you throughout your career?
That was exactly the intention, to bring my influences from my past and put them together and come through me to make a fresh sound. "Drag Me Away" is The Who, Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, and all that classic rock stuff. I can't wait to do it live in an arena, just rocking and letting go.
There's not enough rock music these days…
That's what I'm saying. We love it so much, it speaks to us. That was my whole plan!
You are performing in San Fran and Europe shortly. You started out at places like The Candy Stop and now having played anywhere and everywhere a musician could dream, do you ever step back and realize all you have achieved?
Yeah, it's important to do that. It's important to step back and say 'look, look what you've done,' because if you don't you never feel it. I often take time and go 'hey', especially when I get frustrated or scared and want something to happen. I'm like 'wait a minute, I've been doing this for 20 years, how many musicians can say that?' It's important to do that.
Being a mum, rock legend and with a tour coming up, how do you find time to balance your life?
That's the balancing act. Probably my biggest challenge in my life is how to balance my family, my career, and myself and keep all parts of that healthy. Some days I succeed and some days I don't.
I watched the video of "Nervous" starring Nurse Jackie’s’ Edie Falco, who is a fantastic actress. Did you enjoy shooting the video? Do you watch the show?
It was a blast. It was as fun as it looked like. She is one of my most favourite people on Earth. She is super cool, way deep.
You’ve got a forum on your website dedicated just to your fans. How many people can say that? It’s amazing. Do you ever get the urge to jump online and pretend to be the average Joe and talk about how amazing the new Melissa Etheridge album is? [laughing]
[laughing] No, I don't do that. I do often go in there just to see what they say about it because otherwise I only get to hear what other professional critics say who listen all day and maybe they're just not feeling well that day. I like to hear what the fans have to say.
Out of all the musicians in the world, living or dead, who would be your number one choice to write a song with and why?
I'd probably have to go with Janis Joplin. I would just love to have a heart 'n' soul blues knock down and drag out with her.
Is there anything you would like to share with the readers about the upcoming release of the album or anything else for that matter?
I'm looking forward coming out to Great Britain and Europe and am looking forward to having some new music out there and hoping you all enjoy it!