Melissa Etheridge Talks About Her New CD, Her Activism and Her RelationshipMelissa Eheridge

By Margo Moon

Melissa Etheridge is easily one of the all-time greatest female rock icons – ever. Truly at the top of her game, she is returning to her rock roots with her new CD Fearless Love, a brand new band and a new nationwide tour in the works.

Being released on April 27th on Island Records, work on the CD has been keeping Melissa pretty busy, but she took a few minutes to talk to Outword about Fearless Love and what’s new in her life.

Margo: Your new CD, Fearless Love, is such big sprawling rock n roll, I get this image of you just defying gravity and bungee jumping onto stage with some of these songs.

Melissa: (laughs) I am so tempted.

Margo: Especially with songs like “Company” and “To Be Loved.” How does it feel to have a brand new band and a tour full of monster rockers like these ahead of you?Melissa Eheridge

Melissa: I feel, I feel new, I feel great. I feel better than I ever, ever have. There’s something about having a 20-year career going, you know, because it’s not like everything’s going to be ripped out from under me if I don’t do something right, or something crazy like that.
(Melissa says something, but she isn’t speaking to me, and then there’s a child’s voice in the background. She comes back laughing, with such affection in her voice)

Melissa: Okay. Popcorn for breakfast, why not?

Margo: Pour a little milk on it … my partner used to eat it that way when she was little.

Melissa: (laughter and convincing gagging noises) All right, go ahead.

Margo: Then there’s “Nervous.” “Nervous” is a romping, fun song.

Melissa: I’ve done it live a couple times already and it’s just been insane. That’s before people even know the song, so I can’t wait until it comes out.

Margo: How did Edie Falco end up on the “Nervous” video?

Melissa: She ended up on that because my best friend is the creator of Nurse Jackie and we sort of brought the two worlds together, you know, a commercial for her and great for us and…

Margo: The chemistry – silly and sexy all at once – really works.

Melissa: I know it!

Margo: Who knew Nurse Jackie had such a predatory smile?

Melissa: Ahhhh, I can’t believe that.

Margo: And, you know, that brought back that Melissa predatory look.Melissa Eheridge

Melissa: I know. I said, “Hey, wait a minute…you’re makin’ me nervous.” (much laughter)

Margo: The title song, “Fearless Love,” has this incredible line: I am what I am, and I am what I’m afraid of.

Melissa: That’s pretty much my philosophy now. You know, if I’m afraid of being alone, I’m gonna be alone. Whatever I’m afraid of is going to get drawn into my life.

Margo: Yes, and so given everything you’ve stared down and conquered in your life, what’s left for you to…what remains for Melissa Etheridge to be afraid of?

Melissa: Mmm. (pause) You’d be amazed what I can come up with every day to be afraid of. It’s a constant path that one walks, and layers that one goes through. I can think that I’m completely fearless, yet every day there’s…I’m afraid that I’m not a perfect mother…you know you just, you always wonder if you’re doing the right thing. You’ve just got to trust in what you are.

Margo: Well, popcorn for breakfast, I mean there you go – you’re a perfect mom.

Melissa: Please let your readers know the kids have already had a full breakfast. Oh, my god, what is she feeding her children?

Margo: Let’s move on to “Drag Me Away.” That’s an incredible song.

Melissa: I can’t wait to do that live. I haven’t done it live.

Margo: Will that be when the “tour proper” begins?

Melissa: Yes! Nobody’s heard it. Only you guys with the advance copies have heard it.Melissa Eheridge

Margo: Well, I’m going to give away a line in there, okay?

Melissa: Go.

Margo: “I will not be hostage to my disease.” (long, slow rolling Melissa laughter here) Are you still pushing back against the cancer battle every day or is it dissolving into the background at all?

Melissa: Oh it’s, no, I’m not pushing against it at all. I’m, I set it free. If you look in the lyrics, the way that I wrote disease is d-i-s slash e-a-s-e. It’s dis/ease. And I would like people to understand that a disease is your soul, your body being at dis/ease, and I will not be a hostage to my own dis/ease.

Margo: Whatever that might be, right?

Melissa: Yes. Whatever it might be. That is what leads to your body breaking down. What you hold onto, your dis/ease, and not releasing it and understanding it.

Margo: So when you hear something like this week’s news about Martina (Navratilova), does that fight rise back up in you a little bit, or do you need to push it away again?

Melissa: No, no, because that’s fear, and I’m confident every day that I am cancer free. When I am fear free, when I make the choices to be in balance, to love myself and let this forgiveness and gratitude into my life, that’s it. The cancer isn’t lurking out there somewhere just waiting to jump on me. There was a reason my body broke down.

Margo: There’s such a flurry of fear every time news like that comes out. I have a feeling you’ve helped a lot of people with what you just said.

