Melissa Etheridge Back at The Palladium
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Courtesy of The Center for the Performing Arts
After more than two decades since the original release, Melissa Etheridge is enthralling audiences, once again, on the Yes, I Am 25th Anniversary Tour. Her breakthrough fourth album, Yes I Am, included the Top 10 single “I’m the Only One” and the Grammy-winning “Come to My Window.”
Known for her confessional lyrics and gritty, soulful vocals, this Grammy® and Academy Award winner has been one of rock’s most respected performers and songwriters for decades. Etheridge’s many hits have included “Bring Me Some Water” and “I Want to Come Over.”
Don’t miss An Evening with Melissa Etheridge: Yes I Am 25th Anniversary Tour at The Palladium, Tuesday, September 25 at 7:30 p.m. Visit thecenterfortheperformingarts.org for more information.
It’s been 30 years since you left Leavenworth, KS, for California and first stepped out onto the music scene. What are your immediate thoughts as you reflect back?
First of all, it went by so doggone fast. The first thought that I have is “Wow, it really slipped by.” It was something that I had been waiting so long for, and you never really know when you’re in it and that it’s happening until you stop and go, “Whoa, that was 25 years ago. Holy cow!” That’s the first feeling that I get. People would ask me when my first album came out 30 years ago, “Where do you see yourself in 20 or 30 years?” and I’d always say, “I hope that I’m still making music, that people want to come see me and that I’m a piece of their life.” And that is exactly what I have now. People come to the shows and share their lives. They have been putting my music into their lives for 25 years now, and that means a lot. It’s a real relationship that you just don’t get from an audience until you’ve put the years in.
You won two Grammys in ‘92 and ‘93 and won an ASCAP Songwriter of the Year in ‘96. Knowing that those accolades may have meant something different to you at those times, what do you think about those moments now at this point in your career?
I see the way this industry is built, and for a while there, I was in the nexus of it. It’s something that when I was in it, I didn’t really know that I was in it. I was at the top of the mountain. And it’s good to be there, to experience it and leave your mark, but you can’t live there. You can’t stay there. A lot of people try to, and it eats them up. You have to breathe and move on and do things. It’s something that you remember, but you have to move on and grow from it. You have to have different meanings. I went on and had children, and my life has a very different meaning. I love every element of it, and I love my music – It’s a huge part of my life, but it is not my whole life. I think that’s what keeps me sane.
Rather than ask you to define success, I would like to ask you to define purpose and how you continue to live your purpose.
Whew … yeah. I think a lot of people become fatalists, and they think that there is some “purpose” or fate that has been predestined for them. And they either live it or they’re not living it, but I don’t quite subscribe to that. I believe that our purpose is to create in this incredible reality set-up that we have here. I think that we are given all of these gifts, such as perception and possibility, and it is up to us to create love or we create fear. In every moment and everything we do, we choose one of those, and that creates our path. Then in that path, you just constantly create. My purpose is to create and to create as much love as possible – as much love for myself, music and for others.
In previous interviews, you have spoken about one fateful night in Ottawa, Canada. You have talked about looking at the universe, wondering what was next in your life, and later that night, you found a lump in your breast. You released “The Awakening” after your diagnosis. What would you say now to people who are fighting the good fight about how to get through a diagnosis of cancer or other disease?
I would say that if or when you get a diagnosis of a breakdown of a system in your body or a disease, it’s all in how you perceive it. We all have an opportunity to look at health and disease in many ways. You can look at it like it happened “to me” or “I caught it” or “I got this” or “My genes are faulty.” We have an opportunity to look at it and say, “I have a responsibility in this. I have the reasonability, not only in the food that I eat and the actions that my body takes but also the thoughts that I think. Am I thinking thoughts that are making me healthy, or am I thinking thoughts that are making me sick?” There is so much control that we actually have over our own health, and we just don’t realize it. It can be a real journey to getting to that realization. I’m 14 years cancer-free now, and I define my journey in a certain way and with a set of beliefs that I have. A lot of people don’t believe what I believe, and that’s okay too, but every year that goes by, it proves to me that I’m making the right choices for myself.
Look back over the last three decades and at the triumphs and trials of your career. When you look at the next generations of singer/songwriters, do you feel that it’s easier or more difficult for them nowadays? Do you feel that they are braver and bolder than artists were in the ‘80s and ‘90s?
I don’t think the younger generations are any more or less brave or committed. I think each generation is presented with its own issues. I have children in this next generation. They range from 11-21. I know how they see the world, and they do not see the divides that are leftover and deep in some of us in our generation that permeated through the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. I do think the younger generations are smarter, and I always think that we’re moving up, always towards a better situation. Diversity is here, and you can’t turn it back now.
This will be your third visit to The Palladium. Was there something in particular that you really enjoyed about it that’s bringing you back, or are we just that great of an audience for you?
[Laughing] I do remember it is a lovely place to play, and I think Indiana is a good place to bring people together and sing. I look forward to being there. You will hear all of the tracks [from “Yes I Am”], and I am planning on doing at least one of the bonus tracks that have been added back.
What’s next for you? Are you back in the studio, or what’s the plan after this tour?
I’ve been making a new album, and it should be ready for release at the end of the year/beginning of next year. Let’s just say 2018 has been a very inspirational year, and we’re only halfway through.