Melissa Etheridge has had more in one life than the next five people put together. She was one of the earliest rock stars to come out as a lesbian and make an impact that broke down barriers for many more to come.
She has been tabloid fodder, survived cancer, weathered heartbreak, and rocked like hardly anyone else.
Now she has released her first independent album on her own record label ME Records. And for this project, called This is M.E., she opted to mix things up a bit.
“I said, ‘You know what? I want to push out, I want to collaborate.’ I believe that rock ’n’ roll’s not dead, the singer told Digital Journal. “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 wanted to use the technologies of today,” she says. “I think it’s possible to do that without having it take over. I collaborated with Jon Levine, who’s an amazing teacher of sounds. He’s played bass with the Fugees and Lauryn Hill. I have a big soulful side of me that’s just waiting to get out. I got to do that on this record.”
While Etheridge has always pumped an energy into her performances, even when she’s exhausted from chemo and belting a Janis Joplin hit with a fervor that could raise the dead, the new album sees her lay recent introspection aside and go for the throat anew.
“I’ve always had the energy,” she explains, “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.”
But lots of people are apparently healing something more than energy in her songs this time — or maybe a particular kind of energy.
“I think this album is lustier than my past ones – I’ve gotten that comment on many reviews,” she said, “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.”
“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.”