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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Melissa Etheridge: ‘Making An Impact’ 25 Years Later

By MK Scott

It is hard to believe that it has been over 25 years since Melissa Etheridge first made it big with her Grammy-winning album, Yes I am. Who could forget such hits as “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window.”

Etheridge is back in the Seattle area playing the Tulalip Amphitheater on July 14 with another classic diva, Leann Rimes. I had a chance to speak Etheridge by phone.

MK Scott: Welcome back to Seattle. I had the pleasure of seeing you back in 2016 when you were at the Woodland Park Zoo – and Blondie was your opening act.

Melissa Etheridge: I love playing. That summer with her was so much fun. It was a really, really, good time. And, yeah, I was really honored to be on the bill with her.

MK: Now you’re back at Tulalip Casino and you’re going to be joined by Leann Rimes.

Melissa: Yeah. I love her. This is the only show I’m doing with her and I’m really…that’s another super power hot talent. And I’m really looking forward to [sharing] the stage with her.

MK: And I was reminded that your first album came out about 30 years ago, and then your history-making, Grammy-winning album was 25 years ago. How has that changed, how have you changed in these last 25 years?

Melissa: Oh, my goodness. How have we all changed in the past 25 years? Oh, you know, it’s been a great journey. It really has. I think I’ve changed a lot because I was, you know, I was 33, 32. However, I don’t even know how old I am now [laughs] you know, 25 years ago. We learn so much, and oh, my gosh, my journeys have been all over the world. And I’ve met so many amazing people and seen so many amazing things. I went through cancer. I got to love myself and find out who I am and what I’m here to do. I’ve had four children – two are grown. I’m so grateful to have been in the stream of life for, you know, 57 years. And 25 of them, 30 of them, I’ve been making music and sharing with so many people. I’m so blessed.

MK: In 1993 you boldly came out as lesbian. Now many music artists have come out. Do you think you were the one who helped set the stage for that?

Melissa: Oh, those were the times. It was early ‘90s and we were ready. Everybody was ready. I remember being in Hollywood, in young Hollywood, and we’d all hang out, and we, we were out. We were out to our families; we were out to our friends and to our businesses. And it was just this don’t ask/don’t tell that was there from the public. It was this funny publicity thing you had to cross. It was a yellow do not cross line. And we just started, you just did it. It was going to happen, and we were there on the frontline just because that’s where our lives had put us. So it was inevitable. I’m proud to have been surrounded by support from my family and my friends that making that step was not horrifying. It was actually – it actually felt like the right thing to do.

MK: And, of course, as a breast cancer survivor, how are you doing? Are you healthy?

Melissa: Yes. This is, let’s see, 14 years cancer free. Yeah. Fourteen. And very healthy. Completely. Healthier than I was before I got cancer, honestly. And I have just been delighted with my health, with understanding what health is, how much stress has to do with health, and really loving the things that make me healthy. So I’m doing great.

MK: Wonderful. And also you had such great courage at the Grammy Awards when you went bald and really, really showed your true self and you weren’t afraid to do that.

Melissa: No. That was a very special night for me. And I love that I got to share that sort of moment with the world. I loved that I had to go through what I did and go through – chemo and you know, deal with the cancer and what that means. And then for my first time back onstage being able to step out in front of the whole wide world and just be myself. And it just reinforced that idea that I had that being yourself is the most powerful you can be. And still a week or two doesn’t go by that someone doesn’t mention it. So it was quite a special night for me.

MK: Oh, by the way, my favorite song of yours is “I’m the Only One.”

Melissa: All right! Rock on, my friend. Thank you.

MK: I heard that you did that with Adam Lambert at the GLADD Awards.

Melissa: Oh, so much fun. It was amazing.

MK: You’ve been a huge proponent of legal marijuana. And now you market cannabis wine. Tell me more about that.

Melissa: Ah. Well, the cannabis wine has been put on the shelf, no pun intended, because the new California laws were such that right now you can’t infuse anything with alcohol.

MK: Oh, no.

Melissa: But we’ll deal with that later. It’s okay, it’s only getting better up on the shelf, you know. Literally they’re in wine cellars getting better. So, you know, once that gets going that will be great, but I do have a product line in California coming out the end of the year, and it’s called Etheridge Farms. And that’s, you know, cannabis products, topicals, tinctures, and flour. We’re going to be in California and really work on getting the products out to the world when laws allow.

MK: Washington state, of course, was one of the first states to legalize marijuana and marriage equality.

Melissa: I love me some Washington state. I really do. We’re going to show you the Wild West and we can all live with each other and have our freedoms and there you go.

MK: Washington state really has nothing to be fearful of because we are making an impact. And speaking of making an impact, you were [in Washington, D.C.] 25 years ago during the March on Washington. And I remember you spoke at it. And I wanted to find out, what would be your message today and Trump’s America?

Melissa: Oh, my. It would be of support. It would be of encouragement that the only reason it feels so crazy and difficult is because we are at the finish line. We have, in the last 20 years, we have raised, this country raised this world up to a new level of consciousness of understanding our differences, and diversity, and the idea of what America is, a place that exists on this earth that is self-governed. That’s really revolutionary. It’s pretty brand new for the world. So we are working it. Our laws are working. This democracy is in place and it is being tested and it is working. And I would say the states, let’s stay positive about this, that this kind of change that we know can happen, this sort of life of living with freedom and diversity, this dream can come true, but it will be difficult, it will be tested, it will be feared. And that’s where we are now. So stay strong. We’re so close.

MK: And this is my burning question, usually the question I am the most curious about: speaking on the same subject of impact, making an impact, what was probably the most impactful moment of your life?

Melissa: Impact. Wow. Hmm…Wow. Well, I mean, first to come to mind is my children. There’s something about having children that really changes you. I mean it changed me from being a very, well, self-centered of a gay rock star, which, you know, where do you find children in there, you know? I had no plans of that at all. And then they came into my life. And it completely changed my understanding of what I’m here for. And why I’m here. And thank goodness, because you know, I got my dream at 33. I was a big ol’ rock star. Hooray! And my life is so much, so much more than that. I mean I love the performing and the stage, because I love it, because it’s an energy that I love sharing. So, the impact of really having children and finding that selflessness, that part of you that, you know, wants to take care of yourself so that you’re better for someone else, you know, for my children. That’s really had the biggest impact on me.

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