Melissa Etheridge comes to Boston’s window
The lesbian rocker will put the brakes on in Beantown during her "Fearless Love" tour this July.
The newest album from untouchable out rocker Melissa Etheridge, entitled "Fearless Love" has, since its release in April, climbed to #7 on U.S. sales charts and been named the top rock album by Cashbox magazine. The mother of four visited "American Idol’s" top six contestants last month and her new album made it to the New York Times Critics’ Choice List.
This summer the (newly single) Kansas native will embark on a brand new tour, bringing her back to Boston. The former Berklee student sat down with Bay Windows to talk about who named her album, her participation in breast cancer docudrama "One a Minute," and her old Newbury Street digs.
Bay Windows: I can’t stop listening to "Fearless Love."
Melissa Etheridge: What do you think of the new album?
BW: I like it a lot. I think it’s really good. I’m leaving for a road trip this afternoon and we’re going to listen to it in the car.
ME: Oh, that’s what I want! I want my albums to be traveling, road, car albums.
BW: Tell me about the new album.
ME: I want it to be a traveling, road...[Laughs]. I’ll tell you about the new album. Jeez...it’s new, I wrote it in 2009, from January to July, it’s a piece of me, I love it, I can’t wait to do it live.
BW: What inspired the title track?
ME: My daughter inspired that. She came in...my thirteen-year-old. This is the first time that my kids were aware of what I do and interested and they were like, "Hmm...how are you doing what you do?" So I let them in, I told them, "I’m starting to write my new album." When I’d come up with an idea, I’d play the songs for them and they’d say, "Oh, that’s good," or "I don’t understand," or whatever. [Laughs] Of course my daughter’s like, "Well, what are you going to title it? What’s the title of the album?" I said, "I think it’s going to be ’Songs of Fear and Love,’" and she said, "Oh, Mom, that’s way too long, nobody wants to say that many words in a title." I said, "Well, how about ’Fearless’?" She said, "Mom! Taylor Swift’s album is titled ’Fearless.’" I said, "Well, then I don’t know." And she said, "How about ’Fearless Love’?" I said, "Oh my god, that’s awesome!" And then she left and I thought, that is an awesome title, but that’s the title of a song. And then I started to write the song around that.
BW: So the title came first?
ME: Yeah. [Laughs]
BW: Another question about a song from the new album. Who is "Miss California" to you?
ME: The whole state of California. The whole state I’ve been living in for 27 years, that I’ve been loving, it’s been my home longer than any place I’ve ever been. I just thought...I really thought we were further along in our relationship. I was surprised when she voted me down. [Proposition 8 made same-sex marriage illegal in California in 2008.]
BW: That’s right. You said in November of 2008 after Proposition 8 passed that you wouldn’t pay your taxes as an act of civil disobedience. Is that ongoing?
ME: I’ll tell you what. I know it seems that I announced that in 2008. What I did was I wrote a blog that said, "What sense does this make? What if I didn’t pay my taxes?" And the Internet kind of picked it up as, I "wasn’t going to pay my taxes." [Laughs] I have a family and I realized that the IRS doesn’t care if I’m gay or not, they just want my taxes. So I have paid my taxes. I just kind of put that out in the world as, "Really? Does this make sense to pay as much taxes as I do pay and not get the same civil rights that everyone does?"
BW: What was it like participating in "One a Minute"?
ME: I get requests to do cancer stuff all the time. I could spend all day long doing cancer and gay and environmental stuff. I say no to most things, but when this came along, it was...the woman doing it had a very similar experience that I did with cancer. It was, "Wait a minute, this is all we have? This chemotherapy? You’ve got to be kidding me." This disease affects one [person] every minute, and we’re still just putting ourselves on conveyor belts and shootin’ ourselves full of acid and crossing our fingers. It’s like...that’s insane. So when she asked me if I would be in it, I said, "Well, I have to be allowed to speak my truth about how I really, really feel about this," and she said, "Absolutely." So I felt that it was a good form for me to put my true feelings about cancer and the treatment of cancer in it.
BW: Tell me about your connection to Boston.
ME: Oh, Boston! I love Boston. I went to Berklee College of Music because my parents said I should definitely go to college, and Berklee was the only college where I could major in guitar. Coming from a small town in Kansas to Boston...it was just a blessing because it’s terrifying. Boston is such a beautiful city. It’s so youthful, filled with other college kids. Just from how the Combat Zone...all the naughty stuff is in one place and if you want to go there and be naughty, go be naughty, but otherwise the city’s so clean and [there’s] so much history. A couple of my best years I spent there, dreaming, walking. I could live on Newbury Street, back in the late ’70s when a college kid could live on Newbury Street [laughs] and I used to walk up and down that street, and dream. I went to my first gay bar there. It’s a really gay-friendly city. Just awesome.
BW: Are you excited to come back in July?
ME: Oh, I always am. It’s like a special kind of homecoming.
BW: Tell me about the new "Fearless Love" tour.
ME: It’s to support the album, and I have a brand new band. I have entirely new musicians on the stage. They are unbelievably talented and tight and...it’s like sitting in a sports car for the first time. [Laughs] It’s like...vroom! "Whoa, you guys are really good!" It’s like wow, I really have to watch my gas and brake here. We’re really tight around the corners. They’re so responsive, and with this new material...I’m going to have the new material, I’m going to of course have the old hits, which I love to play -- there’s nothing like starting with "Bring Me Some Water" and watching the audience jump up and down -- and of course, there’ll be a few deep tracks for the crazy fans who’ve seen my shows more than thirty, forty times. Something for everybody.
Melissa Etheridge will play at the Wang Theatre in Boston on July 10. She’ll also stop in Hyannis and New Hampshire. For more information, please visit melissaetheridge.com. "Fearless Love" is available now at iTunes, Amazon.com, and your local music store.