Melissa: Oh, I hope so.

Margo: Okay, I know you’ve said the song titled “Miss California” is NOT about Carrie Prejean. But I just can’t help hearing a little bit of mischievous taunt in the line, “Don’t you know what’s good for me could be good for you.” Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. What is that one about?

Melissa: It’s about Prop 8 – it’s a love song, a “you done me wrong” song to my State of California. It doesn’t have to be just “her” – she happened to personify it for a while and she happened to be Miss California, which is just ironic. It’s about my relationship with my state. I’ve lived here for 25 years and felt like I was spurned.

Margo: Well, I have to get in just one political question. I think most of us reading this can agree we’re so proud of our country for replacing Bush (finally!) with President Obama. Will you share a few thoughts on his presidency so far?

Melissa: I think one of the greatest moments in our history was when we rose up as a people and pushed through our fear of racism and those dark days that I know I grew up in, that we were able to elect a man of mixed-race heritage and it was a beautiful moment to see us do that. But when it comes down to who is running the country, you could put anyone in the Oval Office and it doesn’t matter, because the multi-national corporations have run off with our government. The only way we can get back on the right track is if we come together and say, “Enough, enough. We’re not going to sell our souls and our bodies to corporations.”

Margo: You give yourself to so many causes: animal protection, cancer fundraising, environmental awareness, on and on. Are your kids, at least the older ones, aware of how much energy you pour into helping other people? Are they proud of that?

Melissa: You know, it’s funny, from a child’s perspective, they want their mom to just be a mom. The other day, my son was asking me something, I don’t remember what he wanted me to do, but I said, “I don’t know if I can do that, don’t know if I can make that happen,” and as kids will do, he was like, “But Mom, you can do anything, you got up in front of the world and bald, you can do anything.” That’s like, wow, a high bar I’ve got to jump over.

Margo: That reminds me of a line in your song “Heaven on Earth” where you draw an image of quite a different childhood. “They fed me fear and violence, they hooked me up to this reality.” I thought, you know, a parent really can’t escape being a reality maker.

Melissa: That is probably my biggest job – trying to focus what reality is, and how what they think and feel create their reality, and how to guide them through that.

Margo: You’re huge, but how do you handle the competition from peers, Internet, TV, teachers, you can’t isolate them. How do you handle that? Do you just make sure your message is stronger?

Melissa: Well, you hold onto it as much as you can and you teach by example. You say, look, this is what you did and this is what happens – help them see the consequences of the choices they make. You want them to creatively think about their choices. They’ve got to fall down on their own.

Margo: How about some fan-type stuff? If you could do a duet with anybody living or dead, who would that be?Melissa Eheridge

Melissa: Living or dead? God, that’s a tough one. I’d want to hang with Janis, I’d wanna sing some old bluesy songs with Janis Joplin and drink a bunch of whiskey. Not that I like whiskey, at all, but I would do it.

Margo : Really? You haven’t tried Wild Turkey.

Melissa: See? I’m just not a drinker. I’m a tequila girl if I do.

Margo: Not that you have any time, but is there anything you do for recreation?

Melissa: Not that I have the time. If I had the time, sleep is a wonderful thing I do when I’m not working or with my kids.

Margo: Is there one song on the new cd that you’re just crazy about? Personally, as a fan of yourself?

Melissa: Probably for me it would be “We Are The Ones.” It’s so different, so tribal, I just love it. You know, that one’s a part of me that I don’t think people are even aware of.

Margo: As your bio says, you’re a thought-provoker and a longtime truth-seeker. So many fans have made a personal mantra of your motto: Be Strong, Speak True. And a lot of young people draw their strength from that, whether it’s right or wrong for that strength to come from another person. I deliberated a lot over whether to ask this, but I’m going to.

Melissa: All right.

Margo: Would you apply a little of that powerful Melissa truth-speak to the emerging rumors and articles that your relationship with Tammy might be coming apart?

Melissa: (deep breath) Yes I will. My desire is to always speak absolutely truthfully. And it seems I have come up against…something in my life that I am unable to form into a statement at this time…because I am unable to form it in my own life and know exactly…what is happening. Please know, my fans and all who care about my personal life, thank you and I love you, and um, as soon as I…know how to speak about this situation, that I will. Until then I, I don’t have an answer.

Margo: Hey, you know what, well I know you know it, but you are the real deal, and I’m 100% convinced that you truly care about these people and…

Melissa: I know, and I do, and it’s a lifelong relationship that I have with the people who love my music. It’s a very intimate relationship, and I understand.

Margo: Thank you, Melissa.

Melissa: Be well.

Editors note: Sadly, shortly after this interview, Melissa did announce her breakup with her partner Tammy Lynn Michaels. We wish them and their families the best.

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