Photo by James Minchin III.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge hits Chicago November 10th for a gig at one of her favorite venues, The Chicago Theatre. She spoke with Our Town about everything from her pre-show rituals to her emotional evolution.
Our Town Youve said I write songs for people who drive in cars, whats your favorite song to drive to?
Melissa Etheridge Oh, man…my favorite driving song is “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger.
OT In terms of your own songs, youve been writing since you were ten. How has your writing process changed?
ME Its definitely changed since I was ten. The process is kind of always the same. Its from inspiration and inspiration comes from all kinds of different places–I can sit down with a guitar and just play and that inspires me, or it can be lyrics that come to me, or a situation, like, oh, I want to write about this, it can be a rhythm, a painting can inspire a feeling in me. After Im inspired, I just have to be alone with my instrument to write. Thats all thats required.
OT On the new album, A Disaster seems to be about someone so caught up in their anger over a relationships demise that they refuse to acknowledge its positive aspects. What was your inspiration?
ME Its no secret what Ive been going through the last couple years. A Disaster is just me throwing down the white flag, saying you know what, lets just call this. Lets say, this is horrible, it was awful, and lets walk away. You cant fix it. No more, she said, she said; lets just call it a disaster and move on.
OT Is letting go of things something thats gotten easier for you over the years?
ME Yeah, in that Ive realized that the sooner you can let go of things, the sooner healing can happen. When youre hooked into them and youre reacting over and over, you just stay in that and you cant get over it. So letting go, taking a deep breath and saying, thats the past, it is what it is and I cant change anybody else. I know my truth and where Im standing, so Im just going to let that go. That took me a while, but it keeps me happy now.
OT You cultivate a sense of intimacy when youre performing. What goes into achieving that?
ME Ive learned intimacy doesn’t come from singing loud enough so that 20 thousand people can hear. Intimacy comes from believing inside of myself in a very still way that each person is standing right in front of me, and Im singing just to them. Thats the only way you can project that to that large a crowd. Its a real challenge and a talent and its taken me many years to cultivate it.
OT Is there anything you HAVE to do before you play a gig?
ME The whole show becomes a routine. Sound-check, dinner, hair and makeup, get dressed, go to meet and greet, come back, stretch, talk with the band about whats going on. We do whats called vibe where we put our heads together, get us all in one space and then we go onstage. If we didnt do it like that, I could still play, but the routine becomes a beautiful ritual.
OT I read youre working with your partner on a possible Broadway show. First of all, is that the case?
ME Yes, but between her TV work and my music work, its on the back burner. It gets attention every now and then. Its a big dream I have, so hopefully in the next five years it will come to fruition.
OT What’s the best thing about collaborating with you partner?
ME The best thing is you can do it anywhere anytime. We can throw around ideas and thoughts without scheduling time to get together. I also love her work so much. Im such a fan of hers and shes a fan of mine.
OT Quick fan question from Facebook fans: Madonna or Lady Gaga.
ME Wow, thats difficult because I like Lady Gagas voice. If I was just going to listen to one or the other, Id choose Lady Gaga. Yet theres something about Madges approach and performance that Ive always been drawn to. Ill have to say Madonna.
OT What are you looking forward to about coming to Chicago?
ME I just love Chicago so much. The city itself is just beautiful–the shopping, the food, the warm, midwestern feeling. But I just love playing shows. Chicago is one of my three favorite places to perform. Especially the Chicago Theatre. Its made for Rock and Roll.
To purchase tickets for the November 10th show go here.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, Herself When Shes Missing,” was called poetic and heartrending by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicagos StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.