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article imageInterview with Melissa Etheridge Special

By Adrian Peel     Nov 12, 2014 in Music
The compelling singer, best known for classic hits like "I'm The Only One" and "Come To My Window," has just released a brand new album and is currently on tour. She granted Digital Journal this exclusive interview.
I initially became aware of Melissa Etheridge as a teenager in the mid-1990s, around the time her breakthrough album, Yes I Am, was busy making waves on the charts. Although she wasn't as popular in the UK as she was in the States, a voice like hers was never going to go unnoticed for long...
Ms. Etheridge's latest offering - her 12 studio album to date - is called This is M.E.. Launched on September 30th, the lively 53-year-old, who wrote or co-wrote every track on the new record, is, as already mentioned, out on the road at present actively promoting it.
"I released my first independent album, independent of Island Records. It's on my own record label (ME Records), distributed by Caroline Records and it's been out about six weeks now," says the Kansas-born star, speaking to me from Durham, North Carolina, where she's due to take the stage in a few hours' time.
"I'm on tour with a new band, working with one of the producers, Jerry Wonda - in New york City I recorded the songs 'Monster' and 'Do It Again' with him. We started the tour a week ago and I'm right in the middle of it and having a blast."
Embarrassingly, I was a little slow when it came to realising why the "Me" in the album title was spelled "M.E." though in hindsight, the answer was blindingly obvious: "Well, those are my initials," explains Melissa, "and I've been taking advantage of that since I was a child, saying, 'My initials are M.E. - it's me!'
"So we decided to make the whole push as 'This is me.' It's an individual project. It's myself, yet it's just a fun title also."
So this album is among the artist's most personal work?
"Yeah, but also they're all personal songs, they really are. This of course is the most personal to me at this time. I always try to go into my personal thoughts and hopes and dreams and desires and write from that - and this is not an exception."
One review of the album suggested its creator was experimenting with "a number of new sounds." An accurate description? "My last album I had made was very personal," replies the industrious singer-songwriter. "It was stripped down rock 'n' roll and it was a beautiful artistic album, and I loved it.
"This album, I said, 'You know what? I want to push out, I want to collaborate.' I believe that rock 'n' roll's not dead. Rock 'n' roll is very much alive and it's an energy that can be put with a lot of these popular sounds, whether they be R&B driven or country driven or hip-hop, whatever it is...
"I believe rock 'n' roll can combine with it and I would show up in the studio with my guitars, with my voice, with my harmonica and we would collaborate - the centre of each of these songs is me. It's me playing all the guitars, I'm singing, I'm playing all the harmonicas and even piano in some parts.
"Then I'm collaborating with some of the greatest musicians that then weave their magic around that, creating a vehicle for me and the song to get in and just be super jet-propelled. That's what I felt it was like."
I believe Melissa Etheridge has always been "jet-propelled," in terms of the sheer energy she brings to her music (she has regularly been compared to Janis Joplin over the years).
"I've always had the energy," agrees the commanding vocalist, who won a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 1995 for "Come To My Window," "but I feel reinvigorated in the fact that this is an independent album.
"I feel more in charge, I feel more invigorated by that and by this new band. I think I've stepped it up - I think the energy has stepped up a bit."
"I think this album is lustier than my past ones - I've gotten that comment on many reviews," she continues, "because that's what you call an over 50-year-old woman who's singing about that! The subject matter's a little more mature in that way and the music is downright fun. I just love it."
A worthy recipient of her own star on the prestigious Hollywood Walk of Fame, Melissa pauses for a moment when asked what kind of themes the lyrics address this time around.
"The very first song is 'I Won't Be Alone Tonight,' a collaboration with Jon Levine. He's a beautiful producer/musician who used to play in The Philosopher Kings. He's worked with Adele and One Republic and he's also one of those guys that sits in his little computer studio all day long and doesn't get out at all.
"So he was my inspiration for this first song and it's about, 'No, dude, you've got to get up and get out.' He had no love life, he was like 'Why don't I have a girlfriend?' I'm like, 'Well Dude, you don't go anywhere - you're not gonna find one here!'
"Many of the songs are about my new marriage and that's where a lot of the lustiness and passion comes from! There's one song that's kind of like the last song I'll ever write about my last relationship, and that's 'A Little Hard Hearted.' I don't want to be hard hearted - let that all go.
"There's all kinds of inspiration. There's the social song, 'A Little Bit Of Me,' where I'm speaking about the spirituality that I believe in - my own spiritual practices that I have..."
To conclude, I quizzed Melissa over what she considers to be the secret for her enduring appeal to pop music audiences (she released her first album way back in 1988).
"Well, the fans have always been the secret. They still want to hear the music. They want to experience the older songs, they are constantly interested in the new music. They're the ones who really keep me going."
This is M.E. is out now.
For more information on Melissa Etheridge, visit her official website.
More about melissa etheridge, this is me, Rock music, North carolina, Janis Joplin
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